EVERY two decades or so, some sort of a churning takes place in the Congress and last Saturday, we saw the result of the latest such. It took a young man, often derided for his obsession with his ‘ Discovery of India’ tours, to remind the doddering old grandees in the Grand Old Party that there is a lot of life left in the Congress. Over forty years ago, Indira Gandhi took charge of the government and then seized control of the party after laying low a syndicate that had held the Congress in a vice like grip.
Less than twenty years later, her son Rajiv came to power and though his first steps were tentative, he soon shook up the party, stripping it of the old order to bring his own team and give his own new vision to the Congress. Two more decades have gone by and, I think, we have seen the last of the Congress as we have known it for more than a generation.
The colour of the Congress is changing and I am not talking about designer kurtas replacing the staid old khadi of Gandhi, Nehru and Indira. Congressmen are queuing up to give all the credit for the stupendous electoral victory to Rahul Gandhi and he deserves it, both for having had a hand in the selection of a majority of the party’s candidates and for taking on the mantle of the party’s chief campaigner.
But it is the two dozen odd candidates that he personally chose and whose victory he strove hard to ensure that puts the spotlight on the team that he is building for the future. Take a look. Among them: Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada, Sandeep Dikshit, Jitendra Singh Alwar, secretary attached to Rahul in the AICC, Naveen Jindal, Deepinder Hooda, Manish Tewari, Madhu Yaskhi Goud, Ravneet Singh Bittu, Priya Dutt and Ashok Tanwar.
There are more but at least 20 of the 200 newly elected Congress MPs were handpicked by Rahul. At the news conference that followed the weekend victory, both Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh were asked about the prospects of Rahul being inducted in the Union Cabinet.
Both hedged the question but while it is my belief that Rahul will not take on any responsibility in the government, I am certain that at least some of the above mentioned will join the Manmohan team. That necessarily means that it is curtains for many of the old family retainers — the Arjun Singhs, Sisa Rama Olas and Mahavir Prasads — whose use- by dates have long expired.
Their places are likely to be taken by some members of this Ateam who are expected to gain enough experience to advise the future prime minister when his time comes. And I think that time India Rahul Indira: Started it all will come not during the second tenure of the Manmohan government but at the end of it. Simple logic tells me that Rahul will not want to sit as a parallel centre of power in cabinet meetings. Also as a minister, he gets tied down to one portfolio while outside the cabinet, he can be privy to all that’s going on everywhere. But perhaps most importantly, while the Congress has been able to buck the five year anti- incumbency wind this time, five years down the line, it may get a lot tougher and Rahul would want to start with a clean slate. Five more years of ‘ Discovery of India Tours’ and recharging the party batteries and India itself would have discovered and be ready for Rahul.