The congress suddenly appears to have been caught in crisis situation marked by confusion on policy issues, lack of trust in the leadership, sudden illness of Mrs Sonia Gandhi and an intensification of internecine battles. Whether this situation will lead to a full-blown power struggle and upheaval within the party is still uncertain. Rrecent developments however clearly show that the crisis is accentuating by the day, with open expressions of discontent from all sections within the party on a variety of issues facing the nation including a section of top leadership. Central to these developments is the not-so-veiled criticism levelled against party president Sonia Gandhi’s style of functioning and the coterie around her by such senior leaders who are mostly from Rajya Sabha and who have no mass base or appeal at national level.
Mrs Gandhi’s illness has been doing rounds in the Congress circles for some time but no one know how exactly her illness was. It was the sudden disclosure by the Congress that Sonia Gandhi had gone abroad for surgery has set off speculation about the serious nature of her illness and ability to come back quickly and re-start her work. Though the party says she may be away for only two to three weeks, her decision to name her son in the “caretaker” group for the Congress is being read by many as a clear indication in this regard that things are not as rosy on the ground as they have made out to be.
As report from New York said that She was treated in a cancer hospital, it is anyone’s guess if She would really come back to normal and would be able to undertake strenuous and hectic work schedule. And the announcement that Mr Rahul Gandhi would unfurl the tri- colour at the AICC head quarters on 15th August is a clear indication that he would have a major say in running the party’s affairs henceforth and his loyalists are already mounting an appeal for appointing him as working president or vice president of the All India Congress Committee (AICC).
There has been a clamour among congress workers to see Rahul Gandhi on the post of the Prime Minister and senior Congress leaders including late Arjun Singh, Pranab mukherjee and Digvijaya Singh have publicly said that he would make a good Prime minister. He also kept refusing Dr Manmohan Singh’s request that he should be a part of his cabinet and kept insisting that he would like to first revive and redeem the party organization before he thought of engaging himself in any such job.
But destiny appears to be leading him to the same path which he has been treading all along, slugging though the rough and tumble of Indian politics and now, thanks to his mother’s illness, he would have no option but take over the reins of the party which is facing a host of problems from both inside and outside and before becoming the Prime Minister of the country, he appears to be heading the party affairs first.
Naturally then, debates have already started in various circles if he would be able to deliver and pull the party out of the woods, faced as it is with a plethora of problems. A few BJP leaders have been taking pot shots at him for some of his remarks and statements in public and gone to the extent of saying that he does not have those charismatic qualities which his late father had. They also claim that he hasn’t set the house on fire in his first five years in the Lok Sabha and till now, his USP has been that he belonged to India’s first family, the Nehru-Gandhi family which has given this country three Prime ministers so far and he too would, at some point of time in future.
It is also true that the congressmen have been always touchy and sometimes, sensitive in handling any criticism against Rahul Gandhi. They go out of the way to make all kinds of statements and rebuttals to show their loyalty to the Gandhi family. Yet the fact remains that he would not have been given such an onerous responsibility to lead the party by default if he was not from the Gandhi family.
The second allegation against him his that he is not experienced and mature enough to run the party. That may be a bit harsh on him because the fact remains that he has been in charge of all Congress frontal organizations and tried to run them in his own characteristic style. Many congressmen swear that he is among the most popular young leaders in the country and appeals to millions of young voters in the country. Even the latest surveys by two TV channels across the country during the last week clearly put him ahead of the Prime Minister and a vast of majority of people across the country are now more or less certain that he would slip into the role of the Prime Minister sooner than later.
The third allegation levelled against him by his opponents is that he has done nothing so far and he is not tested. This appears to be a bit too harsh on him. The truth is that Rahul Gandhi has been trying to do things as per his own sense of conviction and style and mostly on the basis of a better use of technology and tools and techniques from the perspectives of the Western world as some of his mentors including Dr Sam Pitroda( who also doubles up as the Prime Minister’s advisor) have been giving him those kind of utopian ideas which may appear very attractive and high-sounding but at the end, prove to be short-lived and outlandish too.
One of such suggestions given to his team during the 2009 Lok sabha polls was to adopt Obama techniques. But those experts conveniently forgot that what could be a craze in USA , may turn out to be disaster in India. The election scene, perspectives and overall ethics and ethos are entirely different and copying and pasting them as it is in India would be stupid given that most of our politicians are more whimsical, illogical and more astrological in their activities and approach during elections than being prudent, practical and logical. That is the reason why a section of Congress leaders have been saying in private that he was trying to appease the new lot of politicians and ignoring those seniors who have served with his father and even grandmother.
But to say that he would prove to be a disaster as the next PM just because he is not tested is hyperbolic. Rahul Gandhi can certainly be far better than HD Deve Gowda at least because Mr Gowda was also not tested at the national scene, did not know a word of Hindi and even mispronounced” Uttarakhand” as “uttaragand” during his famous speech at red fort on the occasion of 15 August because of his” kannada script” pronunciation problem and yet went on to rule the country for almost 10 months. Rahul Gandhi knows Hindi and has been travelling across to reach out to the people and listen to their woes which not many politicians do today.
