AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi is accompanied by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit at a function in New Delhi last month. PTI
By M D Nalapat
ike most national capitals, Delhi too abounds in those influentials who fib for a living. In the presumed secrecy of their homes or in pricey restaurants, these denizens of Zone Raisina serve out "facts" dressed as attractively as the dishes have been by the chef. Small wonder that much of such fare gets gobbled up and regurgitated as straight reportage or "informed" analyses. The veil of secrecy that covers up even the ordinary activities of India's very powerful helps generate credibility to such reports, especially if these get repeated on television by carefully chosen guests. And when an unexpected newsbreak occurs, such as the hospitalisation of Sonia Gandhi and the revamp of the Congress Core Committee, fact and fiction mesh.
What is obvious, however, is that the Core Committee of the Congress Party is the equivalent of the Standing Committee of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, the apex of responsibility in the organisation. Given that every member of the All-India Congress Committee as well as its Working Committee bear complete fealty to the Congress president (CP), it was no surprise that changing its composition was the work solely of Sonia Gandhi and presumably took all of a few minutes. This came in the form of a terse paragraph typed on the AICC letterhead to the effect that Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram and (most unexpected of cuts) Digvijay Singh were history. The new politburo on which the CP would depend comprises of A.K. Antony, Rahul Gandhi, Ahmed Patel and Janardan Dwivedi, although not necessarily in that order of importance. Indeed, given the adulation felt by the other three towards The Family, it seems clear that Rahul Gandhi will be the Primus inter Pares.
This is welcome. Given the dynastic nature of the Congress Party since Motilal Nehru suggested his son Jawaharlal to the Mahatma as the Congress president, it is clear that the Prime Ministership of the country is Rahul's for the asking. This being the case, it was an
act of either folly or sly sabotage for Rahul to have anchored his fate to the Congress performance in Uttar Pradesh, a state known since the 1977 polls to be less than a family bastion. Rahul's taking up the cause of a Jat village in a Gujjar sea was another indication that he is willing to lose the support of numerically larger groups (such as the Backward Classes and the Gujjars) to save the land of the Jat villagers of Bhatta Parsaul. The Congress went further, claiming that not simply their lands but their lives had been snatched away. Judging by the declamations made on television by some leaders, especially UPCC president R. Bahuguna, this act of wanton cruelty was almost certainly committed by Chief Minister Mayawati herself. Unfortunately for Rahul, soon afterwards, the criminally cremated villagers of Bhatta Parsaul got reincarnated and returned to their homes. Hopefully, this will be lesson learnt by the Heir Apparent.
Becoming the effective head of the Core Committee means that Rahul Gandhi will finally have abandoned the fringe of the policymaking matrix of the Congress Party, to enter the mainstream. It is conventional wisdom in Zone Raisina to cast the Heir Apparent of Sonia Gandhi's political wealth as a mindspace lightweight. The sceptics may be right. But it is possible that they may be wrong, and that Rahul may turn out to be an effective chief. This columnist has met a few of Rahul Gandhi's close acolytes, and these strike his somewhat cynical self as being far superior in both intellect and integrity to the Vilasrao Deshmukh-Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy "fund collector" type patronised by Sonia Gandhi. He is therefore not ready to write off Rahul as a certain disappointment, unless that be proved by events that will unfold over the next year.
ahul Gandhi takes charge at a time when the Congress Party is stinking even more than it did during the Bofors and JMM scams. He arrives when economic policy is a shambles, holding back Indian corporates through high interest rates and regulation, while allowing recklessly high expenditures on imported baubles. When the people are seething, even as the political class goes about converting what is defined as "public service" into private enrichment. Before a year passes, it will be clear as to just who is correct about Rahul Gandhi, his detractors or his admirers. That he has given the voters of this country such a chance to judge his on-the-job performance is welcome.