OPINION

Rahul Gandhi - On Track to Reform Congress

March 22, 2008
Abhinandan Mishra

The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has described Rahul Gandhi as the most talented politician. He is right, given that Rahul during his short tenure as the Congress general secretary and member of Lok Sabha has proved himself as the most talented leader that represents the new breed of politicians who want to make India a Leader in the world.

He has emerged as a Reformist in Indian Politics, particularly the Congress and has gone to the extent of suggesting injecting young blood in the party and the government and even recommending his mother to "take rest" (retire ).

Rahul wants to learn about India and its people. He mingled with the tribals in Orissa ignoring security restrictions and later declared security cover can not prevent him from meeting the people. "It is for me to decide where to go and whom to meet, not the SPG".

While on his 'Discover India' tour, Rahul Gandhi announced that it was time that The Congress as a political party started enforcing democracy in its own organization. Rahul denounced the High Command culture too. He got a responsive Media appreciating his words of wisdom and political analysts called this an exercise which has been long due in the party. Some termed it as a statement that showed the level of political maturity he has attained and for some it was just a political statement; nothing less, nothing more.

Rahul visited the Bundelkhand region to meet the families of the farmers who committed suicide and Vidarbha to sympathies with the farmers' families, toured drought-hit Kalahandi (a favorite spot of his grandmother, Mrs Indira Gandhi and father, Rajiv Gandhi too)in Orissa and went to console the Dalit families whose relatives were killed in Aminanbad (Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh).His intervention in the Sarabjit Singh case yielded results and Singh's execution was delayed by General Musharraf for a month. Rahul, like his father, means Business.

The Gandhi scion has always been seen as someone who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. It was known that sooner rather than later he would be following in the footsteps of his family members who have graced the India political system since time immemorial.

Most of the observations that have been offered to the readers have a connotation that suggest since he is 'Gandhi' hence everything will come easily to him. This observation grew stronger with time as he went on to become an MP, a party general Secretary and now he heads both the youth political entities that represent the Congress party - the NSUI and the Youth Congress.

Not many have looked at the other side of the implications of being born with the proverbial silver spoon that has always been associated with Mr. Gandhi. Since he is a Gandhi he is expected to win every electoral seat that he campaigns for. Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh were seen as the wind that separated the wheat from the chaff. Political observers were already out with a verdict that since he was campaigning is Uttar Pradesh, the Congress tally would improve. Then in Gujarat, pundits went on to say that it was a battle that would decide the political weight Rahul Gandhi has. It's true that people turned out in large numbers to hear and see him but equally valid is the fact that these mass congregations did not turn into votes. Critics are already out in the open saying that Rahul Gandhi has the charisma to attract people but not votes.

To be frank, these and many similar observations were not mouthed by Rahul Gandhi himself but by the media and the political observers. It would be injustice to expect someone to pull congress out of a debacle that has inhabited it for years in states like UP and Gujarat just because he is the child of Rajiv Gandhi.

The baying of blood that has been associated with Rahul Gandhi has always been on the lines of the fact that he is a Gandhi. His Political acumen has not been tasted or seen yet. Still he has been termed as someone who owes his political ambitions to his family rather than his understanding of Indian political structure. His biggest handicap in his own words is his inexperience.

He knows that if Congress has to perform well in the long run the NSUI and Youth Congress will have to be nurtured with care and attention. His take on a democratic setup in the party should be commended. In his AICC meeting speech Rahul Gandhi called for organizational setup of NSUI and Youth Congress in such a manner in which meritocracy and accountability will prevail.

In his budget speech, Rahul Gandhi called for linking implementation of governmental programs to objectives spelled out under RTI. Similarly he called for more encouragement and strengthening of Panchayati Raj Institutions which according to him are empowering the poor rural people to be a part of the democratic structure. Similarly, no one can deny the success of NREGA which is his pet project, more so considering the fact that although NREGA is the brainchild of the UPA government but it depends on state governments for its implementation.

Neither Rahul Gandhi nor Congress can refute the fact that right now it is a party of kith and kin. Madhya Pradesh has the father-son duo of Arjun Singh-Rahul Singh. Then there is Kamal Nath who recently launched his son Nakul. JyotirAditya Scindia had Madhav Rao Scindia to give political lessons. Rajasthan has Sachin Pilot, son of Rajesh Pilot. Recently Subhash Yadav, the former PCC chief of Madhya Pradesh managed to secure an assembly ticket for his son Arjun. Then we have Amitesh Shukla son of SC Shukla. The list is long and the names are many.

