NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi’s nearly one-and-a-half year tenure as Congress president saw the Gandhi scion evolving as a leader. The party won three state Assembly elections in the Hindi heartland under his leadership, managed to somewhat bring a generational change in the party and took on PM Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha election, though he did not succeed in presenting an alternative narrative to the people and the party lost grip on the ground.
Rahul took over as Congress chief on December 16, 2017 from his mother Sonia Gandhi after the party’s rout in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a vision to revive the party ahead of the 2019 elections.
The 49-year-old made efforts to bring organisational changes by inducting some young party leaders in key positions while trying to maintain a fine balance between the young brigade and the veterans. This was reflected when he gave the baton to experienced Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath to lead the Congress governments in Rajasthan and MP, respectively, while young leaders Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia were also given key roles as Rajasthan Deputy CM and general secretary, Western Uttar Pradesh.
This young-old balance was retained even in the reconstituted Congress Working Committee in July 2018. “He made all efforts to bring changes in but had to refrain from taking tough decisions keeping in mind the inner party democracy,” said a general secretary.
During his tenure as party president, Rahul made the right noises, taking on the BJP government on issues ranging from Rafale scam to agrarian distress, unemployment and violation of Dalit and tribal rights, but failed to provide an alternative narrative to convince the people. To counter the BJP’s Hindutva plank, he even played a soft Hindutav card, visiting temples and going to Kailash Mansarovar. He brought in sister Priyanka Vadra to revive the party in UP, a move that seemingly came too late to help the party.
Experts say it has to been seen now if Rahul takes up the duty allocated to him by the new party chief or charts his own path. “He should follow the role assigned to him,” said political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.
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Rahul Gandhi is appointed General Secretary of the Congress
Takes over youth and student wings of the party
Fails as campaigner in UP Assembly polls; Congress wins only 22 seats
Spearheads campaign in Lok Sabha elections and addresses 125 rallies
Rahul retains his constituency in Amethi
UPA manages to stay in power
Rahul takes a motorbike ride with a farmer, reshaping his image as a people’s leader
Rahul fails to make any impact in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election
Congress appoints Rahul Gandhi as Vice-President
Congress records lowest-ever Lok Sabha tally
Rahul handles state elections but the party suffers heavy defeats
Rahul is appointed Congress President
After failing in the 2019 LS polls, Rahul tenders resignation as Congress president