Monday, July 15, 2013

Rahul's discovery of India.... Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ July 14, 2013

Rahul's discovery of India has to culminate in agenda for change for better

Will he? Won’t he?  It is a question, which Rahul Gandhi has refused to answer for the past few years. As Narendra Modi’s megaphones continue blaring, projecting him as India’s future Prime Minister, the Congress is refusing to bite the bullet. It is still unwilling to declare that the next election would not be fought under the 80-year-old Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s leadership. As the Congress vacillates over announcing its prime ministerial candidate, its ideological and corporate sponsors are raising vital questions about the reason for not taking a final call. Is it because the party is not confident of returning to power? Or is it because they feel that Rahul is not capable of converting crowds into votes? Or it is the eternal fear that if the party loses under Rahul’s leadership, it will spell doom for the Gandhi Parivar? Even Congress leaders feel that these questions have to be settled once and for all in the interest of the Gandhi Parivar.
The Congress without a Gandhi is like a 50-year-old Ambassador without a smart driver. Sonia Gandhi was able to bring the party twice to power and raise its Lok Sabha tally from 112 in 1999 to 206 in 2009. A Nehru or a Gandhi has always led the Congress from the front. But that hasn’t deterred one of its most outspoken spokespersons Digvijaya Singh from unilaterally declaring last weekend that Rahul would not be declared the party’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. As the countdown for the crucial elections, which will make or mar the political future of not only the Congress but also of Rahul himself, begins, even his most ardent admirers are baffled over the nature of his role during the next few months. For the first time, he attended the meeting of the four-member Congress core group to take a call on the creation of Telangana. He also participated in another meeting of 34 selected party leaders, including Congress chief ministers, to discuss the politically vital Food Security Bill. Yet, Rahul has hardly spoken on any of these issues recently.
Silence on many sensitive national issues has been his most effective weapon to keep critics guessing. Now the pressure is mounting on him from within to lead from the front and let the party have a vision, which is by Rahul, for Rahul and of Rahul. Congress insiders feel that the party needs a Rahul Vision to silence his adversaries. Normally, the work of a leader speaks louder than his words. But even Rahul’s choreographed decade-old yatra for his Discovery of India has to culminate sooner than later in the form of a Rahul Agenda for Change for a better India. Like the BJP leader, Rahul cannot be on a permanent yatra, which takes him to various tribal hamlets, universities and colleges, corporate forums and areas affected by natural calamities. His sudden and secret landings and disappearances in various part of the country are now losing not only novelty but relevance as well.
Rahul has an advantage over other Congress leaders. Despite being in active politics for the past 10 years, his personal integrity has never been questioned. His frugal lifestyle is the envy of his peer group. He has been able to keep his unseen and unknown aides away from controversy and public gaze. Now even his loyalists in the government and the party are becoming restive about their leader’s reluctance to impose his will and wish on the Congress establishment. Most of them are willing to fight along with him since they have a stake in Congress’ future. They are convinced of the fact that Rahul not taking a firm stand against the UPA’s pathetic performance would adversely affect electoral prospects.
Of late, the Gandhi scion has been meeting party officebearers and listening to their views. But he hasn’t picked up the courage to revolt against a corrupt establishment. Now as the Vice-President of the Congress and holding most of the powers of the party president, he cannot wash his hands off the misdeeds and mismanagement in both the government and the party. Congress observers feel that the people will demand accountability for the authority he wields. They have suggested that Rahul learn from the path chosen by his grandmother Indira Gandhi, father Rajiv and uncle Sanjay. Each of them had brought their agenda and aides when asked to take over the responsibility of running the party and the country. Indira demolished the syndicate and restored the party’s Left-of-Centre ideology, which she imposed on the government. Later, she introduced a 20-point programme, meant to revive social and economic welfare. Sanjay started with a bang and gave a five-point programme that covered a wide range of issues such as environment and family planning. Rajiv spoke about the 21st century India and the nationwide introduction of computers. The other Congress PM, PV Narasimha Rao, shook a conservative India with far-reaching economic reforms. Sonia surprised even her critics by pushing the UPA to open government business files to the people by getting the Right to Information Act passed, followed by yet another social welfare scheme MGNREGS which turned out to be a game-changer for the party.
Even a cadre-driven party like the BJP has been forced to look for an individual to revive its sagging image and plummeting electoral fortunes. Rahul has to follow the Gandhi family tradition of inventive instrumentation to retain power for the Congress. India understands the agony of a political scion whose grandmother and father rose through the ballot but fell to the bullets of terrorists. If Rahul fails to overcome the terrible pain of his past and rise to retain the Gandhi aura of indispensability, he will be risking both his future and that of the party as well. If Congress wins in 2014 amid a hostile and fragmented social order, mother and son duo will break the record of his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru who won three elections in a row.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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