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Updated: January 22, 2013 04:59 IST

Rahul, your time begins now

Smita Gupta
Comment (24)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
POWER AND HOPE: After the celebrations, many would want to know whether the move will be a game changer for 2014.
Photo: PTI
POWER AND HOPE: After the celebrations, many would want to know whether the move will be a game changer for 2014.

While he may have won the confidence of his party, he now has to work on winning the trust of the nation

The celebrations on the streets of Jaipur — and outside 10 Janpath in Delhi — on January 19 by Congress workers minutes after Rahul Gandhi was named vice president of the party may be dismissed as the usual orchestrated display of adulation. But there was nothing planned in the standing ovation Mr. Gandhi received the next day, when he moved the 1,600-odd members of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) gathered at Jaipur’s Birla Auditorium to tears — and laughter — with his personalised exposition of the nature of power and hope.

In his eight-year-long political career, it was perhaps his first act of leadership, as he connected with a party whose members had been increasingly expressing their doubts about his capacity to reverse the Congress’s failing fortunes. On January 20, he didn’t just touch a chord in the young and restless, as he identified himself with their dreams and aspirations; he clearly surprised his hard-bitten seniors, too, who also struggled to their feet to cheer — and embrace — him.

Impact of speech

In revealing chilling details of a childhood, punctuated by tragedy, his mother’s fears for him and her warning that power is a poisoned chalice unless it is used to empower the powerless, he laid himself bare. For the intensely private Mr. Gandhi, a man who party colleagues say lacks the warmth and personal touch that father Rajiv Gandhi had, it must have been a difficult decision to get personal. But the impact of the revelations demonstrated that it was an inspired decision, one, Congress sources say, was taken in conjunction with sister Priyanka Gandhi.

His speech certainly pumped new energy into a party battered by charges of corruption, bewildered by a wave of social unrest, and demoralised by electoral failures. But after the charred debris of the crackers that were burst in celebration is swept away, the question that begs to be addressed is: can the tajposhi, coronation of Mr. Gandhi be a game changer for the Congress in the general election of 2014? Especially, as his track record in the last three years has been dismal? Two, can he change the system he criticised for being unresponsive to the aspirations of the people, and a Congress that privileges outsiders over party workers? His father Rajiv Gandhi made his electrifying “power brokers” speech at the Congress’s centenary session in Mumbai way back in 1985, but his son’s address to the AICC made clear that nothing had changed in 27 years.

Rise and fall in U.P.

Mr. Gandhi’s first five years in active politics after he was elected as a Member of Parliament in 2004 were relatively smooth: the spotlight was on mother Sonia Gandhi who had led the party to victory after eight years in the political wilderness, and then gained sainthood by refusing the prime ministership. When Mr. Gandhi began his political forays, contesting his first election from Amethi, and campaigning for fellow Congress candidates in Uttar Pradesh, those who filled village roads and balconies of mofussil towns didn’t want to know what he stood for, or whether he had a vision for U.P. A young good-looking Gandhi again symbolised hope, and the promise of the return of a family that had served the people well.

The first shock came in 2007, when the Congress won just 22 Assembly seats in U.P., three less than the 25 it got in 2002. But just two years later in 2009, it scooped up 22 Parliament seats in U.P., shocking its competitors. Mr. Gandhi was credited at the time for galvanising the youth vote, perfectly complementing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s image as the man who had steered India through a global economic downturn. It was the perfect launch pad for the young leader to build on the U.P. electorate’s verdict. But three years later, in the run-up to the U.P. Assembly elections, even though he was placed at the centre of the party’s campaign, the Congress won just 28 seats.

Criticism

Ever since then, Mr. Gandhi became the butt of criticism — even though privately articulated — within the Congress. Party men mocked his efforts to democratise the youth wings of the party, criticised the fact that very few could get past a tight circle of advisers, and debunked his “scientific” method of choosing potential youth leaders through examinations. Unlike his mother, he does not understand Indian politics: that was the verdict of many party men, who pointed out how he often fell prey to advice from those who had a way with words rather than an understanding of politics. The contacts Rahul made with “real people” were carefully choreographed by his minders for maximum impact, making it almost impossible for him to get any unfiltered feedback.

