What happened on 05th March at the central Hall of Parliament was actually waiting to happen sooner or later. While many political pundits knew what Rahul Gandhi was trying to chug and churn through, they were dismayed by the timing of his fulminations, his understanding of the party and his proposed 10 years long crusade to make the Congress party a place of pride and popularity.
“Asking me whether you want to be prime minister is a wrong question,” Gandhi told some party leaders during an informal interaction in the central hall of parliament. He said his “focus was strengthening the party and not becoming its prime ministerial candidate ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.”
This was a stunner and it cut the party and its worker both ways. Those within the party who have been sulking and upset over his style of functioning, must have taken a sigh of relief that their status quo would remain for some more time while those who had started their dreams soaring high along with RG’s elevation as No2 in the party hierarchy, were crestfallen as all their dreams had crashed on the ground.
“The Prime Minister’s post is not my priority. I believe in long-term politics,” said Rahul Gandhi, while stressing that the Congress’s infamous “high command culture” must be over-written with power being distributed through the party. This made all the more clear that he was like Commander running away from the battle field even after the War bugle had been sounded and the whole army had been put on maximum alert. It amounts to having accepting defeat even before the war was fought. !!
RG cannot wish away his position in the party. He talks about abolishing the high command and he is a beneficiary of the same system. This sends out a very confused signal to the rank and file of the party. They would be fighting an uphill task against a resurgent BJP under Modi.
The vice-president of the Congress party, that is RG, cannot be excused for talking of the cuff — like he is not in the race for the PM, he is in for a long haul to bring the party on the rails. All this talk was fine when he was the general Secretary of the party.
He can’t do now, after being anointed as the official number 2 in the party. Ø The commander cannot afford to be unsure of his “political footing”. In some quarters these statements can also be intrepreted as RG running away from a fight with Modi, even though he has not been declared the PM candidate of the BJP.
This also comes as a rude shock for Congress leaders who have pinned their hopes on him to bring the party back to power in 2014. There has been a growing clamor in the party for projecting him as its prime ministerial face before the next Lok Sabha elections and such statements from the party VP pour cold water over it.
The party was quick to latch on to his remarks claiming high moral ground saying it contrasted with other parties, where people are “fighting for posts”. But such defence cuts little ice with the people of the country, it can only be seen as an unsure leader running away from a tough fight.
In his talk with MPs, RG also gave signals that he was against the ‘high command culture’, saying that he wants to empower more and more people than a handful, who call the shots. “Today I see how MPs feel without power and it is the same story in all the parties, be it Congress or BJP. I want to empower the 720-odd MPs in Parliament.” “I want to give voice to the middle tier…empower the middle-level leaders. There are some parties in India which are run by one leader (BSP), two leaders (SP), five to six leaders (BJP) and 15 to 20 leaders (Congress). My priority is that I want to empower the MPs as also the 5,000-odd legislators in various states,” he said.
People are perplexed by such statements -what exactly does he mean when he talks about empowering 720 MPs, it sounds hollow, the critics laugh and say what was he doing for the last 10 years. It sounds very empty and devalues the leader. One should, obviously restrain from making such statements, more so when he is himself the direct biggest beneficiary of such a system.
Calling the Mahatma “my guru”, he said Gandhiji could inspire people as also the rank and file of Congress as they knew that he was not one who is hankering after power. RG said he could take a holistic view of the scenario as regards party politics because “I am a parachute”, implying he owed his leadership to the membership of the first family in Congress.
The Congress vice-president regretted that all political parties have been designed in a manner that prevents the youth from getting key positions at a time when they are seeking a greater say in political affairs. Stressing that he wanted to change the picture in this regard, he suggested that this was necessary to avoid an “explosion”. “At one point, the pressure from the youth will be such that there will be an explosion,” he said.
It would be very difficult for RG to escape reality. The Congress party has been in power for more than 50 years, and has to take the proportionate share of the blame when it comes to the ills in society. He seems to be living in the past, in a world of illusions. He needs to come out of it, give the party cadres direction and leadership to fight the battle of 2014. There are no half-heated measures in politics, more so, when he is the official number 2 of the ruling party. He has to come out all guns blazing, or the events would overtake him.
