Under fire, Rahul moderates tone, talks love not anger

Rahul SheilaRahul addresses first Delhi rally, appreciates Sheila Dikshit's work in Delhi. (PTI)

Addressing his first election rally in Delhi, Rahul Gandhi Sunday refrained from making any reference to communal politics and the idiom of hatred that he had used earlier this week to attack the BJP and instead reverted to his familiar script of highlighting the right-based initiatives of the UPA government. He also spoke about the infrastructure boom in the national capital in the 15 years of Congress rule.

At his two public rallies in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh this week, the Congress vice-president had made an attempt to alter the political discourse and take on Narendra Modi directly. If he linked communalism with terrorism at Churu, he had followed it up at Indore by asserting that Pakistani intelligence agencies had approached Muslim youth who had lost family members in the Muzaffarnagar riots, to justify his argument.

However, his remarks especially the claim that Pakistan's ISI was in touch with riot victims had evoked strong criticism from across the political spectrum, including Muslim organisations, which accused him of painting victims as suspects.

On Sunday, as Modi addressed his much-anticipated rally in Patna, Rahul did speak about "anger", the context was different and the aggression missing.

Pitching the Congress as a party that fights for the poor, he said: "A Congress man fights, but he does not do it in anger but with love. He fights from his heart. Others fight with anger. We fight for the people and for the weak, but with love."

Rahul's toning down comes amidst division within the Congress itself on taking on the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate on the communalism issue.

While a section feels that taking on Modi on the issue could be electorally beneficial and force other parties to take a stand in the commuanalism vs secular debate, another section argues that it will help the BJP by polarising voters on communal lines. They refer to Modi's ability to "spin and twist" and point out how Sonia Gandhi's "merchants of death" remark before the 2007 Gujarat elections had backfired.

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