Do you remember the poetic rendition offered by a prominent congress working committee (CWC) member, beseeching Indira Gandhi to bring Rajiv Gandhi into politics after Sanjay Gandhi’s death? The exact words were, “mera Krishna mujhe de do.” Ironically, the man behind this rendition was former Prime Minister VP Singh, who later turned out to be a bitter foe of the Congress party!
Much like Rahul Gandhi's father Rajiv, the CWC displayed a similar obsequiousness and fawning as the members collectively beseeched the Congress vice-president to take over the leadership of the party. As his wont, Rahul made it clear that he would take over any responsibility given to him by the party.
The script is all too familiar to deserve any extra effort for interpretation. The party’s top decision making body, in the absence of All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Sonia Gandhi, asked Rahul to convey the sentiments of the CWC. It is clear that a transfer of political legacy by lineage is grossly camouflaged by a pretence of democratic decision making in the CWC.
One of the senior most Congress leaders, AK Antony, explained the transfer of baton from mother to son as consistent with the party’s adherence to the democratic tradition. Once again, the CWC members have echoed VP Singh’s poetic rendition, albeit in a different language. It seems that the first family’s 'Krishna' is back in India’s political Mahabharata.
But there is world of difference between Rajiv’s time and Rahul’s tryst with destiny. It now appears certain that Rahul will take over the reins of India’s Grand Old Party. Only this time, the party he will be leading is just a pale shadow of its past.
Unlike previous years, when Congress was the principal pole of politics in India and ran governments in most states even at the worst of time, the party today stands decimated and discredited in the eyes of a large swathe of India.
For instance, the party lost states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and parts of the North East to regional parties, thereby successfully dislodging its long held primacy. In large parts of the Hindi heartland and western parts of India, there are no signs of its resurrection in the absence of credible faces amongst the regional satraps.
Even Rajiv Gandhi was assisted by powerful regional satraps within the Congress, ensuring that the party never lost its grip on the national narrative. In sharp contrast, Rahul is assisted mostly by inconsequential leaders, whose survival in politics is dependent upon their proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Rahul is facing a situation that is nothing short of an insurmountable challenge. For the better part of the last decade, he has not shown any signs of evolving into a matured politician. His conduct often lacks consistency and his utterances betray his inadequacy in understanding the idea of India.
Take for instance the manner in which he tried to appease the Scheduled Castes and Tribes – by spending a night in their hutments and then rushing off to the nearest hotel or guest house to wash up and rest. His inconsistent approach to reach out to the backward classes in Bundelkhand and parts of eastern UP, and his sojourn at the Dalit hutments, did not bear any political fruits.
Similarly, his ill-conceived diatribe against the RSS-BJP combine is nothing but recycling of the old verbiage against the Sangh Parivar, invented by the 'Left of centre' academics. His latest puerile attempt to gain mileage from the controversy surrounding the one rank one pension (OROP) issue was seen as taking shelter behind the army, to take pot shots at the Modi government.
That his sense of timing is flawed becomes evident by the manner in which he used the barb “khoon ki dalali” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the surgical strikes. Soon after his utterances, Rahul Gandhi’s road show in Uttar Pradesh turned into a flop show.
It is true that every leader, in due course of time, can evolve himself into a matured politician. Rahul Gandhi is no exception. But given his behaviour in the past, he is certainly not someone who inspires confidence and trust among the Congress workers.
In private conversations, most senior party leaders admit that Rahul is not the solution but rather a part of the problem. An astute and matured deliberation at the CWC would have attempted to cure the morbid atrophy that has seized the party. Instead, it is marked by a collective show of sycophancy and servility that restricts perspicacity. This is a worrying sign for Indian politics.