The more he fails, the more he's hailed!
Rahul Gandhi faces a crisis of credibility. His family lineage has not helped him shape into a leader
A charitable observation on the Congress’s massive defeat in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand would be that, like everybody else, it failed to read the strong wave of support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. What would the Congress have done even if it had seen the hammer coming? The entire world had known in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election that the BJP led by Modi was heading for a big win. And so had the Congress. Did it, or could it, do anything? The explanation for the defeat rests elsewhere.
It lies squarely at the doorstep of the one man no Congress leader wants to openly acknowledge as the villain of the piece: Rahul Gandhi. He has failed repeatedly to provide an effective leadership in electoral battles. The Congress has not just lost in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand; it has lost a series of elections under his guidance. The list is so long that it comprises almost all of the country. Starting from the West, it begins with Maharashtra, and ends to the east with West Bengal and Odisha. In the south, it begins with Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and ends to the north with Jammu & Kashmir. Midway, there are other States such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand. In the North-East, it has been Assam, and now Manipur. What’s worse for the Congress, more are expected to follow.
Then there are the States that were messed up through his inept leadership even when they had Congress regimes. Take Arunachal Pradesh. When the Government there plunged into a crisis, the party’s high command virtually led by Rahul Gandhi failed to resolve the dissidence. The result was that the Bharatiya Janata Party went into an overdrive and took over the Government, almost lock, stock and barrel. Today, what was once a Congress regime, is a BJP Government.
And there is Assam. The Congress vice president showed no sense of purpose or understanding of the crisis that had loomed over his party’s Government when senior leaders like Himanta Biswa Sarma petitioned him to act swiftly. He allowed the issue to fester, eventually leading to Sarma’s exit from the Congress. The rest is history: Biswa went over to the BJP, scripted his new party’s victory in Assam, and is now playing a lead role in expanding the BJP’s footprints in the North-East.
Even before the Uttar Pradesh result was out, many Samajwadi Party leaders and workers had begun to complain that Rahul Gandhi and his men did not put their heart and soul into campaigning. Besides, they had brought nothing to the table for the Samajwadi Party. Rahul Gandhi seemed more intent on Amethi and Rae Bareli, though there too the party fared poorly. If there is resentment in the Samajwadi Party camp over the alliance with the Congress, it is a direct reflection on the Congress vice president’s ineffective leadership.
The defeat in Uttarakhand too is Rahul Gandhi’s doing. He failed to grasp the enormous unpopularity of then Chief Minister Harish Rawat, and also failed to stop the migration of certain senior party functionaries to the BJP’s side. For instance, he could do nothing to set the situation right and prevent the likes of Vijay Bahuguna from switching camps. There is a similar situation in Himachal Pradesh, and he should not be surprised if that hill State too turns out a result similar to that of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh when it votes later this year.
It's Rahul Gandhi’s consistent failure that has led to repeated demands from party workers for his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s induction into full-time politics. The problem is: If she accepts the persistent appeal, it would be an admission of sorts of the Congress vice president’s failed leadership. Besides, so long as she keeps herself away, she remains untested, an enigma. But what use is a trump card if it’s never to be used? It’s a different matter, though, that, what is being seen as a trump card may turn out to be a damp squib.
One recalls with amusement the Congress’s reaction in the after moments when the grand alliance won the Bihar Assembly poll. The party’s senior leaders had fallen over one another to credit victory to Rahul Gandhi, although the Congress was the minor-most partner in the alliance. It is with similar amusement that one sees much the same reaction over the Congress’s win in the Punjab Assembly election. Every political observer knows that the credit for the Punjab win goes to Captain Amarinder Singh. The Captain, if one remembers, had threatened to quit the Congress if he was to be denied his way in running the State’s affairs. His pique was directed at Rahul Gandhi, who had his own set of people occupied with cutting the party’s tallest leader in the State down to size. The Captain knows, better than anyone else, that he owes absolutely nothing to his national vice president.
Rahul Gandhi’s other failure was to prop up ‘political strategist’ Prashant Kishor. This man rubbed many senior leaders and workers the wrong way, and nobody seemed to know if they were to take orders from him or their political leaders. Congress’s chief ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit and others such State party chief Raj Babbar, were at pains to define what Kishor’s role was. In Punjab, the situation was different, since the Captain effectively curtailed the strategist’s play-field and ensured that his writ ran unchallenged.
The manner in which the BJP has formed the Government in Goa despite finishing second to the Congress, is another example of Rahul Gandhi’s lax leadership. Three Cabinet Ministers had reached Goa within 24 hours of the result being declared, and they crafted an alliance, winning over smaller regional parties and all of the Independent Legislators. Rahul Gandhi could think of nothing better than to despatch Digvijaya Singh, who was like a fish out of water there. The story was over before Singh could blink. The fiasco in Manipur is another instance where the Congress high command, chaired by Rahul Gandhi, failed to grasp the advantage of being the single largest party. Lamenting the theft of mandate and of money play makes him look no better.
Soon, this failure will be the president of the country’s oldest party which ruled post-independence India the longest.
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