Rahul crossing the same corridors
It’s now time for Rahul Gandhi to come out. It is high time when Rahul must crash all the barriers installed on the roads going out. Though it does not require an eye on Congress politics for 35 years to understand that the day anybody from Nehru-Gandhi clan decide to open the door to go out in the fields or open a window to let the fresh air flow in, the tremendous resistance they face is from their own brigade commanders. It happened with Rajiv Gandhi, it happened with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi is also facing the same music for last few years.
It was the morning of the last Saturday of the year 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi gave a glimpse of his real mind to the members of All India Congress Committee and the thousands of Pradesh Congress Committees’ delegates present in the Brabourne Stadium which was converted in to ‘Indira Nagar’ to celebrate the centenary of Indian National Congress, the ordinary worker and grass root leaders of Congress party were abuzz with highest possible inspiration within themselves. Rajiv mentioned in detail the role played by Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and then discussed the contribution of Indira Gandhi in strengthening the nation’s basic foundation, values and principles. He then elaborated his plans for the future and said, “Millions of ordinary Congress workers throughout the country are full of enthusiasm for the Congress policies and programmes. But they are handicapped, for on their backs ride the brokers of power and influence, who dispense patronage to convert a mass movement into a feudal oligarchy.... For such persons, the masses do not count. Their life style, their thinking - or lack of it, their self-aggrandisement, their corrupt ways, their linkages with the vested interests in society, and their sanctimonious posturing are wholly incompatible with work among the people....”
Listening to this, the gangs within the Congress teamed up to project Rajiv as a novice and began working to ensure to prove him as a big flop in times to come. Rajiv Gandhi had climbed the Raisina Hills with 403 members in Loksabha but had to console himself with only around half of it after five years in 1989. His best friends were three ‘A’s--Amitabh Bachchan, Arun Nehru and Arun Singh. All of them ditched him in due course of time when they found that Rajiv has become mature enough and gone are the days when they could have cater their vested interests. And who put the final nail in the political coffin of Rajiv’s government? It was his most trusted lieutenant Vishwanath Pratap Singh whose ambitions became the armoured vehicle for different gang leaders who wanted to dilute the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi.
Sonia Gandhi also faced the similar circumstances. There was a time after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 when she was not at all interested in politics. But then there also was a time when several of her own people who were busy day and night to ensure that she keeps herself locked within 10 Janpath. Sonia Gandhi sometimes was so helpless that she had to express her anguish in public against the Congress government for going very slow in the investigation of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Rahul Gandhi was around 25 years old then and Priyanka was 23.
In the elections of summers 1996, Congress came down to 140 seats. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had formed his government, which lasted only for 13 days and then came H.D. Devegowda who occupied the chair of prime minister for 11 months. Narsimha Rao was hanging on as Congress president unless one fine morning in September 1996 he was given 24 hours’ ultimatum to go home. Sitaram Kesari who was a trusted old guard of Gandhis and was fondly addressed as ‘Chacha’ became its president.
But Kesari was also proved no less an enemy within as the time passed. He was no more a man in ‘dandawat mudra’ which people like me were used to witness him even in front of Capt. Satish Sharma, a friend of Rajiv Gandhi from Airlines days. Kesari and his coterie also did everything to keep Sonia Gandhi at a safe distance from on-goings in the party. It was only because of the presence of few well wishers in the first ring of ‘chacha choupal’ that Sonia was kept updated about the internal developments.
By the time Calcutta Plenary Session of the Congress was held in 1997, the continuous pressure from the party leaders and workers from across the country and family friends and sympathisers could convince Sonia Gandhi that her keeping away will worsen the situation of party’s already shrinking base. 1998 again was the year of parliamentary election because of the fall of Inder Kumar Gujral’s government. Congress could maintain its tally to 141 seats when the results were announced on 2 March. The time to say good bye to Chacha Kesari had come. After some initial maneuverings, he ultimately resigned on 9 March and Sonia was elected to the post of Congress President on 14 March. By that time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had taken oath as prime minister but his term lasted only for 13 months.
It was on Saturday in the third week of April 1999 that a vote was taken on no confidence motion against Vajpayee government because its alliance partner AIADMK of Jayalalithaa had withdrawn support. Vajpayee lost the vote on 17 April. There was no other alternate than to go for elections and President K.R. Narayanan dissolved the Lok Sabha. Elections were to be held in September-October and while Congress party started gearing up, in May that year, one time trust worthies of Rajiv Gandhi--Sharad Pawar, P.A. Sangma and Tariq Anwar--raised flags against Sonia Gandhi.
Congress won 114 seats in 1999 Lok Sabha election, 27 less than the election held in 1998 and Gandhi hooters came out with the chorus that even during Kesari’s presidentship party got more seats. But Sonia kept on fighting these enemies hidden under the carpet of her own drawing room and shut them up when Congress won 206 seats under her leadership in 2004.
If it is now the turn of Rahul Gandhi to cross the same corridors, at least I am not surprised. We all have seen him going post to pillar in the assembly election of Uttar Pradesh in 2007 where he did not spare any stone unturned but got only 22 seats in return. Then came the election for 2012 assembly and again in spite of the fact that Rahul put all his efforts and energy, Congress could get only 28 seats.
Same story was repeated in Bihar in 2010 when Congress went to the polls without any alliance and Rahul’s managers gave him only four seats. Congress story in Delhi and Rajsthan in 2013 was also similarly worded and the same scriptwriters wrote the last saga of the current political travelogue of Rahul Gandhi when they managed 2014 General Election with lowest ever 44 seats to Congress.
So, Rahul Gandhi was bitten every time and not once. Therefore he should have every right to be shy twice. But in spite of all the odds it is necessary for him to get up before it is too late.
The author is editor and CEO of News Views India