Scion fighting for lost kingdom not in a hurry to win the PM seat?
RaGa appears to have understood his limitations, distancing himself from talk of being a replacement for PM Modi
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has stirred a hornets' nest again with his guest lectures and media conferences abroad. Rahul's party and his sympathisers see it as a full-throttle attack on the current dispensation, ahead of a fight that is going to be the BJP versus all. Rahul's adversaries say he has defamed the country, and have demanded an apology from him for comparing the RSS to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Congress has defended the leader, saying the BJP and RSS deserve nothing less than what its president has said.
Congress's outreach programme overseas has been as eventful as Modi's dos on foreign soil, and after seeing what has happened so far, both parties can't be absolved of targetting each other in front of Indian diaspora, students and journalists. If Modi caught the eyes of the world while addressing well-oiled events, Rahul, too, has emerged as a hero in India and abroad, as he spoke his mind.
The Rahul narrative
Controversies don't leave Rahul as he goes on speaking at will. His statement on the 1984 Delhi riots that absolved the Congress of its role in the bloodbath invited the ire of the Sikh community and the BJP. The debate that the 'RSS-is-like-Muslim-Brotherhood' had started and ended prematurely, and Congress leaders had to defend their president in a potentially serious political matter.
But that doesn't distance Rahul from his primary narrative. When the BJP government didn't look troubled because of a sustained campaign over alleged corruption cases, such as the defence deal, the Congress president chose a different route to take his fight into the BJP camp. He attacked the opponent's ideology, calling it 'Vicharon Ki Ladai'. He talked how alienated sections of the society could be rescued through constitutional methods.
He wants to reach out to farmers to know what they want as a policy. He even says an uneducated farmer could beat the sectoral experts when it comes to recommending a change to the agriculture policy. He says it all, unmindful of a predictive question: did his party's successive governments not connect with farmers, and why did they fail in arresting farmers' suicides even after doling out the biggest loan waiver?
Further, Rahul discusses how institutional impetus could sew together the socially split India. He also questions why violence has become a way of expression, reminding people how he had felt bad when the body of the mastermind of his father's assassination was deformed, and how his family had forgiven the assassins. But then he forgets to seek the forgiveness of the Sikh community, as his mother and former PM Manmohan Singh did in the past. That is where his narrative falls short on effectiveness.
He also evades a question on the Doklam issue saying that he does not have details. One may say he does not want to portray himself as a 'know-it-all leader', and tries to remain honest, even as he is ridiculed as 'Pappu'. This could be seen as a rare virtue when we have an opinion on any matter under the sun.
Not in hurry to be PM?
Has Rahul realised his limitations to stake claim to PM's office after the next general polls in view of his party's weakness and advent of regional outfits? Or does he see the BJP coming to power yet again to give him another five years to consolidate as the leader of Opposition, who could establish the Congress as the only alternative to the ruling party?
Questions were asked when Rahul was frank in admitting in London he doesn't have a vision of becoming PM, and the leadership would be decided after Opposition had BJP and RSS pushed back in the polls. "I view myself fighting an ideological battle. This is the change come in me after 2014," he told the Indian Journalists' Association. That underlines his primary narrative, which he probably thinks will take more time to woo the voters.
Veterans in the Congress recall that Rahul wasn't ready to take up the leadership in 2014 because he was upset with the way his party leaders had been showing their arrogant side. Now, when the Congress has been projecting him as the next PM, Rahul faces the charge of family politics. He says no person from his family has been in power after his father's death some 29 years ago. But who would buy that argument? The family's indirect control of the government was always there.
Rahul has started preparing for the do-or-die battle. He has been revamping the party organisation. The latest move has come in the formation of important committees that will look after coordination, manifesto and publicity for the next elections. Old horses continue to hold sway, with a veteran Ahmed Patel having been given the job of treasurer. For a change, some leaders who were accused of wearing arrogance on their sleeves have been kept away.
The scion of the erstwhile champion family has just intensified the sparring.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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