The inevitable has finally happened in the Congress party. Rahul Gandhi is going to be the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family — from the fifth generation — to be Congress president.
This kind of ascendency to power and privilege in a leading national party is perhaps unparalleled in the world, in the countries which practice democracy. While taking the all-important step of filing the nomination papers for the Congress president’s post, the mother and son have scripted a fresh chapter in Congress’s history, even by their own dynastic family standards. This means a smooth formal transfer of power from Sonia Gandhi, who has been holding the top post for the last 19 years, to Rahul Gandhi, who currently holds charge as the vice-president of the party.
Neither the Congress nor Rahul had any qualms of about the First Family's virtually divine right to rule the party. In fact, during Rahul's recent tour to America, he had countered the “failed dynast” charge against him by arguing that “that (dynasty) is how India runs”.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar stepped into a controversy after a comment made by him was picked up by the BJP. Aiyar speaking to a TV channel, said, "When Shah Jahan came in the place of Jahangir did any election happen? And when Aurangzeb came in place of Shah Jahan did any election happen? It was known to everyone that the throne of the king will automatically go to the heir." The comment was quickly picked up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was campaigning in Gujarat.
Less than 45-minutes after Mani Shankar Aiyar made the comparison, Modi, who was addressing a public rally at Dharampur in Gujarat, mocked Aiyar and the Congress. He said, "Mani Shankar Aiyar proudly asked whether an election took place when Shahjahan succeeded Jehangir as emperor. When Aurangzeb succeeded Shahjahan, did an election take place? It was known to one and all that the emperor’s throne would go to his son.”
Mani Shankar Aiyar, who never shies away from showing loyalty to one family, proudly said- जहांगीर की जगह जब शाहजहां आए, क्या तब कोई election हुआ था? जब शाहजहां की जगह औरंगज़ेब आए, तब कोई election हुआ था? यह तो पहले से ही पता था कि जो बादशाह है, उसकी औलाद को ही सत्ता मिलेगी: PM
— narendramodi_in (@narendramodi_in) December 4, 2017
“This means that senior leaders in the Congress believe that the Congress is not a party but a kunba (family holding) and the son of the emperor would acquire the throne. I congratulate Congress on Aurangzeb Raj," Modi added.
The usage of the term 'Aurangzeb raj' for the Congress has loaded connotations at a time when campaigning for the Gujarat election is at its peak and Rahul is going to various Hindu temples. For many in India, Aurangzeb remains a hated Mughal emperor. The Modi government’s position, without saying so in as many words, is the same. It recently changed the name of a road named after Aurangzeb in Lutyen's Delhi to APJ Abdul Kalam Road.
This new-found tag (Aurangzeb) by Modi to describe dynastic rule in the Congress would come in handy for several BJP leaders and workers to unleash a fresh bout of attacks on the Congress.
Note Modi’s other charge against the Congress—
Why has the Congress stopped saying BJP is anti-Muslim? Earlier, they would go out of the way to show their secularism but now we are all seeing what they are doing in this election, where they are going. Unfortunately for them, Muslims know their real nature: PM
— narendramodi_in (@narendramodi_in) December 4, 2017
While the merits of Modi’s Aurangzeb raj barb against Rahul and the Congress will be debated for long, the fact remains that in less than an hour or 45 minutes, Modi turned the news headlines as he had so wished. It became the biggest talking point of the day, although from the Congress' perspective, the media should have been discussing Sonia Gandhi’s 19 years of stewardship and the challenges that Rahul will have to brave in the days and months to come.
The other connotation of the 'Aurangzeb raj’ barb could be the contention that after Rahul's reign, the Congress will completely disintegrate. Though Aurangzeb ruled India for close to 50 years in the seventeenth century, by the time he left the throne, the Mughal empire had begun disintegrating.
Congress spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi had recently said that Rahul is not becoming the president for a term but for the next 50 years. Unfortunately for Rahul, at the time when he is officially taking over the reign of the Congress party, its disintegration is already at an advanced stage. It has 44 seats in the Lok Sabha and is losing one state after another. It has only one big state, Karnataka—which is going to the polls in the next six months—in its kitty. Senior leaders from across the country are quitting the party. The party recently won in Punjab, but the credit for that went to local strongman Captain Amarinder Singh, not to Rahul.
What made Modi’s charge stick on the Congress is the fact that despite warnings of “an existential crisis” by leaders like Jairam Ramesh, the party went into denial mode over Rahul’s failures. In an interview to PTI, Jairam Ramesh, former union minister and one-time close confidante of Rahul had said “The sultanate has gone, but we behave as if we are sultans still. We have to completely redo the way of thinking, the way of acting, the way of projecting, the way of communicating. I think there is a lot of goodwill for the Congress, a lot of support for the Congress but the people want to see a new Congress. They don't want to see old mantras and old slogans. We must recognise this is a big challenge."
Rahul's elevation as the Congress chief gave the BJP enough ammo to attack the party on its "dynastic" ways of functioning. If things continue in the same manner, Rahul might become BJP's biggest asset ahead of the Gujarat Assembly election. The state goes to polls on 9 and 14 December. The BJP seems to be enjoying Rahul’s elevation, after all.
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Updated Date: Dec 04, 2017 19:52:43 IST