There was great excitement over Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s return to Delhi after having gone AWOL for the past two months. The monkey chatter on the Prince’s ghar wapasi, so to say, in the guava orchard better known as Lutyens’s Delhi just would not cease, even long after the sun had set and twilight turned into night on Raisina Hill and its bungalow-lined shady (literally, as well as metaphorically) surroundings.
Congress vice- president Rahul Gandhi emerges from his residence in New Delhi on Thursday, having returned from his 56-day long break. Pic/PTI
Many readers would no doubt contest the veracity of the first sentence of this comment. And they would not be wrong in insisting that bursting firecrackers and dancing lumpens outside the Congress headquarters on Akbar Road amount to excitement sweeping through Delhi (and possibly the country).
There is more than a pinch of truth in the counter-assertion that the majority does not care whether Rahul Gandhi scion of the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty and substantive shareholder in the closely held family firm called Congress is holidaying at an exotic location abroad or partying at a farmhouse in the National Capital Region. He does not figure, or at least overwhelmingly and dominantly figure, either in public discourse or popular imagination.
Hence, I would grievously err if I were not to explain why I said what I have in the opening lines of this comment. It is unthinkable that political foes of the Congress would rush to offer their views on what Rahul Gandhi’s latest homecoming means or does not mean. Beyond the charmed (and closed) circle of friends, Rahul Gandhi means nothing. Unless we consider treacly praise by courtiers, khansamas and family retainers of 10 Janpath as high political assessment.
Never mind the many descriptions that have been bestowed on Rahul Gandhi from ‘Crown Prince’ to ‘Youth Icon’ to ‘The Gamechanger’ (and more such tripe in between) the fact remains that he has been a consistent underachiever in politics and as a Member of Parliament from the family borough of Amethi.
His Parliament attendance sheet is worse than habitual absentees. He has never participated in a debate (barring the one time he held forth on the Lokpal Bill, nothing of which made sense). He does not ask questions. Putting it bluntly, he bunks entire sessions.
It is clear to all that Rahul Gandhi’s heart is not in politics. His political lexicon, around which is built his political mindscape, clashes violently with the political lexicon of India, around which is built the political mindscape of the masses. In brief, he is far removed from the heat and dust of Indian politics although he may (unwillingly) plod on in jeans, kurta and sneakers.
The vast majority of Congress workers, supporters and sympathisers see Rahul Gandhi as a political liability and not an asset. Those who wave the flag for him are precisely the lot which has contributed the most to the near-death decline of India’s Grand Old Party. Even a united Opposition could not reduce the Congress to 44 Lok Sabha seats in the 1977 election, held against the backdrop of the Emergency and its chilling excesses, and in which Mrs Indira Gandhi was defeated from Rae Bareli.
The Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty may have had its uses till India was a captive of the past. The new India, the awakened young Indians who comprise two-thirds of the population, is unimpressed by the Dynasty. Which does not mean the Congress is no longer relevant. What it means is the party needs a new leadership, new stakeholders and new dynamism. All three options exclude the inclusion of Rahul Gandhi as the man who will revive the Congress.
The days of the Delhi Durbar are over. Sonia Gandhi’s court now resembles that of Bahadur Shah Zafar. Yes, loyal Ghazis will rally to the Dynasty’s support, but the battle has been lost even before it has begun. The sooner Congress realises this, the better it shall be for the only other national party of the world’s largest democracy. Rahul Gandhi is irrelevant in the stupendous task of putting the Congress back together again.
Hence, I was surprised by the raucous monkey chatter in the guava orchard better known as Lutyens’s Delhi. Politicians, mediapersons and the chattering classes spent hours speculating what India’s Prince Charles will do next. Will our Queen abdicate the throne? Or will she keep the putative successor waiting?
Such concern, really?
The writer is a senior journalist based in the National Capital Region. His Twitter handle is @KanchanGupta