Rahul Gandhi has announced his intention to play a more active role in the party and the government. We should be grateful. It’s such a reassuring gesture! The country is going to be in safe hands finally. But what was he doing all these years? Wasn’t he already playing an active role in the party, if not in the government?
The drama preceding the announcement was interesting indeed. First, family loyalist and senior minister Salman Khurshid blurts before a newspaper his frustration at Rahul playing ‘camoes’ and not behaving like the number two despite being so in the party after Congress president Sonia Gandhi. It is followed by a similar statement from another loyalist and the party’s official loose cannon Digvijaya Singh. Then Sonia herself says it is for Rahul to decide whether he wants to play a bigger role and finally, he relents.
What did the Congress want to convey through the charade? He is already a general secretary of the party and a member of Parliament to boot. He has been leading the Congress’ poll campaigns for several years now. He has been in charge of the Youth Congress for some years now. If these are not counted as active roles, then the party must have some other definition for the word ‘active’. It is not likely that the leaders want him to be a senior minister or the prime minister. They need a leader for the party at the moment, not the for the government.
The minor note of dissent against Sonia Gandhi’s leadership is difficult to ignore here. For some reason, health or otherwise, she has failed to lead from the front. Staying invisible and silent in most part has added to her mystique but has helped the morale of the party cadre in no way. The leaders want someone active at the helm. Given the structure of the party, Rahul becomes the obvious choice. He is certainly not the best choice around but with sister Priyanka showing no urgency to be in politics, the party has no other go.
But Rahul’s elevation to whatever position could have been an in-house matter. What was the need to make it a public affair? Possibly, it was the Congress’s way of boosting the morale of the man himself and of the party rank and file. “Defeats are bad, but remember we still haven’t played to our full potential. Rahul at the top top could change our fortune”. This seems to be the message from the senior leaders to both.
Accustomed to staying in power, they have reason to be worried. The prospect of a drubbing in the general elections of 2014 looms large. The Uttar Pradesh assembly elections revealed that the party is incapable of having a clear strategy or game plan or cohesion at the level of senior leaders. If the trend continued, the party has little hope of winning any of the assembly elections due within 12 months.
Of course, as Khurshid revealed, the party did not have an ideology to go the masses with at the moment. This has left the local leaders confused and inactive. Without the leadership question settled, the clarity on the line of thinking would not materialise. Sonia has obviously failed to find a line of thinking that would go well with the masses as well as the classes. This is manifest in the policy confusion in the government and general mess in governance. In this backdrop, the call of the leaders seem well-planned.
So far so good. But what about Rahul? The evidence so far does not show him in flattering light. After nine years in politics, he has not been able to articulate a clear position on any issue. He is comfortable when talking populism but his understanding of the economy and its intricate aspects is suspect. We have not heard him talking on foreign policy matters too. Is he really good enough for the job expected of him?
The Congress leaders could be hoping that once he is fully in control, he won’t evade taking a stand on issues or at least thinking about them. It might work that way too. Best of luck to them.