Party insiders and confidants say Gandhi is looking beyond the government’s present troubles, and his strategy of building support from the ground up guarantees a long-term future for Congress and, by extension, for himself. Still, with the party mired in corruption scandals and in danger of being forced into an early general election or thrown out at the next scheduled poll in 2014, Gandhi may find he has no throne to ascend to. Pressure has been mounting on him from within the troubled party to take charge because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is seen as a lame-duck and an electoral liability. But he seems to have let both the family and the party down together.
A careful examination of his quips and quotes; during last few years clearly show his confused state of mind. He is neither able to break free from the past completely nor he has his own set of ideas which could get with the present political realities of the country and the Congress party. A potential leader must have something more than good personal qualities. He must have an intellectual spark which does not necessarily come from his educational qualifications. Rahul Gandhi has not so far given evidence of such an intellectual spark.
All these years, he has been trying to translate utopia into hard political reality; and in the process, ended up being neither” chicken nor fowl”. Till now, he has not demonstrated any leadership qualities by way of ideas and actions. He was always conspicuous by his absence whenever the party was hit by any major policy wrangles, scams and cases of corruption. He never joined issues and faced up to the opposition and behaved and proved the allegation of Narendra Modi that he was like a “fish in the aquarium”.
His ability to understand and logically analyze the complex internal and external problems facing the country is yet to be proved. He has remained MP for almost 9 years now and that would have given him enough opportunity to seen every nook and corner of the country- from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Godhara to Guwahati and form a definite opinion on the major issues faced by the majority of India. But people have rarely heard any word of wisdom from him which could actually be a ‘game changer’ for the party in true sense.
His views tend to be very simplistic and do not indicate wide reading and an ability to think deeply. He has been more like a programmes and guided missile whose target is already fixed from remote control and he performs exactly that. His tours and interactions are on the expected lines and he rarely tried to break free and present an alternative.
A good leader of the future must excite the younger generation. Rahul doesn’t—not even in his own party. He is trying to be a “rebel and a reformist” at the same time. He seems peeved and annoyed at the present dispensation which is governed and dictated by his own Mother and her coterie but he does neither have the guts to take them head on and present a’ viable and credible set of alternatives’ in the larger interest of the party. Fuming and fretting at the system of whose product he himself has been and yet he does not have the courage to break free.
He seems to have little understanding of the ground reality of the country and its complex set of problems. He is not able to understand that politics and operating political system in India does not depend on electronic gadgets and’ alt+shift+control’ method. Perhaps he needs to remind himself that leadership does not necessarily require high educational qualifications. K.Kamaraj, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, who subsequently became the President of the Congress (I) and played a key role in post-Nehru transition, was hardly educated and hardly knew Hindi. And yet, he turned out to be one of the successful leaders produced by India.
The funniest part of his comment was on his matrimony and its relationship with politics. Here, he appears to be swinging between ‘Gandhi and Gautam Buddha” He explanation is ludicrous and if that was the case, then perhaps many senior politicians in India and the world have been without matrimony and childless.
Finally, Rahul Gandhi has made “Mahatma Gandhi as his “Guru”. But then, he should also remind himself that it was Mahatma Gandhi who had asked to dismantle the Congress party after the independence. One wonders if RG too has the same kind of ideas or otherwise.
Under such circumstances, the Congress (I) will be doing a tremendous disservice to itself and the country if its tries to have him imposed initially on the party and then on the country as the next Prime Minister of India. Apart from the fact that he has come from a highly privileged political family, which has made a tremendous contribution to the nation, he is yet to demonstrate any qualities which compel attention and could make us look upon him as a leader of the future.
It is important to have an objective and balanced debate on this subject devoid of rhetoric, abuses and ideological arguments so that we have a complete picture of him before our eyes on the basis of which we can decide whether he is fit to lead India in the difficult years to come. Of course, there are people like Rashid Alvi and Rajiv Shuklas who continue to sing the song of” sacrifice’ of the Gandhi family and always come out with laughable explanations to support his actions. But they don’t understand the fact that 70 percent of young voters in India would need to be convinced by his words and deed to be worthy of leading the country. If the Congress (I) expects the people of this country to seriously consider him as a potential leader, he should not be treated as a sacred cow which has to be accepted by the people without any scrutiny.
Rahul Gandhi would still cover a lot of ground by taking the sane advice of a few senior Congress leaders and learn the rope of politics. However, the biggest question is: would he come out of those fixed ideas and fixations which have been injected into his mind by a few half -baked, technocrats, bureaucrats, aristocrats and advocates forming his core team.