The fourth allegation against him by his opponents is that he is doing “certain acts concentrating on his vote banks”. That too seems to be a case of half truth. Following that logic, 95 per cent politicians of this country have been doing every thing for vote bank only. Very few have turned out to be like Vinoba Bhave or even Anna Hazare. So, what is the big deal when it comes to Rajiv Gandhi.?
Now, let us dispassionately analyze all the four allegations mentioned above. First charge that that he is the scion of the Nehru= Gandhi can not be denied and it is also a fact that this is the biggest advantage or tag line for him to reach the post of the PM someday until destiny does it otherwise. Rahul Gandhi has seen people like Gorbachev and many world class leaders when touring abroad along with his parents from his childhood and if that is an advantage, then it has come naturally to him. He has maintained the same kind of friends and companions who come from the elite class and color his thinking process as well.
But what he has been proposing and actually practicing in Congress frontal organization is indeed a matter of debate and discussion. His way of selection of NSUI and Youth Congress President is what can be debated and many points would go against his style and action. There is a lot of truth in the allegation that his way electing NSUI and IYC president is for the chosen few who have the advantage of having their kith and kin in politics and that way, he is only encouraging “dynastic politics in the party” and not allowing a common man to come into the party fold purely on the basis of his popularity and hard work.
His style of enrollment process and election for the post of IYC State President is terribly flawed and does not help the young and dynamic leaders from the rural areas. The first fiasco was Punjab where a lot of hype and hoopla was created over the IYC elections and the end, Bittoo Singh grand son of former Pubjab Chief minister Beant Singh won as he had enrolled more members as his supporters and his victory in any case was a natural corollary. Union minister Harish Rawat’s son on the post of Uttarakhand IYC Presdident is another example.
Almost the same kind of system followed in Bihar and recently held election in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and a few of those people who had worked in these states have openly accused him and his team of being too amateurish and blinkered in approach. It only shows that only those privileged would have the say in his scheme of things so far fontal organizations are concerned.
Almost the same kind fof fiasco was scene in recently help Goa IYC elections where Chruchill Alemao’s daughter Valanka Alemao who was barely a few weeks old in the party dared to contest for the post of the State IYC president and it was only after a lot of hue and cry raised by those dedicated party workers and even the threat of mass resignation from the party that wisdom prevailed upon those at the helm and that is how Pratima Cutinho won by just 5 votes.
The same is the case with his concept and programme called AAM AADMI KA SIPAHI. Ironically this concept is wrong even historically as a King or the Government could have the service of a Sipahi( Soldier). Aam Admi has been always jostling with responsibilities of his family and house hold and where can he affords to have his own Sipahi. If that was the case, then India would have been a radically different country in many ways than what is seen now. But trusted lieutenant have already spent a lot of time and money brooding and brainstorming over this concept which is too damn utopian and impractical.
The second allegation about Rahul Gandhi’s lack of experience is also not true. In fact, the facts indicate otherwise. Insiders in the Congress party reveal that Rahul Gandhi has been intervening in the party affairs and also in the government works in a big way. Whether it was the decision to go alone in Bihar in the last Assembly polls or putting his younger team mates like Sachin pailot, Jyotiraditya Scindhia,Bhanwar jitendra singh, RPN Singh, Jitin Prasada or Milind Deora in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet as MOS, whether it is the appointment of a few Secretaries in AICC or the State PCC Presidents, Mr Rahul Gandhi has been taking active interest in both areas and that is the reason why a section of Congress leaders and Ministers have already started saying that he is not getting ready to take over the reins of the party and the government by marking his own time and on his own terms.
What however is not being liked by some of his well wishers within the party is that he has also started following the same path that his father late Rajiv Gandhi did by surrounding people like VP Singh, Arun Singh and Arun Nehru who took him a for a ride and left him in the lurch when he needed them the most. A few of them also turned against him at some stage. Rahul Gandhi also has somehow got himself surrounded by the same kind of people who also ruse the ambition to lead the country and it remains to be seen if they would do the same to him as well in future. The most notable example is that of former MP Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh who has been described as his mentor and whose controversial statements on a variety of issues have already earned him a bad name even amongst his won party men.
As for the third allegation about his lack of experience, Rahul Gandhi has seen enough of politics from very close quarters in the Gandhi family at various levels and that should coma handy as a reckoner for him in dealing with matter matters. As for his role as the Congress President and his vision, it is too early to comment as he has not been formally given that responsibility. History would judge him when he takes over those responsibilities.
Finally, his love for the tribals and his tour of universities, colleges and villages should not be seen with a lot of cynicism. At least he is trying to connect himself with the electorate in some way or the other which many of his party leaders have not been doing. Some of his padyatras and quips and quotes have made him an object of attack including his remarks about two Indias and the demolition of Babri Masjid.
But more than that, the litmus test of his capabilities as the future President of the AICC would be seen in how he deals with the issue of corruption and the frontal attack of the opposition by Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dixit both inside and outside Parliament, the Anna Hazare agitation over the Lokpal Bill, spiraling price rise and the Telangana tangle.. It remains to be seen if he is able to come up with practical and well-thought-out decisions to take his party out of the morass of growing unpopularity, shrinking mass base and growing public disenchantment on many other issues or he becomes yet another rubber stamp of the coterie which have been driving his mother for the last 12 years as the Congress President.
– Ajay N Jha