Rahul Gandhi disappoints yet again

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 16, 2012 06:20 hrs

For months Congress spokespersons have been talking of the prospect of heir apparent Rahul Gandhi taking a larger role in the party. Some said he might become working president while others had initially indicated that he would join the Cabinet.

This “Coming soon” had been pending for ages and now it seems Godot has finally arrived. It seems that Rahul is going to be in charge of something called the “2014 Lok Sabha polls coordination committee”. Really? Talk of an anti-climax.

Rahul campaigned in a record number of constituencies in the 2009 LS polls. While Congress leaders said this was the reason for the party’s success, the jury is still out on that one. Was it because the election was a referendum of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a rejection of BJP leader LK Advani?

In the 2010 Bihar assembly elections, Rahul’s campaigning yielded an abysmal 4 seats for the Congress. In this year’s Uttar Pradesh elections, the Congress managed to grab only 28 of the 403 seats on offer. On the backdrop of that what does it mean that Rahul will be officially heading the 2014 LS poll campaign?

The latest move shows that the grand old party of India continues to bury its head in the sand like an ostrich. The core issue of corruption is yet to be solved. One scam after another is tumbling out of the closet and the party seems to be rewarding the tainted, as the last reshuffle shows.

There are many other things that Rahul should be concentrating on. Like what is his vision for the country? He has travelled all across India, sat and eaten in poor people’s homes. Well and good. But what is his grand strategy for India beyond gimmicks?

His speeches sound confused and one doesn’t have a clear idea on what he thinks on issues like the economy, international affairs, Naxalism and the like. He’s no visionary. He is not personally that active on Twitter or Facebook and doesn’t have a great website that outlines his goals for the country.

It is almost a given that he is a future Prime Minister. And a PM’s stage is Parliament and he has to have a strong presence there to make an impact in policy and party matters. That’s where funnily Rahul is virtually invisible. He comes and goes from the Lok Sabha as he pleases. He has hardly made any impact in that August house.

The one time he made a strong speech on the issue of Lokpal, he didn’t exactly follow the rules (something which the Opposition came down heavily on him) and came across as too angry and cut off from reality.
Rahul is clueless at 42. At the age of 40 Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister. Indira Gandhi was a virtual Chief of Staff to Jawaharlal Nehru and hence knew the inner workings of the government and party when she came to power. Sanjay Gandhi was virtually running the country during Emergency when he was 30 and he had an extremely strong vision of India even though many didn’t agree with him.

UPA1 could have been seen as his learning stage. But when the UPA came back to power, there was absolutely no need for him to hold back. He should have become a Cabinet minister in 2009 and that would have given him great experience till now.

Either that or he could have taken up the post of party working president when his mother left the country for a mystery illness last year. UPA2 is increasingly becoming lame duck by the day and any responsibility he accepts now may come to naught.

Cabinet Minister Salman Khurshid once rightly referred to his “cameo” performances. Rahul doesn’t seem to have the consistency for a long term political player. Any job in the world is a day to day affair and not one which you can take up once or twice a year. Manmohan goes to office every day and Sonia always controls things from the behind. Rahul in contrast seems to be a part-time politician.

Some years back he had revamped the Youth Congress. At that time it seemed a solid move, though many are questioning what exactly he achieved today. After that he should have moved to organizational matters within the main party, but he failed to move forward.

While there is no doubt that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has ruled Independent India for most of its existence, it has also been a law of diminishing returns.

Nehru was the undisputed Prime Minister for 16 odd years till his death. Indira also ruled for a similar period, but her reign was disputed and broken. Rajiv squandered a great mandate after just 5 years.
Sonia Gandhi could not even become PM (though she settled down as a shrewd Congress President). Her son Rahul, on the other hand, does not seem fit to become PM and ready to be party president.

Crossing 200 Lok Sabha seats was seen as a major high in 2009, but that may not happen in the future and especially not in 2014.

Rahul may well have to build from scratch after the next LS polls and one wonders if he is at all up to it!

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.

He blogs at