Conversely no one can refuse the fact that if Sachin Pilot and JyotirAditya Scindia didn't had their family name, still they would have earned the same respect that they command now because they have time and again proved they have the understanding that is required to be politically successful. Their parliamentary voters are happy with them for the work they have done in their constituency.

When Rajiv Gandhi came into power in 1984 he candidly expressed his dissatisfaction with the internal structure and working of the Congress party. Rajiv rose not because he had any achievements that he could boast of at that time but it was her mother's assassination that catapulted a reluctant youth to a reluctant leader of India's largest political party. At that time, Congress was known for having more than a fair number of power brokers. According to him this was one of the three problems that plagued Congress, the other two being lack of Organizational elections and intra party discipline.

In the 1984 general elections, one third of the sitting MPs were denied tickets. Most of them were known to be corrupt and unscrupulous. Younger people and college goers were encouraged to become a part of Sewa dal and the state level functionaries including Chief Ministers were dissuaded from flying to Delhi to pay their monthly respects, which was a norm in the times of India Gandhi.

History will tell that after pursuing these new policy for a couple of years, Rajiv Gandhi had to abandon them as they were not quite appreciated by the senior leaders and that was evident in the way he lost a number of assembly elections. If these valuable policies were religiously followed for a longer period then they would have benefited the party in the long run but unfortunately were aborted for political considerations.

Now Rahul Gandhi is on the same path of reforming the Congress party. He has history to guide him through but then he also has the seniors who like in the past will try to make his path easier the way they made his father's journey enjoyable. His Father didn't succeed and only time will tell whether Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Gandhi family will emerge triumph or not.

A law graduate from NLIU, Bhopal.Worked for 2 years as a journalist in media organizations like Qatar Tribune, PTI and UNI. Now more of just 'a writer' rather than a 'paid' writer.
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#1
Vardhan
March 22, 2008
03:24 AM

Rahul may have got endorsement from Tony Blair. But he needs to win elections on his own. Not one state election has been won by him. Please see the recent defeats of Gujarat where he campaigned in the last week.

Times are different. There will be new players in the political arena. Rahul is not facing an illiterate electorate. History will soon reveal when India will shun dynastic politics.

#2
Abhinandan
March 22, 2008
03:44 AM

@vardhan

i have already stated in my article that Gujarat and UP should'nt be the the criteria to judge Rahul's capability. That would be a premature decision. Rahul Gandhi politically is still relatively young. We should give him at-least a couple of years if not more to come out with a verdict.

Being from the Gandhi dynasty is an irony that hurts Rahul every other time. Without giving him ample time and opportunity he has been dejected as one among the many who have rose due to their family.

#3
Vardhan
March 22, 2008
04:32 AM

Rahul can have at the best 2-4 years to establish himself.

The Indian masses are very different electorate than yesteryears. So the accepted incubation time for Rahul Gandhi is very less. He is still learning but Indian electorate will demand a person who delivers in all spheres.

Nobody says Rahul Gandhi capability will be judged in a few elections. The thing to watch out is how he differs and improves in each elections. That is a hallmark of a young uprsing leader.

#4
poiuy
March 22, 2008
06:04 PM

Couple of points:
1. Well no world leader would come to a foreign country and say one of their sitting member of parliament is not a good leader etc..
2. You ask not to judge rahul based on recent state results. If the case had been that the congress had won those states, you would be the first person touting the great of rahul.
3. What would be your reaction if rahul is declared prime ministerial candidate for the next election. As you say he is politically young, would you then oppose to that decision?.
4. The way i see it is just like his father, rahul will spew lot of ideas, but will never be able to implement anything of substance. He will be consumed the evil that is the congress machinery.
5. As for NREG- even in this own constituency he could not get it work efficiently (http://in.news.yahoo.com/hindustantimes/20080307/
r_t_ht_op_clm/top-in-for-a-peasant-surprise-622486c.html)
6. Aside from that except for a few ideas, i
have not seen any achievements by rahul worth noting in his 35 years of life. Even a dog named
gandhi would win election in amethi.
7. As for giving couple of years, i'm sorry but
no matter what happens, he will always be a part of national politics. You can pretty much guarantee a seat for him from amethi. If congress is successful in wining power, it would be because of rahul. if it loses, then its because of the individual candidates, anti-incumbency etc.

#5
Abhinandan
March 23, 2008
01:04 AM

@poiuy

The basic premise of my writeup was that since Rahul Gandhi belongs to the Gandhi family he will be judged even before he does something that needs to be judged.

