Indian PM Modi’s ‘rising India’ rubbished as pre-election rhetoric heats up

India’s opposition leader on Sunday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being linked to rightwing Hindu extremism while fawning over big business as hackles rise in anticipation of an election.

Rahul Gandhi, Congress Party president, launched a scathing attack on the PM at his party’s conference, saying: “What does ‘Modi’ actually mean? The name Modi symbolises the collusion between India’s biggest crony capitalists and the prime minister.”

The summit, held over the weekend, also included tubthumping speeches from Mr Gandhi’s mother, Sonia, and the last Congress PM, Manmohan Singh – who lost to Mr Modi in 2014, after a decade in power.

After Mr Modi spoke of "rising India" at an economic conference, Mr Gandhi tweeted: “You’re right about Rising India. One small issue – it’s rising against you.”


The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party responded to Mr Gandhi’s speeches, saying they were “all flash and no substance”.

Indian Congress party president Rahul GandhiCredit:
AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

Defence Secretary and BJP member Nirmala Sitharaman, she characterised Mr Gandhi’s performance as “the rhetoric of a loser”.

She said that while the Congress Party accused the BJP of failing the Indian economy yet had an economist as leader in Mr Singh for 10 years without any real change.

On religion, she said: “The Congress mock Hindu ceremonies yet compare themselves to Pandavas.” The Pandavas were five royal brothers sent into exile, in the Hindu epic the Mahabharata.

With a national election due sometime in the next eight or nine months, the Congress offensive signals a more aggressive approach to taking on the “saffron wave” of the BJP.

Profile | Narendra Modi

The BJP’s mix of traditional Hindu values and appeals to small businesses struck a chord with not just their bread-and-butter voters in rural areas, but also the urban, middle classes – seen more as the preserve of the Congress Party.

With the strapline "Change is now", Mr Gandhi addressed his party’s 84th plenary session, saying the PM preferred media-friendly initiatives and “hug-lomacy” with foreign dignitaries – a term coined by Congress social media activists over the PM’s fondness for bearhugs at airports with visiting leaders.

On the plight of farmers – usually a key demographic for the BJP – facing low crop yields and falling revenues, Mr Gandhi said: “"There are no jobs, the farmers are dying. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister says ‘Let’s go do yoga’.”

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi performs yoga with people to mark International Yoga DayCredit:
Imago / Barcroft Media

Calling on his Party’s – and family – history, Mr Gandhi reminded delegates of the role played by Congress and its most famous Gandhi in India’s modern history.

“The soil of this nation is drenched in the blood of Congress men and Congress women”, he said. “Gandhiji died for India.”

While not related to Mahatma Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi’s father, Rajiv, grandmother, Indira, and great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, all served as prime ministers.