Suddenly Rahul means business!

Suddenly Rahul means business!
Will the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi seize the moment after his return from a mysterious sabbatical? This is the question that is being asked within the Congress, as fellow party workers remain unsure about how serious the Gandhi scion is about his future role. What is the guarantee that he will not disappear again?  

After a long time Gandhi has hit the front pages for the right reasons. It would, however, take more than a few speeches to make his party men truly believe in his metamorphosis. Although some party workers are sceptical about his intentions, they are willing to give him a trial. 

The Gandhi scion’s admirers believe that the Congress Vice President made an impressive show in the Parliament, where he spoke on the land acquisition bill and net neutrality. One could see a new Rahul Gandhi, in his “angry young man” avatar, trying to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi after wasting one year since the Congress party’s massive defeat in the 2014 polls. In fact his aggressiveness has left the BJP and its allies confused. Should they continue to ridicule him or take him seriously? 

Rahul is certainly showing remarkable confidence. Outside the Parliament and within, Gandhi has been quick to make up for lost time after being out of the limelight. He has made aggressive speeches in recent times not only in Parliament but outside too. What gave him this new-found confidence is not known. However, if he continues to perform like this, his party workers and fellow Congress parliamentarians will get enthused. 

The Congress Vice President presented his new avatar with the farmer’s rally on Sunday.  The next day he went ahead with a scathing attack on the Modi-led government in Parliament, calling it a “suit boot ke sarkar”. There was confidence, punch, humor, eloquence, and meat in his speeches. His body language was also different. Whether the Gandhi scion is right or wrong, his claim that the Modi-led government favours the corporate sector is slowly sinking into the minds of the public. It is a vote catching issue, as farmers make up 65 per cent of the population. The Congress has now made it clear that it will lend its voice both inside and outside Parliament. 

This was followed by another impressive show in the Parliament, when he spoke on the issue of net neutrality. He has taken up the issue, which is making news among the 24.31 crore internet users. This was a smart move, with the “Save the Internet” campaign catching up. The Indian youth are among the most tech-savvy with a total of 11.20 crore Facebook users, nearly 7 crore WhatsApp users and 2.20 crore Twitter users. India is the second largest market in the world for smart phones. What better way to woo the youth? 

Whether he becomes the party president or not, many challenges are imminent in the coming months. The Gandhi scion should maintain this new-found momentum if he is serious about politics.  Rahul is planning a padayatra of the country and perhaps he might try to connect with the people.  The question, however, remains as to what he would offer to those who come to greet him. A mere padayatra will not help. He needs to come up with solutions like a second Green Revolution.

Secondly he has to chalk out an agenda for himself and the party.  How long can he continue to play the role of an angry young man? There are rumours that Rahul will take over as the party’s next president in the next few months when the next All India Congress Committee (AICC) session takes place. 

Does he have new ideas to rejuvenate and refurbish the party?  How will he woo the young voters who had voted for Prime Minister Modi? How will he get the urban middle class and first time voters back in the Congress camp? They are not going to be enthused by the “Congress speak” of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. What they want is something concrete.  Will he be able to tap into these sections?  Urban India is waiting for Modi to deliver what he had promised before the 2014 polls. It has been almost one year and they are getting impatient. The question is will Rahul be able to exploit their growing sense of disenchantment?  Only time will tell.

What India needs is a leader and not his dynastic credentials. Rahul has much more to do than make speeches and undertake padayatras. He should be a leader, who will consistently lend his voice on issues and take up the cause of the down trodden and weak.  He also needs to spell out his vision for the country, views on economy, foreign policy, and strategic issues.  Above all doubts continue to linger on whether he will be consistent in his new avatar. On the whole, Rahul has begun well after his return from a 56-day long sabbatical. Has he transformed himself or is it yet another temporary phase? What gives him the confidence? 

Could it be that he had rehearsed his new role during his sabbatical? Is his reincarnation down to a new speech -writer? He cannot keep the party dangling anymore. Has the Gandhi scion finally decided to become a 24/7 politician? Again, it is too soon to predict.  

Kalyani Shankar

Kalyani Shankar

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