Concluding part of Two-part Blog
In this article published on 7th June, I argue that it’s unfair to hold Rahul Gandhi responsible for Congress’ downfall. The blame should be equally shared by other worthies such as Sonia Gandhi herself, Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram, Digvijay Singh, Ahmed Patel and even for that matter, Priyanka Vadra too.
Now the nagging questions remain that why BJP spokespersons and even journalists who oppose BJP seem to agree on this one thing? That Rahul is a Pappu. And yet the same Congress, which was so trusting these journalists only a decade back is not ready to replace Rahul?
BJP spokespersons and Social Media Volunteers have gone hammer and tongs after Rahul. Obviously, because he is an easy target. He has no experience or formal training in handling any responsibility. There is no record to show he has achieved any results (Yes, not even school exam results) under the smallest of pressure or any deadline. He was one happy to go lucky chap, all ready to take over the ‘Rajgaddi’ of Delhi before Narendra Modi happened to him. And as they say, rest is history! Plus his antics are so glaring that they present BJP a trouble-free opportunity to expose his buffoonery and ineptitude of Congress ultimately. Not to forget his upbringing, affluence and family, which had three Prime Ministers along with a long history of ruling the country, which gives innumerable opportunities to lampoon Congress. So mocking Rahul has great benefits which, BJP has taken with both hands.
Surprisingly many journalists who not only oppose BJP tooth and nail but also are ideologically opposed, are in agreement with BJP, that Rahul just doesn’t have it in him. This is because one, they want to trivialize BJP’s two great victories of 2014 and 2019. You see once they realized that with him leading the party, is not cutting any ice with voters, they quickly dumped him. Doing that gives them column-centimeters room to say it’s not Modi or BJP which is doing great, but rather it’s Rahul’s inexperience or lack of political cunning, which is hurting Congress. He may not be fit for politics but he is a good human being.
Second by doing that they are protecting the Congress party and the Dynasty itself. These journalists are smart chaps. They know, the century old Left-Liberal ecosystem which they thrive upon rests on Congress staying relevant. And if Congress keeps on losing like the last two elections, soon the ecosystem will come apart. So looking at the larger picture, Rahul is expendable but Congress party is indispensable and Dynasty is permanent! So what if Rahul is not married and may not start a family in the immediate future? There is another equally entitled and potent Dynasty taking shape. His sister, Priyanka who has all the qualities (Read Nose) of Indira Gandhi also has a husband, Robert Vadra. Though this wheeler-dealer type husband comes from suspect family background and has been involved in shady land dealings, he has his utility. He has children with Priyanka and that’s what matters. They can be future Congress leaders! After all, the Indian public likes dynasties.
Now, why after such gigantic failures Rahul is not being replaced? First and foremost the iron rule of Congress is that Gandhi has to be replaced by another Gandhi. Because notwithstanding it’s abysmal governance record it has managed to rule for 60 years, with one of the Gandhi in lead. By which I mean, either party President and/or Prime Minister was a Gandhi was in control through a proxy (eg. Manmohan Singh). So, for Congress well-wishers, it’s natural to feel that it’s better to have one of the Gandhis at the helm.
And it’s not that alternate leadership has not been tried at all. For example, twice since independence, there were clear cut attempts to dislodge family members from the pedestal. In 1969, on the issue of nomination for President of India, S Nijlingappa, then party President, expelled Indira Gandhi. But such was her clout that she managed to split the party and set up a rival organization by the name of Congress (R). Within 2 years, when the General Elections were held she came back with a landslide. Her party won 352 seats and the rival Congress (O) was demolished.
Second and last time more recently, after Rajiv Gandhi’s unfortunate demise, between 1991-98 (the only period other than 18 months after Nehru’s death, before Indira took over) there was no Gandhi as the party President or either Prime Minister! Of these 7 years, Congress was ruling for the first 5 years with PV Narsimha Rao as PM and party President. And this was the period of biggest economic reforms that paved the way for subsequent high growth decades. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that this was the period when radical reforms did happen when none from the Gandhi household was in control. (Slight digression here, but topic deserves more attention anyway)
Narsimha Rao’s tenure was rocked by Babri Mosque demolition. There was a feeling in the party, that Rao didn’t do enough to stop it. This accounted for Congress and BJP emerged as the largest party in 1996. He was replaced by Sitaram Kesri, an old family loyalist, who was actually very old – 80 years then. Congress went into 1998 elections under his presidentship. Most of the Congress party workers were very unhappy with Kesri anyway. Sonia decided to take control and started campaigning. This revitalized the party cadre and the rallies attracted huge crowds. Re-establishing the fact that Gandhi Family members are popular amongst Indian masses. Though Congress lost that election and BJP emerged the winner, it gave Sonia the moral authority to sack Kesri. And he was fired promptly in the most humiliating manner, paving way for Sonia to be party President.
This ended the 7 years period when no one from the Dynasty was either the Congress President or Prime Minister. Since then, it’s either Sonia or Rahul who is in control. The important point, out of those 2 decades, Congress was in the rule for 10 years. Even more importantly, it was Sonia who clinched a victory against the run of the play defeated Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2004. Proving for the umpteenth time that, Congress’ best chance of winning power is when Gandhi is in control.
Starting 1950, when Congress supporters look back they may feel, the seven years between 1991-98 when no Gandhi was either a party President or PM has cost them badly. This was the period when Babri was demolished, alienating Muslims, leading to the rise of BJP. Hence you can’t fault them if they want one of the Gandhi to succeed Sonia.
With aging & ailing Sonia and hamstrung by trickster husband Priyanka, being the only real competition, Rahul is ‘The Successor’ for foreseeable future. Along with other ideological limitations, he may be a factor that is repelling voters for now. But if the economy continues to slide, voters may not be averse to relook at Rahul in 2024.