RG's musings abroad
Congress President Rahul Gandhi was on a trip to Germany and UK last week and what he said during his interactions there made headlines in India as well. He said that the relentless attack by RSS has helped him evolve as a political leader and he should not be condemned for the family that he comes from. Rather, he should be judged by his capability, he said. Interestingly, Rahul Gandhi's remarks made overseas brings him more eyeballs and attention than his speeches made in India. During his foreign trip, he also compared RSS to Muslim Brotherhood, stating that there is a similarity between the two organisations. Muslim Brotherhood is an Egypt-based organisation known for advocating Muslim solidarity and ultra-Islamist approach. Gandhi also said that Congress or its leaders were not responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Gandhi who faces harsh criticism at home for his privileged background has often chosen foreign soil to make his stand clear on crucial issues surrounding his leadership. Last year, Gandhi told a gathering in the US that he should not be singled out for dynastic politics in India as the trend of promoting family members is prevalent in all political parties. And that, this is how Indian politics works. Though Gandhi was not off the mark when he made these comments, his advocacy for dynastic politics did him no good as far as his leadership credentials are concerned. While it is true that RSS and BJP leadership have been especially harsh in criticism of Gandhi, it is because they do not find any other political leader of stature to criticise. By criticising Congress and its leader, the RSS-BJP leadership makes sure that the focus remains on the grand old party, which is anyway a declining force. Such incessant criticism no doubt helps Gandhi remain in news. Defending his hug to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul said that countering hate by more hate is foolish. RSS-BJP represents the politics of hate and to counter this, the idea of love and harmony has to be infused in the day-to-day politics of the country. This is a brilliant idea and can help rationalise complicated situations and stand-offs with neighbours like Pakistan and China. True, it is the constant criticism and goading from RSS-BJP that makes Gandhi respond with such clarity of idea and eloquence.
But the fundamental difference between his party and the ruling BJP is of ideology. While Congress believes in secular and liberal values of democracy, BJP is nurtured by the ultra-nationalist Hindu ideology. Given the diversity of religion and languages, India is a plural society governed by the Constitution of India, which accepts secularism and equality of all citizens irrespective of caste or religion as its basic tenets. The biology of Congress comes close to an ideal framework for all the citizens to live together without any discrimination and conflict. But in realpolitik, Congress is pitted against a party which has captured the imagination of the common people and is fast expanding its base to cover most parts of the country. BJP rules at the Centre as well as 21 out of 29 states. The number of Congress' MPs in Lok Sabha is at a record low and the party is nowhere close to giving the BJP a credible fight. By saying that RSS is similar to the Muslim Brotherhood, Gandhi has once again fallen into the trap of Hindu-Muslim narrative, where BJP has a more appealing storyline that suits its vote-bank politics. Talking about Doklam, Gandhi said that the Chinese soldiers are still stationed there. On Indo-Pakistan relations, he said Modi does not have a deeply thought-out strategy on Pakistan. Gandhi was referring to how India has lost its voice vis-a-vis both China and Pakistan because of Modi's personality-focussed engagements, bypassing established institutions and set frameworks for a cohesive policy intervention.
In the domestic politics, Gandhi is one of the many opposition leaders, who would like to see the defeat of BJP at the earliest. To this end, he has been trying to resurrect Congress to its previous avatar and fine-tuning his own image. Many political experts believe that Gandhi has not been taking his role as the chief contender for the post of Prime Minister seriously. But at a time when a range of senior opposition leaders, who are strong in their respective regions, are clamouring for a role in the national politics, Gandhi is left to fight for a political space in the country's politics. The Congress President has so far displayed a great deal of enthusiasm in fighting different Assembly elections at the same time his image is not that of a power-hungry leader who is in a rush to usurp power at any cost. This makes Gandhi a leader for the long race. While nothing could be said about the 2019 election at this moment, Gandhi looks set to improve his image and prepares himself for the long haul.