India, May 15 -- Soon after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, then Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had told me how difficult they had found it to combat Narendra Modi's in-your-face, aggressive campaign at the time.

"We could not reply in the same tones, we could not descend to that level. So we had to keep silent and that silence was mistaken for guilt. People believed he was speaking the truth when in fact he was twisting everything out of proportion," he had said.

Congress leaders could not afford to be seen as anything but gentlemen, Chavan said and seemed resigned to the fact that they would never be able to match the BJP measure for measure.

It has taken the party five years to evolve a method whereby they keep their goo...