Waiting for dynamism
Rahul’s aggression and admission of problems is fine but his party must be ready for an overhaul
For somebody whose coronation took a long time coming, Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s aggression wasn’t really that mint-fresh. It ought to have come a long time ago. As Aldous Huxley famously said, “There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception,” which Rahul has swung open in the run-up to the 2019 general election. If not now, then when? After all politics is a game of perception though he has pledged his commitment to dharma and truth. For long, the Congress cadre has been waiting to be galvanised into action with a robust clarion call and a sense of solidity and unity of purpose. The shock defeats of BJP poster boys in the latest round of bypolls, particularly in its heartland laboratory, and the Teflon-scrapped Modi magic was too much of a fertile ground for Rahul to ignore. Question is whether Rahul’s version of Mahabharata reloaded will be able to settle the mahabharta in his own party. Although he likened the BJP-RSS combine to the Kauravas — armed with an extensive organisational network, advisors but tempered with hubris, a hunger for power and arrogance — and the Congress to the Pandavas, is the party itself, apart from the friendly and winnable smile of its new chief, full of grace and humility? Is it also not drunk on power, with a genuflecting coterie of courtiers, old warhorses who want their meat and crony capitalists, the fraternity that Rahul is lampooning the Modi regime with? The Congress hasn’t changed much since Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi addressed the party’s centenary session on December 28, 1985. He had then spoken of enthusiastic Congress workers being “handicapped” by the “brokers of power and influence” in the party, who “dispense patronage to convert a mass movement into a feudal oligarchy.” Rahul had looked up the notes when he said he would demolish the “wall” between leaders and workers, where party tickets are denied to hard-working aspirants by those who “parachute” at the last moment. Clearly, the senior power-brokers have retained their tough spot and bargaining chip enough to make or break the party’s tenure. Rahul proposed that this process of internal cleansing and rejuvenation be carried out “not with anger but with love” and by giving “due respect to the senior leadership.” But with the old guard having tamed the organisational network into atrophied subservience, one that has become chronic, can Rahul wave the magic wand of change? Will the old guard budge? More importantly, can he accommodate a non-dynastic deputy chief as a Young Turk moment? That too within a year?
By equating the Congress with the Pandavas, Rahul must also remember that they had to endure exile and indulge in political subterfuge before the battle royale. Although Sonia Gandhi has engaged in dinner diplomacy and spared no effort to stitch an Opposition alliance of numbers, Rahul needs to engage with each regional satrap with a mutually beneficial action plan. Which means he will have to be out touring the hinterland and camping there and cut short his mini breaks. By playing on Modi’s eponymous familiarity with businessmen and insisting that the Prime Minister was nervous after reading the tea leaves in Gujarat, he resorted to an old trope that is no more byte-worthy. Instead, the AICC session was a good opportunity to put his credible growth plan in place, one that would end the ills he is accusing the ruling party of. Even there he sounded flat hoping to take care of joblessness, farmer distress and suicides with fair-price food parks, farm waivers and interest-free loans, powering SMEs and technological help for job generation. Aren’t these already in place though they may be lacking in execution? If indeed Rahul has to hardsell his India middle path between an American and Chinese vision, then he better evolve with practicable turnaround strategies. Otherwise he could be equally charged with fakery.
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