Nothing succeeds like failure in the Congress party, at least as far as the 'first family' is concerned. Rahul Gandhi may finally become what he is destined to be, the Congress party president. The 'Yuvraj' or 'Shahzada' of the party will now finally turn into a 'Shahenshah'.
The party would like to make the world believe that he didn't really want the post, but that he had to succumb to the demands of the rank and file of the party, following their decade long persuasions and prodding. That he alone has the capability to steer clear the Grand Old Party from the existential crisis it is currently facing. That he alone has the charisma to regain the lost glory of the party, which has shrunk to irrelevance in various parts of the country – the congress now governs as little as six percent of the total population.
No questions can be raised about the timing and the choice of Rahul's elevation from vice-president to president, just as no questions were raised from the inside when he was elevated from general secretary of the party to vice-president in January 2013, at the Jaipur Chintan Shivir.
After all, the Congress is synonymous with the Nehru-Gandhi dynastic rule, and dynastic systems are guided by blue blood succession rules. He will only be succeeding his mother Sonia Gandhi to the post, who has been holding the post for past 18 years, since 14 March 1998, when family loyalists most unceremoniously threw out Sitaram Kesri, who had risen from the ranks.
That was done in order to restore dynastic rule in the party, and also to restore the aura of Nehru-Gandhi family. Her 18-years of party presidency is a record of sorts in a supposedly democratic party, something which even revered family elders – Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi – were unable to accomplish.
As for the timing, leaders of all hues in the party had for long maintained that the decision of when Rahul would elevate himself to the post of party chief was a matter best left to him and his mother Sonia Gandhi. It was left to their discretion, but the momentum from below had to be built in order to give the appearance the selection being a democratic process.
One can now understand that this was the "cardiac surgery" which the likes of Digvijay Singh, Abhiskeh Manu Singhvi and Satyavrat Chaturvedi were talking about. A surgery to a common man is generally means no good news – the family and friends of a person who undergoes surgery don't really rejoice. The word itself brings tense moments for them.
But when it comes to Congress, things become quite different. Surgery signifies the coronation of a proven failure, and the related song and dance around that. It does not matter to Congress whether Rahul possess the qualities to rule, or the charisma to rejuvenate the party and instill confidence among different cross-sections of the public. His last public interaction in November last year with the students of Mt Carmel College in Bangalore had practically turned into a fiasco for him.
It doesn't seem to matter that with him as the De facto prime ministerial candidate for Congress, or as a challenger to Narendra Modi in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the Congress performed its worst ever, reduced to a double digit of 44 – very close to the numbers of two regional parties, the AIADMK and the Trinamool Congress.
It didn't matter either that since then, Congress lost power in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharastra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Delhi, Assam, Kerala, and was badly mauled in every single state which went to the polls in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
That rewarding the Gandhi's scion after failures, hailing his as youth icon and the future of the nation continues to be the accepted norm. The Congress can't survive as a party without chants for the 'first family'.
Take for instance the prevalent political situations in January 2013, when he was elevated to the post of vice-president. In the preceding year, Rahul had led the party campaign in UP, Punjab, Goa and Gujarat. In all these places the Congress suffered massive defeats. That prompted Congress to begin a clamour for his elevation.
It was not that the Congress had no reasons to celebrate, it had bagged a consolation prize in Himachal Pradesh, where it's very own rebellious leader Virbhadra Singh had become the chief minister.
After he became Congress vice-president, he led the party campaign in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. The Congress was routed in all these states. That notwithstanding that Rahul was made the virtual prime ministerial candidate for Congress in 2014. Again, the Congress had Karnataka to hang on for Rahul in 2013.
It's time to recall what Rahul had said on 20 Jan 2013, in his coronation speech in Jaipur. While explaining what was the "tragedy of India", he had said, "Every single day, I meet people who have tremendous understanding, deep insight and no voice. And all of us meet them. They are everywhere. But almost always they are kept outside our systems,"
"No one can hear their voice. No matter how much they try to speak no one listens. And then I meet people holding high positions with tremendous voice but with no understanding for the issues at hand. Why does this happen? It happens because we don't respect knowledge. We respect position. And it does not matter how much wisdom you have, if you do not have a position, you mean nothing. This is the tragedy of India," Rahul had said.
Commenting on the need to change the administration system, he added, "All our public systems – administration, justice, education, political systems are all designed to keep people with knowledge out. They are all closed systems. Their design promotes mediocrity and mediocrity dominates discussion while the voices of insight and thought are crushed by the loudness of those who possess neither understanding nor compassion,"
"Success in these systems does not come through building, it comes by excluding. It comes not by pushing people forward, but by holding people back. Everyday initiative is killed to maintain the status quo," he said.
Rahul should perhaps play back his own speech.
The move to coronate Rahul is indicative of something else as well – Prashant Kishor's idea of Rahul being projected as Congress's chief ministerial candidate in UP is not feasible. The Congress president can never be downgraded to a chief ministerial position, even if they were to actually come by his way.
Despite all his failures and period absenteeism, the Congress still have reasons to celebrate – Rahul Gandhi's leadership has won them the election in the Union Territory of Puducherry, albeit in alliance with DMK.