It’s hair check day in the Congress.
Back in my old missionary school we were always nervous about hair check day. On that day our prefect would line us all up and evaluate the length of our hair with the tip of his cane. If it was too long, we were in trouble.
Rahul Gandhi is apparently going to be (virtually) lining up the Congress ministers at the Samvad Baithak in Surajkund and doing a little performance evaluation with them.
One difference between the two - that was our prefect’s job. No one knows what Rahul's job is. Anyway who appointed Rahul the prefect?
“A section of the party leadership felt Rahul should have undertaken this exercise after his formal appointment as number two,” writes Sanjay K. Jha in The Telegraph. “But others contended his de facto status need not be announced to enable him to take over the reins of the party.”
Of course, not.
Why let such little formalities get in the way?
The conclave will be evaluating the promises the party made in its 2009 manifesto from food security to women’s reservation to 20 new IITs and see how the ministers have measured up.
How about the promise to bring some clarity to the official role of Rahul Gandhi in the party?
Mum’s the word. And neither mum nor son are saying anything. Instead they are busy taking a bus so as to connect with the man on the street.
In many other parties around the world, when a party is routed in an election, the party leaders resign. By leaving Rahul in a sort of de facto limbo, he is able to escape all accountability even as he holds the Congress ministers accountable. So he can be the star campaigner in UP but not have to bear the consequences of its aftermath. He made noises about taking responsibility and the party fluttered around him like an anxious mother hen, drowning out his protests in a flurry of soothing "don't be depressed" clucks and head pats.
If the Congress is really serious about having a Samvad Baithak (dialogue session) as opposed to a durbaar, it needs to remember that unless it goes both ways, it’s not dialogue. No one has the guts or power to evaluate a Gandhi but if Rahul Gandhi gets to judge the ministers, the ministers and partyworkers can at least demand that he formally step up to the plate as well. Spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary airily dismisses that need. She insists, “I do not think anybody needs to anoint anybody. He is already number 2 in the party. He is working as number 2.”
In that case what’s the problem with announcing it? Why cannot Rahul Gandhi be the actual number 2 instead of “acting number 2”?
The Congress is obviously jittery. Rahul, Sonia and Priyanka all made a rare non-election timed visit to Amethi and Rae Bareli to reassure the voters that they cared even when there was no election happening. The party is apparently considering a lot of dangerous gambits as it gears up for 2014. Rasheed Kidwai writes that it’s pondering going it alone in three major states – Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
“There has been a feeling among Congress leaders from these states that instead of looking for allies, the Congress should stand on its own feet and see the voters’ response,” a senior AICC functionary told Kidwai.
But first the party’s “de facto” number 2 needs to stand on his own feet and make his own plans clear.
His party needs to know whether he is driving their bus or just coming along for the ride.