After the successful Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi was said to have made a mark in the political spectrum but the BJP has made an issue of his London statement and is demanding an apology from him.
Leading from the front in the Lok Sabha was Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who raked up the issue. Since then a week has passed but Rahul Gandhi continues to be the BJP's target. However, the Congress has defended its leader and said that there is no question of an apology.
On Friday after both Houses of Parliament were adjourned the opposition sat on protest in the Parliament premises.
Rahul is insisting that he wants to speak in the House and met the Lok Sabha Speaker. He said four ministers have made allegations against him in Parliament so he has the right to respond there. Sources in the Congress said that the first priority is to speak in Parliament and he will be trying daily and meeting the Speaker till this session lasts. If he is not allowed to speak in the House then he will address the media to put forth his views.
"It is my right to be allowed to speak on the floor of the House. I requested the Speaker today. I went to his chamber and I requested him. I said, Look, I would very much like to speak. I told him that people from the BJP have made allegations against me and as a Member of Parliament, it is my right to speak," he said on Thursday.
Rahul is being defended by the Congress and party president Mallikarjun Kharge said that there is no question of an apology and Rahul will respond inside the House. Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor too have defended him and said that 'he has not said anything for which he has to apologise.'
Rahul in a counter offensive linked the whole issue to the Adani row. "What is going on here - this story started the day I gave my speech in Parliament about Mr. Adani. I asked some fundamental questions to the Prime Minister about his relationship with the businessman, about how Mr. Adani has been given pretty much the entire India-Israel defence relationship," he added.
Rahul tried to connect all the dots and tried to connect it with the Adani issue. "What happened in Australia between the Prime Minister, Mr. Adani and the Chairman of the State Bank and one of the Chief Ministers of one of the states in Australia."
The Congress is defending Rahul Gandhi and is also trying to keep the opposition unity intact. However, the TMC is not in sync with the Congress except Mahua Moitra who has charged the stifling of the opposition voice in the House.
Party leader Jairam Ramesh said that "the opposition is united on the demand for a JPC and anything contrary to this is incorrect." However, on Thursday the NCP did not sign the memorandum to the Enforcement Directorate. Congress sources said that they have an issue regarding mentioning of the Dharavi redevelopment plan.
The opposition unity may be shortlived as there is the issue of the ED and misuse of the agency as the prime focus of most of the parties. The Congress in its Raipur declaration called for an opposition alliance but till now there has been no forward movement and the unity which is seen in Parliament may not last on the ground as the Congress is opposed to the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab and Delhi where it is the ruling party.
The BRS, which is strong in Telangana, is not happy with the Congress. BRS leader K Kavitha though has announced that there is a need for opposition unity but attacked the Congress for its arrogance. A Congress functionary said that even the BJD wants to engage the Congress in talks but there is no one to handle the situation.
Leaders who were considered close to Rahul Gandhi are adrift and many have jumped to the BJP starting with Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada. Those who are still in the party feel sidelined like Sachin Pilot who is at loggerheads with Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot for the top post in the state. Recently Kiran Kumar Reddy, a former chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh, quit the party.
The BJP has seized the opportunity to target Rahul Gandhi and party national president J.P. Nadda has said that Gandhi has become "a permanent part of this anti-nationalist toolkit." Nadda said: "It's unfortunate that the Congress party is indulging in anti-national activities. After being repeatedly rejected by the nation, Rahul Gandhi has now become a permanent part of this anti-nationalist toolkit."
The BJP thinks that post the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi could be at his most vulnerable at this time after his statement in London.
(With inputs from IANS)