After Lok Sabha election debacle, Rahul Gandhi raring to lead Congress fightback, set party on path to revival

  • The dismal performance of Congress in the General Election and Rahul losing from his pocket borough of Amethi, demoralised the former party president

  • He distanced himself from the party's core activities and stepped down from his post, saying he would function only as a common party worker

  • It was only at the Ramlila Maidan rally on Saturday that the people saw an aggressive Rahul Gandhi after a long time

After maintaining a discreet distance from the party's core affairs after its disastrous performance in the General Election under his leadership, Rahul Gandhi appears set to be in the running for the party's top job again. He had quit as Congress president after the results and refused to entertain the demand from party leaders to reconsider his stand.

At the Bharat Bachao Rally on 14 December, Rahul emerged as the party's focal point. The large cutouts and slogans dedicated to him were a clear indication that he might soon be back to leading the party. He continues to be the Congress' chief and star campaigner in elections around the country, despite relinquishing the presidency.

Rahul's importance to the party can be gauged first from the fact that he addressed the rally ahead of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Second, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi began her speech by addressing Rahul as "Rahul Gandhiji mere neta (my leader)" — which is an attempt to showcase him as the ultimate leader of the Congress.

We may see the party asking him to take charge again, despite his refusal earlier.

"From the party's booth-level workers to senior-most leaders — ask anyone who's going to be our ultimate president, and it's none other than Rahul Gandhi. He was our leader and shall continue to remain so in future as well," asserted Smruti Ranjan Lenka, national secretary of Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and in-charge, Assam and Tripura.

A large number of Congress workers who came to Delhi to participate in the rally feel that Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) would be the rallying point for the Congress to take the Narendra Modi government head-on — the IYC has expressed its determination to continue its non-violent resistance, or satyagraha, till the time the government withdraws the CAA.

 After Lok Sabha election debacle, Rahul Gandhi raring to lead Congress fightback, set party on path to revival

File image of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul Gandhi. PTI

And most Congress workers feel that Rahul has the ability to energise the youth of the country on this issue.

"The Bharat Bachao Rally was the platform from where Congress party and Rahul Gandhi gave a clarion call to countrymen and party workers to save our Constitution. His appeal has boosted morale of the party workers in a big way. Only Rahulji can take BJP head-on on the issue of CAA. We will fight with him till the end, so that the BJP's dream of a Congress-mukt Bharat remains a dream forever," Lenka told Firstpost.

The dismal performance of Congress in the General Election and Rahul losing from his pocket borough of Amethi, demoralised the former party president to the extent that he distanced himself from the party's core activities and stepped down from his post. He announced that he would function only as a common party worker. It was only at the Ramlila Maidan rally on Saturday that the people witnessed an aggressive Rahul after a long time.

Visibly angry, he took a shot at the BJP for demanding an apology for his 'Rape in India' remark in Parliament and said "My name is Rahul Gandhi and not Rahul Savarkar… I'll never apologise for speaking the truth nor will any Congressman do so."

"Rahulji's uncompromising attitude makes him our leader. He displayed it during the Bharat Bachao Rally when he refused to apologise for his remark. Where was he wrong? Shouldn't Modi apologise for his tweet where he had called Delhi a rape capital?" asked Chhattisgarh Congress spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi.

Political commentator Rasheed Kidwai said, "Rahul is not only positioning himself aggressively as a polarising leader but also positioning the Congress as a strong force against the BJP. The Bharat Bachao Rally was a conscious and deliberate tactic to get back to the party's central leadership."

"Given Sonia Gandhi's poor health, Rahul stands to be the only star campaigner in the Congress and he aggressively campaigned in Jharkhand. After Sonia, the party workers are looking forward to Rahul as their president. He's making a conscious bid to get into his new role," added Kidwai, who's also the author of Sonia, a biography and 24 Akbar Road.

Within the Congress' internal arrangement, the top leadership position of AICC president has been linked to Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka — in that order. The debate is never for the top job and no party worker would accept any one outside the Gandhi family.

Political experts believe as long as Sonia is at the top, the next level of veteran and senior-most leaders is comfortable. But the new generation desperately wants to see Rahul as party chief, as he is an unconventional politician within the Congress. He doesn't mince his words and this makes him popular among the youth.

"The way Rahulji aggressively raised issues in the Bharat Bachao Rally and also campaigned in Jharkhand, we’re hoping that he will finally agree to be the party president. Given the volatile political situation of the country, it's high time that Rahul took control of the party. But if he becomes the president, the party should settle other hierarchical issues related to old guards and the younger generation of leaders. The senior leaders shouldn’t have any apprehension or misconception that they will be left redundant if Rahul is at the helm of affairs," an AICC leader said on condition of anonymity.

The leader further cited former president Pranab Mukherjee, who said at an India Foundation event in New Delhi on Monday, "A numerical majority of election gives you the right to make a stable government, but please carry along the others. Lack of popular majority forbids you from a majoritarian government — that's the message and essence of our parliamentary democracy."

"The Modi government is doing just the opposite of what Pranab babu has pointed out and destroying the essence of our Constitution by its highhanded approach. The BJP has lost so many states within a year after March 2018. It’s the right time for the Congress to emerge as a strong Opposition in the country, with a strong leadership," the leader added.

Recently in praise of Rahul, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot had said, "Only he (Rahul) can counter Modi and Amit Shah."

Given the present arrangement at AICC and the way it appeared during the rally, Sonia — being interim president — will continue to take important and major decisions on party matters, whereas Rahul will lead all sorts of campaigns from election rallies to issue-based ones like Bharat Bachao Rally. It seems Priyanka's job will be to revive the party's fortunes in Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress won a single seat — Rae Bareli, the home turf of Sonia.

Within five months of resigning from Congress president’s post, Rahul has eased his way back to the leadership position. His withdrawal from centre stage seems to be a tactical retreat. If the Jharkhand Assembly election results are favourable for the Congress, he might be back as president. And that's what a large chunk within the party is looking forward to.

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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2019 11:20:07 IST