By M D Nalapat
Should he assume full powers, we may learn who the real Rahul Gandhi is. Is he more Rajiv Gandhi’s or Sonia Gandhi’s mind-child?
Rahul Gandhi has, for some years, been following the path of Prince Charles, who has lived a lifetime still a Royal Retirement away from being the next monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Given the demonstrated determination of Elizabeth Regina to serve her country to the end of her hopefully very long life, it would reasonable to assume that Charles may need the assistance of an attendant nurse before taking up the job that ought to have been his by now. Although the Prince of Wales has often been mocked by the commentariat, the reality is that Charles has distinguished himself across the decades by his idealism, sense of duty and flawless behaviour, never for a second giving off even a whiff of impatience at being made to wait so long before claiming his inheritance. It must be added that Royal Spouse Camilla too has won admiration, both for unbroken loyalty to her Prince Charming, as well as for the stoic manner in which the future UK Queen has faced multiple darts of innuendo and outright abuse. It was a courageous decision on Camilla’s part to have remained true to her feelings and face up to the consequences, rather than escape into what would have been a welcome obscurity. In the case of Rahul Gandhi as well, an absence of power seems to have brought out his better instincts, making him, for example, publicly oppose curbs on lifestyle, diet and speech, stances that were diligently kept out of sight during the UPA decade. Should he assume charge, will Rahul Gandhi order those who as UPA ministers and Congress Party advisers crafted so many discriminatory and punitive laws and regulations to reverse themselves by demanding the rollback of such contra-democratic measures?
Rahul Gandhi needs to reset Congress policy, if he is to engineer a recovery for his party. As important as the economy and the enhancement rather a diminution of 21st century freedoms is the fact that the majority community in India will no longer accept the second-class status into which it was relegated since the 1950s. What it asks for, reasonably, is equality of treatment with the rest of the population, rather than being discriminated against in multiple ways through no historical fault of theirs. Narendra Modi appealed to an equal future for all communities in 2014 and won. Those who harp on continuing the inequities of the past will continue to lose.
Rahul needs to reset Congress policy, if he is to engineer a recovery for his party. The majority community in India will no longer accept the second-class status into which it was relegated since the 1950s.
Will Sonia Gandhi’s stepping aside involve merely a transfer of position, but not effective power as well? Will Sonia’s long-term advisors continue to run the Congress Party, despite their dismal record in both governance as well as in politics? Should Rahul decide to continue with outdated minds, he would not be the only politician in India in danger of losing his future because of a refusal to cast aside those who may be personally close, but who are politically toxic. The only son of Rajiv Gandhi must get from his predecessor full freedom if he is to convert the Congress Party into a remodelled enterprise, the way Indira Gandhi did to great effect in 1969 and 1978.
The UPA’s failures ensured the victory of the Modi-led BJP, and should the trajectory of the economy continue into 2019, the way it has been developing since the final months of 2016, there is a rising probability that by 2019, another 2004 may be at hand. What is clear is the unsatisfactory performance of the BJP in ensuring the needed double digit growth and its inability to rein in ideological hotheads intent on using state power as a bludgeon against those they disagree with. This may result in the Congress Party reaching triple digits once again. This would be the obverse of the Congress getting eliminated, as seemed possible till the aftershocks of bold but poorly implemented measures such as demonetisation and GST hit the economy.
Should he assume full powers, we may learn who the real Rahul Gandhi is. Is he more Rajiv Gandhi’s or Sonia Gandhi’s mind-child? Is he the scion who sleepwalked through a regressive ten years of governance by those chosen for their jobs by Sonia Gandhi, or the politician who has lately been defending rights and freedoms since the Lok Sabha defeat? His party certainly needs a reset. More than the Shiv Sena, it was Congress Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh who persisted with “Sons of the Soil” regulations that made a mockery of a united India. It is the Congress government in Karnataka that is downgrading the teaching of English in contrast to Adityanath’s UP, and which is making the setting up and running of private schools impossible through controlling them in a manner certain to drain such institutions of global quality standards. Under Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Party has become a mix of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Ram Manohar Lohia. Will it be any different under Rahul? Only by getting full authority will Rahul be able to answer this query. India needs a 21st century vision on the part of its political leadership and such an outlook can only be tested by action, rather than words. Rahul deserves a chance to be given authority over the Congress Party as complete as that which his mother won 19 years ago. Rahul Gandhi should not get anointed with the poisoned chalice of a ceremonial post, with actual power residing elsewhere in a party that has only itself to blame for its recent reverses.