It is all Rahul’s fault. The lost election, the lethargic opposition, weak monsoon (maybe) and that we had Dr Singh as PM and not Sonia Gandhi. No, seriously how can one man be responsible for all ills when we also blame him for inaction?
Two books in five months (and several op-eds) blame Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi for Machiavellian moves that has corroded the Congress and resulted in irreparable damage. Sanjaya Baru’s The Accidental Prime Minister and Natwar Singh’s One Life Is Not Enough paint the mother-son duo as sharp and ruthless survivors who know how to work the power corridors to stay at the helm without being answerable to anybody.
Both the authors bear huge grudges against the mother-son duo, so clearly their versions are not unbiased. Much of what they say is based on private conversations only they were privy too, which doesn’t necessarily take away from the authenticity. And both of them were treated meanly by the Congress, deservedly or not depends on which side of the fence you sit.
So can Rahul really be the one who prevented Sonia Gandhi from becoming prime minister and indirectly is the reason why Narendra Modi is prime minister today? That is the conclusion that one draws if one is to believe these two celebrated authors who know the inner workings of the Congress party and the prime minister’s office.
If Rahul did indeed stop his mother from taking up the prime minister’s post because he was scared for her life, the fear was perfectly justified. The unnatural violent deaths of his father and grandmother have left deep scars in his psyche. The leitmotif figures in his speeches, his conversations and probably in the decisions he takes in his life.
Whether it was the only reason for Sonia not taking up the post of prime minister is something only she can tell. If Rahul indeed was scared for his mother’s life then what explains him allowing her to be the shadow PM or his entry into politics the same year and the lead role he assumed last year? Why not withdraw from politics completely if he was so scared of assassinations? Was it not the job of the senior Congressmen to ask Rahul this? But then it is an open secret that Congress leaders never ask and tell the Gandhis only what they want to hear.
But an abdication it wasn’t. None of us can forget the banner headline in the Hindustan Times that morning: Amazing Grace. Sonia Gandhi continued to be the power behind, and sometimes in front of the prime minister during the two terms that Dr Singh was supposedly at the helm. She listened to her son, allowed his fears to determine the course of history of the country. And what followed after two terms in office were a resounding rejection of Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate and the landslide victory of Narendra Modi.
If these accounts are true, Rahul probably is responsible for three things: Sonia not being prime minister, Manmohan Singh becoming prime minister and Narendra Modi, thus far a state leader, becoming more acceptable to lead India than a Gandhi family scion. A man who supposedly loathes power and hesitates in taking on responsibility altered the course of India’s history in the past decade.
The reluctant leader who does not even inspire his party workers has managed to influence Indian politics from behind the scenes. He has charted his course in politics like his mother. Not like his father, not like his grandmother, not like his great grandfather, not even like his uncle. These were all politicians who took the bull by the horns. They moved in full frontal assault, they were like horses and elephants in a battlefield. Rahul has chosen not to be like them. He has not overcome his fear. His strategy is to hope that the opponent makes a series of mistakes that will lead people to choose him as a better option rather than fight to win.
One example is the way he led the UP state election campaign in 2012. There was just no fight. He let Akhilesh Yadav win and just decamped from the state with the belief that Yadav and his team would mismanage to such an extent that by the time general elections were announced, the Congress would be a default option. Nope. The BJP entered that space.
It is premature to write the obituary of either the Congress party or Rahul Gandhi’s political career as yet. Rahul will have to learn to conquer fear. And making statements that he fears nothing does not do that. Taking bold decisions, fearlessly, does it. That includes stepping aside if he cannot overcome his fear. And giving his mother the confidence to lead. Even if it is up from the rock bottom.
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash