Would Rahul Gandhi take the bait this time at last?

Once again, the chorus of a bigger role for Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has started doing rounds. The first person to announce this is former MP Chief minister Digvijaya Singh who claimed that by September, Rahul Gandhi would assume a bigger responsibility in the party. Around the same time however, he was divested of his duty as AICC General Secretary in charge Uttar Pradesh and Assam and this responsibility has been passed on to BK Hari Prasad who has been looking after Madhya Pradesh and Chhattishgarh as General Secretary of the party and also played a significant role in last Goa Assembly polls in terms of selection of candidates as well as the Congress party campaign.

Of course Digvijaya Singh has claimed that BK Hari Prasad had been given the responsibility till 19 July and more because of the Presidential elections as Singh’s wife was not keeping good health. His supporters within the party claim that Mr Singh opted out because of personal reasons.

However, Digvijaya Singh’s opponents within the party have already started saying that the Raja of Raghogarh may not be pushed back to his home state in the light of forthcoming Assembly polls in 2013. A whisper campaign was already running against him that he had been divested of his UP charge because of the disastrous performance in last Assembly polls where the party could win only 28 seats while some others claimed that the Congress High command was forced to withdraw him because of his series of controversial statements on a variety of issues and he had even been told to refrain from making any such comments in the public.

They also claim that  MPCC President Kanti Lal Bhuria’s performance has been dismal and the Congress party needs an experienced hand to take over the affairs of the party. Bhuria who took over from Suresh Pachauri has failed to revive the fortunes of the party in Madhya Pradesh and added insult to injury has been the victory of BJP corporator in Bhuria’s own ward.

However, the moot question still remains when would Rahul Gandhi take a plunge to salvage the image and performance of the party and everyone even as Digvijaya Singh was the first to make such a claim in public. Last fortnight, Union Law Minister had said in an interview to a leading Newspaper that the party was “waiting’ for him to decide when  exactly he wants to take up a bigger responsibility.

However, no one in the Congress party wants to hazard a guess as to what exactly would be the Role of Rahul Gandhi. Would he be made the working President or the Vice- President of AICC? Would he be asked to lead the Congress party in the forthcoming polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh despite  the debacle in recently held Uttar Pradesh assembly polls? Or would he be projected as the as the Prime Ministerial candidate in the run-up to 2014 Lok Sabha polls?

A closer look at the state of affairs within the Congress party  point towards the following:-

It is quite unlikely that the Congress President Sonia Gandhi would like to make her son as the working President because her core-team would perhaps not like that because ‘ the status quo ante syndrome “suits them more than it suits the party. In any case, Gandhi has been elected the President of the party till 2015 and she still seems to be hale and hearty, calls shots and has absolute command over the party machinery. Obviously, she would not like to create a parallel power centre within the party undermining her own authority in any way.

Secondly, the Congress leadership is aware that 80 years old Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh would not be projected again in 2014 for obvious reasons. In any case, he has not been a vote catcher and already he has completed 8 years as the PM which is  the second after Pt Nehru. In that case, Rahul Gandhi as the young face of the party could be the best bet.

However, the biggest question is if he would be able to face Gujarat Chief Minister as his rival in the 2014 polls if the BJP decides to project Narendra Modi as its mascot?

If that has to happen, then Rahul Gandhi would have to first prove his mettle in the forthcoming Gujarat Assembly polls which would be due by the year end. Going by the past record, Rahul Gandhi would certainly not be a formidable rival to Modi.

In 2007 assembly polls which the BJP won with a thumping majority under the leadership of Narendra Modi, the Congress could barely manage to get 62 seats. No one remembers what Rahul Gandhi said about Narendra Modi but the voters of Gujarat and the country at large still remember Modi’s remark about Rahul Gandhi as a ‘fish in the aquarium” which was more or less proved true in the Bihar Assembly polls of 2010 and Uttar Pradesh polls of February this year.

The voters of Gujarat still remember Congress President’s remark about Narendra Modi as” the merchant of death’ and yet they voted BJP back to power in 2007 again!

Modi may have been working like Hitler as his arch rival Keshubhai Patel has been repeatedly saying. Modi’s claim of Gujarat being the best” investment centre in the country’ may be hyperbolic, and yet no one in the Congress party and least of all Rahul Gandhi did not have the guts to attack him with relevant facts and figures.