Last year, in the midst of the U.P. elections, he revealed during an off-the-record conversation with a group of journalists that his desire to change things, to take decisions, was severely circumscribed by senior party leaders. Now, he can no longer duck behind that excuse. As party vice president, he will have a much larger role in decision-making, with the general secretaries now likely to report to him. As head of the five-man Election Coordination Committee which will oversee all party activities related to the next elections, his time begins now.

Using his new powers, can he sustain the uplifting mood he created in Jaipur, and create a winning strategy for 2014? He has won his first battle by rewinning the confidence of his party: he now has to win the trust of the nation.

smita.g@thehindu.co.in

I am surprised at the optimistic tone of this article. There's no harm
being one, for sure, but as intelligent readers we do demand to know
where this optimism of the author stems from?

Rahul Gandhi has failed his party on multiple occasions. He has been shy
of holding any government office. If past is anything to go by, there is
not much on his resume to warrant this optimism. That too, when he had
all the opportunities in the world to him.

from:  Lokesh
Posted on: Jan 23, 2013 at 07:10 IST

What was the need to do all pomp show of chintan baithak at jaipur for
just declaring Rahul as vice president. He was already enjoying the
power of president in hierarchy Vice president is no different than
general secretary . When Rajiv gandhi general secretary could be
elevated to post of P.M without even being elected leader of C.P.P. what
was problem with Rahul. It is congress having no respect for
constitution.

from:  Romesh
Posted on: Jan 23, 2013 at 06:02 IST

Rahul Gandhi has rightfully struck the chord for congress and its
ardent supporters.He is a man born with a golden spoon.Coming
Year,Politics is not going to be a cup of tea for him.Jaipur "chintan
shivir" might be proved as the steping stone for the 'young PM in the
making'. After the UP elections he has
lost the faith of the common people, especially the youth .But here
comes a golden opportunity for the young gandhi to retrospect.Let's
hope
that this new 'venture' for young rahul work.

from:  Dhananjay Yadav
Posted on: Jan 23, 2013 at 00:28 IST

One needs to think really hard to find a reason for Rahul being
projected as PM candidate other than his origin being in the Gandhi
family. It more or less seems like our political system has lost its
mind and ability while fighting among themselves and the real purpose
of administering the country has been let go in trash. Painful for me
when I think about our future.

from:  Rakesh
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 20:07 IST

What has Rahul Gandhi done for the country or even to his party so far to earn the
adulation which Smita Gupta has showered on him? A media person like her can of
course make or unmake heroes. Smita's is a heroic attempt at that.

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 16:40 IST

We all are seeing what UPA government is doing. Congress made Rahul Gandhi vise president now and they are thinking that people will forget everything as earlier congress minister Veni Prasad Verma told. People should not belive this high class emotional drama and they should select a right candidate in coming election. We should not think like that only one party or one family can change the condition of country. We should give chance to other party also.

from:  krishna Kant
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 15:13 IST

To me, Rahul is what he is just because of the fact that he is born in this family and the members of the Congress Party are ready to follow whomsever concerned fulfills this criteria. He fulfills no other criteria. Why even talk or discuss about this, he should be outrightly rejected by the people of India as he has been.

from:  Soumitra Vatsa
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 13:17 IST

Not wisthstanding Rahul's speech or his competencies or the Party's
"election" of him as VP; he must guard himself against the Party for
which he is elected. This is the Party that doesnt mind sacrificing
every member of the Family for its ulterior gains. Its a Gandhi that can
hold this Party. That Party knows.

from:  Srinivas
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 12:49 IST

In the current circumstances & blunders of UPA-1-2, he is destined to be
failed like his father, even before getting his foot in the shoes.

from:  Vineet Kumar Singh
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 12:42 IST

OK with this final nail in UPA coffin is driven in. thanks.

