Having been closely associated with the Congress for almost three decades, I have watched Rahul Gandhi and his politics over the years, through all that is available within and beyond the public eye. Rahul has emerged as a gen-next politician, who, like anyone of us, has the right to lead the country. I have watched him with the conviction that his actions are always well-intentioned. Unlike some sharply critical outsiders, I have been able to separate the perception from facts, which leads me to assert that India could do well with a “Young Turk” politician like him.
Rahul’s brand of politics, if we can call it that, is slowly metamorphosing. We expect our leaders to perform gallantly, or quit. So, we cannot give any soft options to Rahul, given his lineage and ambition.
The Gandhi scion’s detachment for power, however, should not be mistaken for his inability to connect. The accusation that he is a reluctant PM candidate who shirks to take on responsibility is untenable, for he has held responsible posts within the party for over a decade.
Without being overly harsh on him, let’s accept Rahul is a changed person. Let us believe that those 50 days in retreat have truly crystallised a new Rahul, who is sincere in his intent to resurrect the party and restore his waning credibility.
The Congress is a gargantuan collective force and its presence runs through the basic fabric of the nation. To connect with all the arms of the party machine and to motivate them to common goals, particularly in this climate is no mean task.
In our rapidly changing polity, the need of the hour is a strong leader at the helm. Rahul is to the manor born, his destiny inescapably woven into the politics of India, but it seems to have worked to his disadvantage.
We don’t shy away from electing history-sheeters as MPs or appointing scamsters as ministers. Sometimes we have no better reason to put them on the seats of power than that they are common people like us, yet we insert harsher benchmarks for the Gandhi scion.
In the larger perspective, Rahul has worked, often in the face of fierce opposition. He worked on the Land Acquisition Bill and Food Securities Bill on his own conviction—fearless and determined. And then the wolves baying for his blood closed in. The last election was deplorable for the Congress, but then why single out Rahul? We were all to blame. Over the years, Rahul has instilled a sense of democracy within the party, while being a worker, not a “saviour of the nation”.
While people may call him a “rent an issue politician”, it would serve them well to note that Rahul has done it all. His campaigning for the Dalits and nukkad sabhas can’t be ignored.
We now see Rahul whose shoulders are lighter. Since he is no longer burdened with winning the polls, he seems to be at ease enjoying his politics, a far cry from the perception of a reluctant politician. This could be half the battle won since his renewed energy has already lifted the morale of the party.
Returning into the midst of the public eye, under the scrutiny of his detractors, Rahul has made his critics in the BJP nervous. He has toured five states, reaching out to crisis-hit farmers and going on a pilgrimage to Kedarnath, tearing into the failures of the Modi government.
His padyatra in Vidarbha drew the government’s attention to the agrarian crisis looming there. He has walked, talked and interacted with the farmers, not indulging in empty pontification from the comforts of air-conditioned drawing rooms.
Indeed, he displays the traits of a self-assured leader in a new avatar. As a result we are near unanimous in the belief that Rahul’s overdrive is aimed as much at reassuring his sceptical partymen as focusing on cornering the BJP. I don’t know if this new avatar will prove to be the nemesis of the ruling party, but it is surely making them nervous. Since there is no mistress more temperamental than politics and nothing more ephemeral than power, let’s wait and watch.