People have a pre-conceived notion in their mind when it comes to Rahul Gandhi. We should start looking at things through the eyes of meritocracy.


1. You ask not to judge rahul based on recent state results. If the case had been that the congress had won those states, you would be the first person touting the great of rahul.

That is your assumption- I haven't said it. I have already said that he still needs time and his immediate success and failure shouldn't be used as a criteria to judge whether he would become a good leader.

2. What would be your reaction if rahul is declared prime ministerial candidate for the next election. As you say he is politically young, would you then oppose to that decision?.

Thats a very hypothetical statement - about which both you and me are aware that it won't materialize. Going by Indian political history it would be hard to conceive this idea, although Globally we had young prime-ministers who have done well.

3.The way i see it is just like his father, rahul will spew lot of ideas, but will never be able to implement anything of substance. He will be consumed the evil that is the congress machinery.

Ideas comes occasionally to Indian politicians- we shouldn't be cribbing about Rahul Gandhi working on novel Ideas. As for the Congress machinery- as media reports and my personal interaction suggets, he is working to improve that.


Why are we crying about here? are we crying because he is from the Gandhi family or is it because he is trying to rid of the shackles that stops him being seen as a ordinary politician?

#6
Abhinandan
March 23, 2008
01:06 AM

@poiuy

The basic premise of my writeup was that since Rahul Gandhi belongs to the Gandhi family he will be judged even before he does something that needs to be judged.

People have a pre-conceived notion in their mind when it comes to Rahul Gandhi. We should start looking at things through the eyes of meritocracy.


1. You ask not to judge Rahul based on recent state results. If the case had been that the congress had won those states, you would be the first person touting the great of Rahul.

That is your assumption- I haven't said it. I have already said that he still needs time and his immediate success and failure shouldn't be used as a criteria to judge whether he would become a good leader.

2. What would be your reaction if Rahul is declared prime ministerial candidate for the next election. As you say he is politically young, would you then oppose to that decision?.

Thats a very hypothetical statement - about which both you and me are aware that it won't materialize. Going by Indian political history it would be hard to conceive this idea, although Globally we had young prime-ministers who have done well.

3.The way i see it is just like his father, Rahul will spew lot of ideas, but will never be able to implement anything of substance. He will be consumed the evil that is the congress machinery.

Ideas comes occasionally to Indian politicians- we shouldn't be cribbing about Rahul Gandhi working on novel Ideas. As for the Congress machinery- as media reports and my personal interaction suggest, he is working to improve that.


Why are we crying about here? are we crying because he is from the Gandhi family or is it because he is trying to rid of the shackles that stops him being seen as a ordinary politician?

#7
Sanjay
March 24, 2008
11:15 PM

Rahul is a spoiled brat, and a college dropout with delusions of grandeur. He wants to inherit India like a family heirloom. To hell with this idiot - if he was that smart, he wouldn't have flunked out of school, and would have made something of himself. At least his Dad was a capable pilot, even if not a competent leader.

I don't know why some people shamelessly prostitute themselves as sycophants of this family. Time to catch up with the modern era, and recognize that political leadership is not a business for family monopolies. We might as well have a monarchy then, for all the difference it makes.

#8
Tenny
March 25, 2008
02:27 AM

Finally there is something for the ordinary average Indian to cheer about. At the least there is something he can look forward to. The Gandhi Scion,Rahul, is showing encouraging signs of maturing and developing into a mass leader with a strong youth appeal and a pro-poor image and at the same time a reformist attitude.. His recent rallies thru Orissa, the brave statements he about his own party, the dalit concern in UP and his wonderfully crafted budget speech show signs of an irrepressible statesman in the making. His soon to begin Karnataka journey, where he is set to mingle with tribals, fisher folk, youth and even IT professionals is something well worth looking upto. Lets hope this man will deliver to our country what the entire nation has been yearning to see.

#9
Vardhan
March 25, 2008
02:32 AM

I am waiting for him to come to karnataka. I will wait for you in Karnataka. Let karnataka show him that there are seats for him in Bellary and chickmangalur incase he loses in Amethi.

I draw examples from where Sonia and Indira won on multiple seats.

Will he do an open Conference? will he explain for the roads condition in bangalore.

will he explain all our queries. How I wish. is there a way I can ask him questions and I get solutions. How I love the Gandhi scions. Surely Mr. Rahul , you will be hard tested in my home state. I welcome with all my criticisms.

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