Modi has always been thundering and making his jibes and barbs against the Gandhi family in public rallies, while the Congress defense comes in PCs or sound bytes to national TV channels. Modi has been like a monolith in Gujarat now and even the BJP central leadership has been shying away rubbing him on the wrong side for various reasons. But the Congress leaders from Gujarat who dared to take on Modi at some point or the other, were chiseled down by their own leaders sitting in Delhi. Those who did not fall in line were thrown out.
The  photograph of Gujarat

chief Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi on the cover page of TIME magazine  a few months ago may have brought cheers in the saffron camp in India and catapulted him in the group of those visionaries who thought differently and made a positive and significant contribution in some specific field of activity at global level . Yet a closer look at the state of affairs in Gujarat point to an entirely different kind of picture and contest his claim of being a reformer and leader par excellence.
Does that mean the hallowed TIME magazine has also started seeing him from a colored Glass? Has the American Inc.  found a novel way of appeasing the Gujarat Chief Minister through such adulations? Has the land of Mahatma Gandhi truly become a heaven on earth? Or it was a very smart PR exercise by Modi’s PR managers ?

On the contrary, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been called an “under achiever by the Same  TIME magazine and  Uk based Independent Newspaper called him  a ‘poodle” while US President Obama had the temerity to  give some advice to India on the” present investment scenario”.

Clearly, it  is no mean an achievement for a young man from Vadnagar who began his political journey as a Pracharak of RSS and used to sell tea at RSS conclaves at one point of time, has hogged so much of political as well as media attention at various levels both right and wrong reasons.

Modi has been termed as the father of Investment Summit melas in India and his cohorts claim that last three such investors summit has promised the state of a total of Rs 18 lakh crore worth of investment in the coming 15 years. His penchant for high sounding phrases and idioms like: Vibrant Gujarat and Swarnim Gujarat”.

Modi’s Gujarat has also shown an annual growth rate of 11.2 per cent a year which is perhaps one of the highest in the country. Very impressive figures on paper at least.

However, ground realities don’t match with such impressive set of lists and declarations. !!

The official announcement of Gujarat says “Gujarat has become a model state for development and progress with its reach to the Global world attracting Investment and Entrepreneurs from all across the globe. Gujarat gives a vision for a preferred place to live and to do business through accelerated, balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth driven by robust social, industrial and physical Infrastructure.”

Global Investors’ Summits: Vibrant Gujarat :

2003  US $ 14 Bn ( 76 MoUs)

2005 US $ 20 Bn (226 MoUs)

2007 US $ 152 Bn ( 672 MoUs)

2009 US $ 240 Bn – (8500 MoUs)

2011 US $ 450 Bn – (7936 MoUs)

It also mentions that  7,936 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) were signed for Rs. 20,83,000 ($ 450 billion) crore at Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2011

That’s is huge number considering that Gujarat consist of a little over 6.09 crore population and over 6.7 percent of the  country’s geo-mass.

What is all the more interesting is the cockiness of Modi who has already fixed the date for the 6th Such Summit to be held on 11-13 January 2013 as he is more than certain that he would continue to remain the Chief Minister of the State till then.

The Congress party with its band of veteran economists, analysists and commentators could have torn Modi government apart for such tall claims and misleading interpretations. But dare anyone do that? why? Where are those hallowed Congress leaders and spokespersons who claim to be the last word on economics and economic wisdom in the country?

A cursory look at the following points who explain why  these claims are misleading:-

· In India’s 11th  Five year plan, the projected target on infrastructure build up is to the tune of $ 500 Billion. But going by Gujarat government’s own claims, it would be aiming at  something like $ 360 billion in the same sector through investment by private parties in the State. This seems to be a hyperbole given that the optimum capacity of Gujarat at the moment  is around  Rs 1.5 lakh crores.         

. India’s GDP is  around USD 1500 billion and Gujarat accounts for 6 per cent of India’s economy as its GDP is not even beyond 2.25 lakh Crores. Gujarat’s claim of being the  growth engine of India is equally misleading as all India level GDP increase at current prices in last six years(2004-10) is 206.00% and Gujarat comes on 10th position in that(21..12%). Uttarakhand remains on number one while Bihar and Maharashtra remain on 4th and 5th position respectively.

. Gujarat still remains on 8th position in Human development index at the national level. Its remains on 14th position with regard to drop-out rates in classes between the age of 6 to 16 years.   

Yet Narendra Modi’s one letter to PM sends shivers  down the spine of many in South Block and he gets away with whatever he wants be that the case of cotton exporters or the allocations on a few selective items and areas.

Under these circumstances, Rahul Gandhi would have to do a lot of hard work to prove himself as the worthy Prime Ministerial material and his first litmus test is going to be Gujarat all over again. The people of Gujarat as well as the whole country would be waiting to see how he takes on Narendra Modi in this round of electoral battle and how he fares.

It remains to be seen if he would take the cudgel against Modi and prove his worth as the future

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