Rahul Gandhi’s speech at the Congress Chintan Shibir mayhave had greater clarity than all of the speeches he has delivered so far, but as the newly-anointed vice-president of the party, he has a gargantuan task ahead of bringing back the credibility to a party beleaguered by issues ranging from corruption to bad governance.
With President Sonia Gandhi’s health not in its prime, the younger Gandhi’s responsibilities have increased manifold, not the least because there are enough signs of an early general election, including an EC directive to all parties to prepare a list of booth level agents.
The Congress’ decision to front-end Rahul for the next general election is clear: he is the party’s prime ministerial candidate. In a way, his nomination was a no-brainer. Something that the leading opposition party BJP will find it much, much tougher. Although the clamour for Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s nomination as the party’s PM candidate is growing stronger by the day, there are also others in the fray. BJP’s other headache is some of their allies’ opposition to Modi’s nomination. Whether the BJP and its supporters like it or not, they will have to cross this hurdle first before anything else.
Rahul’s next target should be to strengthen the party’s grassroots engagement, and put forward a coherent economic policy that is development and reforms-oriented rather than populism-oriented. But given the Congress’ history of populism, it would need an immense change in its mindset.
The Cong-led UPA’s record in its second-stint has been below-average at best. While the US is back on an economic recovery path, and the Euro crisis also contained to a certain extent, India continues to slide from an 8-9 per cent growth rate just three years ago to a projected 5 per cent today. Rahul’s Congress will have to address this question on priority if it has any hope of returning to power.