NEW DELHI: Will Rahul Gandhi hitting the ground over Hathras gangrape-murder and his scheduled tractor rally in Punjab in support of the farmers agitating against the farm legislations help him revive the fortunes of the Congress?
Images of Rahul addressing party workers on car rooftop at the DND flyway and being pushed and shoved while walking towards Hathras along with sister and UP in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at Yamuna Expressway hogged the headlines but some party leaders wonder if he will be able to keep up the tempo.
He needs to be consistent with such efforts to be able to make an impact, they said.
“Handling of Hathras incident by the UP government has been criticized everywhere. In fact, Rahul was really determined to meet the family and that is why the plan for the tractor rally in Punjab was rescheduled. In order to put pressure on the UP government, he insisted that all Congress MPs should accompany him to Hathras,” said a senior party functionary.
Meeting the UP rape victim’s family and reaching out to farmers in Punjab is being seen as an image makeover for the former Congress chief, whose leadership and style of working have been questioned within the party.
At regular intervals, senior Congress leaders have questioned how the party is losing connection with the people on the ground and asserted that there is a need to go among masses rather than just taking up issues impacting their lives through social media posts.
Some party leaders appreciate that Rahul is going among people, but add that he needs to be unrelenting in his efforts if he wants to pose a serious challenge to the BJP.
Many cite the Belchi moment of former PM Indira Gandhi, who revived the party after a major electoral loss in 1977 when she rode an elephant to Belchi village in Patna to meet the victims of Dalit atrocities.
“In the past, he has taken up issues like a protest by tribals over land acquisition in Odisha and by farmers at Bhatta Parsaul in Greater Noida and recently, the sufferings of migrant laborers during the lockdown. But he should be seen on the ground regularly,” said another party leader.
Rahul has been taking on the Modi government over issues ranging from the handling of Covid-19, the state of the economy, job losses due to lockdown, farm legislations, and the India-China standoff, among others.
But till now, his campaign had been limited to social media with release of short videos, interviews with experts and tweets attacking the government.
Rahul was missing in action during the monsoon session of Parliament as he had sought leave to accompany mother Sonia Gandhi to the US for her medical check-ups.