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Issue No.: 576 | June 2015

Rahul Resurgent

Firoze Hirjikaka
Whether by intention or sublimely during his sabbatical, realisation seems to have dawned on Rahul that whatever he had been doing hitherto was not working. Unlike the previous generation of Nehru-Gandhis, he does not seem to have politics in-built in his genes. Nevertheless, the role of Congress leader has been thrust upon him and he cannot afford to shirk it.

The BJP may keep denying it till it is blue in the face, but there is no denying that it is rattled by a rejuvenated Rahul Gandhi after his return from his secret sojourn to parts unknown. They don’t know what to make of him. For years, they had used him as their godsent whipping boy, who effortlessly lent himself to ridicule and derision; and who lacked the political skills to fight back. They mocked his near-invisibility; and on the rare occasion when he made an appearance in public, he sounded either befuddled or petulant. That master orator and communicator Narendra Modi made mincemeat out of him, much to the hilarity and approbation of a captive audience waiting to be entertained. When he vanished from sight early this year, not only the BJP, but members of the Congress too started composing his political obituary.

Before I proceed, permit me a brief aside about the inevitable link to "dynasty” whenever the Gandhis are discussed in any forum. The dynastic politics of the Congress has been a favourite target of political commentators and columnists; and even more so since the Lok Sabha debacle. I am not doubting the veracity of this, but I would like to point out that dynasty is ingrained in Indian politics irrespective of which party they belong to. For example, the recent Bandra by-election seat was won by the wife of a prominent Shiv Sena leader; and the late R. R. Patil’s wife is tipped to win despite the fact that she has absolutely no qualification for the job, except for the family name. And who can forget the infamous Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi duo; or the Karunannidhis or the Chautalas...I could go on and on. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress have certainly been found wanting in matters of governance, but to keep harping on the dynasty issue is a bit hypocritical considering that family inheritance has been prevalent in Indian politics ever since Independence.

Back to Rahul. Just as mysteriously as he had disappeared, he came back. He offered no explanation as to where he had been – it could have been a voyage of self-discovery, or simply a vacation – but it was soon evident that a transformation had taken place. Far from living up to his reputation as the elusive crown prince, suddenly he was everywhere – in the field, in Parliament, on pilgrimage treks and even in Delhi’s urban jungle. Even more amazingly, he knocked the omnipresent and omnipotent Narendra Modi off the news headlines on television and in newspapers. The BJP’s scoffing response that he is all show and no substance comes across as rather hypocritical, considering that their own glorious leader is the epitome of showmanship. Indeed, Rahul’s growing relevance is reflected in the level of the response of the BJP. When Rahul was considered an inconsequential lightweight, his pronouncements were countered by low level BJP spokespersons (who often helped his cause by launching obnoxious personal attacks on "Rahul-baba”). After the "new” Rahul emerged, the party felt compelled to bring out the big guns. No less a personage than ArunJaitley - identified by ArunShourie as a member of the BJP’s ruling trimurti – mocked his unexplained leave of absence; and that too in the august halls of parliament.

Whether by intention or sublimely during his sabbatical, realisation seems to have dawned on Rahul that whatever he had been doing hitherto was not working. His direct personal attacks on the new messiah, far from hurting Modi, only made the latter more popular and the former appear churlish and immature. Whoever is now advising him are on the right track. He now focusses on specific issues - farmer suicides, urban housing woes, etc. For sure, he occasionally slips in a catch phrase, like "suit boot-ki-sarkar”, but then, in this age of television news, that is de rigueur for all politicians. More importantly, he is reaching out to his constituents through direct contact; something the autocratic and self-important Modi cannot bring himself to do; and delegates the task to his underlings. Incidentally, have you observed the PM’s recent appearances in Parliament? Not only does the great orator remain inexplicably silent, the bored expression on his face conveys the impression that he considers the proceedings a waste of time (his style is to rule by diktat); and the attacks on himself and his party not worthy of a personal response. This is in stark contrast to his pre-election avatar as a humble chaiwalla and man of the people. Rahul’s barbs about Modi’s frequent foreign visits may have elicited a sarcastic response from Jaitley, but an impression is forming in public opinion that the PM attaches greater importance to being feted by foreign governments and being lionised by the Indian diaspora abroad, than to domestic issues. They are beginning to wonder if Modi’s stated concern for the poor and for minorities extends beyond mere rhetoric. This was reflected in the BJP’ decimation in the Delhi assembly elections and the recent West Bengal civic polls, where the once invincible BJP was virtually routed.

So what is next for Rahul? It is important that he maintains the momentum he has generated and not allow it to fizzle out. This will not be easy for him. Unlike the previous generation of Nehru-Gandhis, he does not seem to have politics in-built in his genes. Nevertheless, the role of Congress leader has been thrust upon him and he cannot afford to shirk it. If he wants to set himself and his party as a credible alternative to Modi and the BJP, he must go beyond words and be seen to take concrete action; and he must exhort his party members to do so. He has a huge perception deficit to overcome; and the temptation to chuck it all and follow his natural inclinations will be very strong. It is to be seen if he has the fortitude to persevere.

MR. FIROZE HIRJIKAKA is a retired civil engineer, freelance writer and 
member of the Advisory Board of Freedom First. 






Other Articles in this Issue


In this issue ...


Tribute to S. V. Raju

Nurturing a Tradition

Jehangir Patel

Fond Reminiscences of our dear Editor ...


Raju and Freedom First

Ashok Karnik

Remembering Raju

Firoze Hirjikaka

Guntur Remembers Raju


Tribute to S. V. Raju



The National Scene

NDA’s Management of the Economy – More of the Same

Ranga Kota

Agrarian Crisis – Rural Distress – and All That

Sunil S. Bhandare

Rahul Resurgent

Firoze Hirjikaka

The Year That Was ...

H. R. BapuSatyanarayana

The Rural Perspective

Agriculture and Rural Indebtedness - VIII

R. M. Mohan Rao

Point Counter Point : Every issue has at least two sides


Ashok Karnik

Being Salman Khan

Ashok Karnik

Farmers’ Suicides

Ashok Karnik

Foreign Relations in the 21st Century

Modi Goes to China: Development at Home and Peace on the Border

B. Ramesh Babu

ISIS - A New Threat

Ashok Karnik

Dawood’s Return?

Ashok Karnik

Swastika: Whose Symbol Is It Any Way?

Nitin G. Raut

The Swatantra Party in Gujarat - A Historical Perspective

The Swatantra Party in Gujarat: A Shooting Star (Part II)

Usha Thakkar
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