Will Rahul Gandhi become the Congress president or will he not? Does it matter really?
If it is some kind of a strategy of the party to hog the media space by raking up the topic once in every few months, well, it’s getting irritating. No one in the country is in doubt that nobody else but Rahul Gandhi will be the Congress president. The chance of a surprise challenger does not arise. The only question is that of timing. The party surely is overplaying the suspense around the ‘when’ question. Why cannot the Congress simply get done with it and move on to a course of action under him?
The more it delays the elevation of the vice president to the top job, the more it reflects poorly on the ability of the party to make quick decisions. It also raises questions on the acceptability of Rahul as the leader within the party. If he has shown outstanding leadership skills, is raring to go, and has the approval of all then what is the point holding him back? This would soon be the query from all quarters.
The answers won’t be charitable either to the party or the man himself.
It was expected that the party would go for drastic action to arrest its countrywide slide soon after its miserable performance in the 2014 general election. Being reduced to 44 seats in Lok Sabha and virtually losing political presence across the country posed a serious existential challenge in front of the party; it required the Congress to re-invent itself. The party not only had to articulate an ideological narrative that would be a match for the BJP’s but also to groom a leader who would match Narendra Modi in public appeal. While at it, the party also had the task of rebuilding the organisation brick by brick, starting from states where it had still not lost space to regional parties.
Nearly two-and-a-half years later, the party remains exactly where it was in May 2014. It still does not have an active leader to lead the charge against Modi though Rahul Gandhi’s name keeps popping up every now and then. It is ill-at-ease defending values of secularism and nationalism, planks it could easily have utilised to its political advantage; and it still does not speak with clarity on its economic policy. With the visible absence of a revamp the organisation keeps sinking. In the period the party has lost a couple of states too. So what is it up to? Only the Congress can answer that.
It is rumoured that the party’s old guard is not yet prepared to accept Rahul as its leader. His plan to dump deadwood and induct new blood into the party faces resistance in several pockets. It is also said that he is too immature to command respect of party leaders and the rank. While he has been moving around trouble spots across the country, the gains from these have been minimal. It has neither built a stature for him nor has it helped the party. It may be possible that the party is waiting for the opportune moment – post an election victory in some state – to anoint him. But that could turn out to be a futile wait.
The delay in announcing him the party president could be counterproductive for Congress. It has already wasted a good deal of time already. His elevation is likely to see the emergence of new equations in the party resulting in a lot of leaders at the local level quitting or shifting loyalty to the BJP. It usually takes time for parties to settle down with a new order. Even if Rahul takes over today, he will find it difficult to get his Congress combat ready by 2019.
That is one reason the party should stop the suspense. In any case, given the condition of the party right now it does not matter to anybody.