In Order to Repeat History, Rahul Must Exhibit Strong Will That Has Been Invisible so Far
By Prabhu Chawla | Published: 19th January 2014 06:00 AM |
As Sonia Gandhi readies to kick off the espadrilles of power, Rahul Gandhi is stepping into her shoes. For all practical purposes, the succession is complete and the reveille has been sounded. Rahul is now undisputed navarch of the Congress armada. As his mother monitors him from the shore, he has already drawn the maritime chart for his singular kind of politics to make waves. If the tone and tenor of his 45-minute AICC speech is any indication, the 118-year-old Congress party is going to get a younger look, and its walk would signal aggression and attitude. Rahul’s Ark will be different from his mother’s or his father’s. His nine-year stint in politics is seen as a gingerbread house, with no visible achievements. Rahul was perceived as a part-time politician who excelled in occasional outbursts against the establishment and then vanish. Not anymore. Not only did he take centre stage at the AICC meet held to galvanise a highly demoralised party for the Trafalgar of 2014, he also demanded explanation from each PCC president for the party’s pathetic performance in their states. During his 12-hour individual interaction with satraps, he told each in no uncertain terms that they would be held accountable for both deeds and misdeeds. It was obvious that Rahul had taken to heart the question mark on his ability to lead a party and a nation of over a billion. Without officially declaring himself PM candidate, Rahul has picked up the gauntlet thrown by BJP’s Narendra Modi.
The young Gandhi has decided not only to define politics but also lay down economic principles which his party would follow. Though his style is vastly different from his father Rajiv’s, Rahul has chosen to be a rebel against the system. In 1985, Rajiv made a vow to get rid of tainted leaders from the party and government. Rajiv had lamented, “Millions of ordinary Congress workers are full of enthusiasm for Congress policies and programmes. But they are handicapped, for on their backs ride the brokers of power and influence, who dispense patronage to convert a mass movement into feudal oligarchy. They are self-perpetuating cliques who thrive by invoking slogans of caste and religion and by enmeshing the living body of the Congress in their net of avarice. For such persons, the masses do not count. Their lifestyle, their thinking—or lack of it, their self-aggrandisement, their corrupt ways, their linkages with vested interests in society, and their sanctimonious posturing are wholly incompatible with work among people. They are reducing Congress organisation to shell from which the spirit of service and sacrifice has been empted.”
Twenty-eight years later, his son Rahul also believes that the Congress has lost its unique identity as a party of the masses. Unlike his father and grandmother who often found themselves in the thick of political machinations, Rahul has always been an outsider. He has mostly been out of the country during his formative years. For him, the current composition of the Congress is both unfamiliar and a liability. After nine years of acquiring political experience, Rahul will now set the rules of the game. He is not going to lose sleep over the Sensex. He will push the party to the position where it began—left of centre. The Congress is on the cusp of taking a left turn after almost two decades of Right wing posturing. Under PM Manmohan Singh, it has turned the government into a vehicle for crony capitalism and followed a growth model which made the rich richer and the poor poorer. Rahul feels that the UPA government was inaccessible to ordinary people, while unrolling the red carpet to corporates. His advisors have convinced him that those who chased the markets met their nemesis at the hustings. Chandrababu Naidu lost in Andhra Pradesh after spending more time wooing non-voting wealthy influencers than those who vote. The Left lost West Bengal badly when its pro-industry CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya indulged in flagrant flirtations with the capitalist world. The Congress was routed in 1996 when the people chose to vote out a government which bent over backwards to protect industry. Rahulites claim that their imperator is hell bent on changing all that. At the AICC meet, he spoke about looking after the interests of the poorest of poor, fighting corruption, giving more representation to youth and dismantling existing structure controlled by the old guard. He left none in doubt that he was the de facto Congress president, PM and High Command all rolled into one; as Alexander Pope wrote in An Essay on Man, “He mounts the storm and walks upon the wind”. Henceforth his word will be the command. Those who fail to follow would fall by the wayside.
Rahul knows he is not the darling of the middle classes. He understands that support from the mighty comes with a price tag. He realises that he failed to define his mission and vision. But his interaction with party followers was aimed at aligning them all along one meridian. The content of his speech echoed the language of poor workers, he feels, have been kept out of decision-making process and deprived of their share in economic growth. It is evident that the fourth-generation Gandhi is determined to repeat history. If he takes his agenda forward of purging the old guard, he will face the same resistance his grandmother did with the Syndicate. In his political adventurism to give a new chehra (face), chal (walk) and charitra (character) to the ancien regime, Rahul will have to exhibit a strong will that has been invisible so far. If his past is any benchmark, Rahul will have to take gruelling aerobic lessons to make his future shine and reverse the trend of shrinking acceptability of Brand Gandhi in a competitive electoral market.
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