You cannot take the Congress party out of SK Rawat. In his three decades in the Indian Youth Congress, Rawat, office secretary, Delhi, has closely observed the style and functioning of Rajiv Gandhi and son Rahul. The grand old party has come a long way from the time of Rajiv Gandhi, when, Rawat says, favourites would get nominated in the organisation, to the current structure which is democratic – credited to Rahul Gandhi
On Thursday, Rahul Gandhi
said that he will play a more proactive role in the party and the government. It is not known what exactly would that proactive role be – responsibility for a state, a ministry or an important post in the party hierarchy. But the mere announcement has put party workers in a celebratory mood. Elated are those like Rawat who have been waiting to see the Gandhi scion taking the baton of the grand old party.
Is Rahul Gandhi ready for the ‘bigger role’ his party wants?
Rawat says this is a gradual and expected shift for Rahul, who is currently secretary in-charge of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and the National Students Union of India (NSUI). His interpretation of a ‘proactive role’ for Rahul means projecting him as the prime ministerial candidate in 2014. It is an idea whose time has come, he says. “The younger generation relates to him and is fed up with aged leaders. As Rahulji has lived in India and abroad, he knows the best of both worlds,” said Rawat.
Most IYC members are touring Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, galvanising grassroots workers for the upcoming assembly polls. Gandhi was in Indore on Friday.
Gandhi’s announcement coincides with the accomplishment of his mission within the Congress party – having elected office bearers in the organisation across the country- a mandate he spelled out in 2007 after taking on the supervision of the Youth Congress. In an sms
to the IYC, Rahul Gandhi said: “IYC team, Yesterday we finished elections in Andhra Pradesh, I want to congratulate the entire IYC family for delivering elections in the entire country. It’s a proud moment for the IYC. We have done something fundamental and done it well. We have achieved what no other political organisation in this country has been able to do. Well done. I am feeling very proud of the future generation of Congress leaders.”
For more than a year now, there has been speculation, rumour and debate about the prince of the waiting game. Rawat says that more than anything else, it is an issue created by the media. “He can take whatever post he wants and when he wants it. Who can stop him?” he says.
Gandhi has been taking stock of the activities of the IYC and NSUI every week. Rather than being sombre about the fact that they would not be seeing much of Rahul Gandhi like before, workers in these organisations are glad about Rahul bhaiyya’s evolution. “He has developed a system which is now in auto mode. Even if he is not here on a regular basis, the organisation can take care of itself. He is a national leader after all,” says Rohit Chaudhary, national president, NSUI.
Congress contested the Uttar Pradesh elections under the supervision of Gandhi. Though there was an increase in the party’s vote share in the state, it lost the polls to the Samajwadi Party. But for Gandhi – unshaven, sleeves of his kurta folded – it was as good as a first real foray into the politics of the country’s heartland. Call it media creation, performance anxiety or politics, Gandhi’s loyalists believe that after UP, his home work is done and he is ready for a bigger responsibility. “He has worked really hard to know real India and that is why he came with the distinction between India and Bharat,” says Shahnawaz Sheikh, general secretary, NSUI.
Rahul’s announcement that he is ready for a bigger role suggests that he has done his work inside the party, and now his challenges lie outside.