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Rahul’s real test has begun

Elevation of All Indian Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary Rahul Gandhi to the number two slot of the Indian National Congress is being commented in national and international media with every analysis bringing out the negatives and positives of this move by India’s grand old party.

Let us first see this change from the Congress point of view. The party was in dumps as the Congress- led UPA government in public perception had faulted on many counts and thus had a very negative image. There were some valid and others not so justified assessments in the media of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh government which was suffering from a policy paralysis and had miserably failed to control prices and law and order situation in the country.

Added to this were scams, scandals and allegations of corruption against some ministers of the UPA government. Then there were reports about Congress ministers and leaders fighting in open and media reporting these differences. In brief, the ruling party was a divided house and the government was being led by a weak prime minister whose writ did not run on his own ministers and government.

Civil society and handling of protest movements be it of Anna Hazare-led India Against Corruption, Baba Ramdev or eventually the youth protest against the gang rape of a professional girl in a moving bus on a wintery evening right in the union capital by the law enforcing agencies like the Delhi Police discredited the UPA government in public eyes.

If the Congress had gone to the elections with this baggage, undoubtedly it would have been rejected by the people. So convincing the reluctant Rahul to lead the party was possibly the only recourse, the GOP had. It took time but the collective leadership of the party succeeded in removing young Gandhi’s self-doubts.

The message from Jaipur is positive for the Congress but lot would depend upon actions now. How he leads the party which by no means an easy task particularly at a time when nation is facing serious challenges in economic, social and political fields.  Young Gandhi, carrying a historical legacy of Nehru-Gandhi family on his shoulders, would have to prove by his deeds that he can lead not only the Congress but the nation also.

Now let us have a close look at the points of criticism which have been flagged by various political leaders, experts and media commentators. One of the most prominent negatives is that Rahul owes his elevation because of his heritage. Almost every single report or writing calls him scion of Nehru-Gandhi family.

For me it is very amusing that despite Rahul been elected twice from Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, he has to carry this burden. Some may argue that his elevation in the party is because he comes from that family but then one must see and analyse Indian society closely where one finds numerous examples of sons and daughters enjoying dividends of their parent’s achievements. It is not only true in politics where we have Akhilesh Yadavs, Rabri Davis,  Nee raj Shekhars, Supriya Sules, Agatha Sangmas, Panda Sighs, H D Kumaraswamys, Chandrababu Naidus, Naveen Patnaiks but in other fields like academics, media, law and medicines where able and not so able sons and daughters getting advantage over not so fortunate sons and daughters.

The other criticism is that Rahul lacks experience to lead a party which is full of contradictions and is run like a fiefdom of one family. On this score, one needs to see Rahul’s track record. When he was elected from Amethi in 2004, there were many voices which said that he should be given responsibility in the party but he desisted saying that he would like to focus on his constituency first.

He was appointed the general secretary of the party in 2007 and at that point of time, he chose to accept the charge of youth organisations of the party where he roped in former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh and former Deputy Election Commissioner K J Rao to conduct elections in the Youth Congress and National Students Union of India. Good or bad, elections were held and a set of elected not chosen young leaders are leading the national and state units. Some of them are also working in his chosen team which works to help him in completing the tasks that he sets for him or the party from time to time. If this is not democracy then what would be democracy.

Fortunately, he has pointed to the same in his address to the party delegates at Jaipur but the prevailing cynicism in media and politics is refusing to take him on his spoken words.

Yes, it has taken him almost nine years to accept the role that has been assigned to him by his party that is feudal in both composition and day-to-day conduct of affairs but if he would have done it earlier then he would not have known the internal dynamics of the party which is full of machinations, factionalism and groupism. Hopefully, he has learnt lessons well to be able to handle situations which confronted his father. His father was a victim of these very machinations and Rahul would do well to avoid those kind of traps which are laid by own party men who are sometime disgruntled and at other frustrated.

It is not an easy task as there are many a challenges ahead of him. Now having accepted the responsibility, Rahul has no escape as he would have to face the hurly burly, ups and downs, gains and losses in his political career. (IFS)
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