from:  Honga Singh
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 12:40 IST

All the best Rahul!! Hope you live your words.

from:  Venu Gopal Reddy Muvva
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 12:22 IST

Being a scion of Gandhi-Nehru dynasty is not a guarantee to
victory.Success of Rahul is lying in lap of future.Upcoming elections in
9 states will be a major challenge for him.Road to 2014 passes from
elections in states which were considered as stronghold of
Congress.Performance in states like MP,CG and Rajsthan will decide the
speculated charisma of Rahul and future course of Congress.

from:  Aditya Modi
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 12:21 IST

Some are born leaders, some become leaders, some have leadership thrust
on them.

from:  P.S.ARUNACHALAM
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 12:14 IST

What confidence are you talking about? His elevation was matter of right for the first family of Congress. Congress workers have lived so long in slavery that they do not know the difference between being confident of their choice and being subservient.

from:  Manish
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 11:33 IST

I think Congress should declare it's 2034 PM candidate, Priyanka Varda's son. and the 2054 candidate too, her grandson...

from:  Sudhanshu Vyas
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 11:15 IST

It is an accepted fact that oldest and largest national party of India
is a Pvt Ltd co of the Nehru Dynasty.So it will be futile to except
any body other than the family to lead the party.Hence my request to
the family is to groom their future heirs properly so that our country
can be spared from the embrrassment faced by the present incumbent yuv
raj.See how our other political dynasties like the
Scindia.s,Pilots,Deora's etc are grooming their heirs.Lets hope that
at least Priyanka,s Children will be groomed properly so that the
future of India will be spared of from this kind of embrassment.

from:  Ramakrishnan P
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 11:01 IST

In a programme serial "The Secret Millionaire" shown in 'BBC
Entertainment' a millionaire goes incognito to some poor part of
London stays in poor dwelling accommodation and try to survive in the
paltry sum given for spending. He works, volunteers among poor people
in that area and gets in-depth knowledge about their problems. With a
desire to help the neighbourhood he picks up some most deserving cases
to contributes his might. The trip opens up his eyes, develops
appreciation of the poor for their survival skills and returns to his
profession in a week a relaxed and satisfied man.
Our political parties should chalk out some program in this line so
that they have hands on experience with the realities of Indian poor.
Then the policies the formulate will be oriented towards the
betterment of Indian masses.

from:  Chandran Avinjikat
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 10:13 IST

Promotion or demotion of leaders in the political parties is guided more by their electoral interests than by the urge to serve the people. Why our senior leaders could not do what is now expected from green horn Rahul Gandhi is a million dollar question. Does it mean they all are time servers and self -servers? If yes, how can we presume that their choice of Rahul Gandhi as No.2 in the party is not guided by their own selfish motives?

from:  Hema
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 10:02 IST

i just read an eulogy to rahul gandhi. he has sycophants in the party
and the media, what else he needs. such a shameless biased article. he
READ the speech written by somebody else so all this blah blah blah is
fake. no mention abt his multiple election failures. no administrative
experience, being handled everything in a platter. what is up with u
'the hindu'? u r frustrating us no end.1st by publishing such articles
and then either not publishing or severely editing our comments.

from:  abhi
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 09:59 IST

The questions, opinions and politcal pundits are all addressing one issue - Can Rahul win the 2014 elections for Congress? Depending upon the position of the person vis-a-vis Rahul, the critic says no, the psychopant say 'landslide victory' and the pundits play the cat on the wall game. In all this euphoria one important aspect has been forgotten - the COUNTRY.
Answer this riddle :

The President and vice-President of the congress are in a leaky lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. The lifeboat capsizes. Who was saved?

Answer : The Country.

Rahul is going to head a party which has proven its credentials in the areas of corruption, mismanagement, chaos and cronyism.
In the past 8 years he has been a part of it.
IF we the people trust and put power in his hands, the Country will be in the leaky lifeboat.

from:  mani sandilya
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 09:59 IST

First off I do wish Rahul Gandhi to succeed as the leader of Congress because after all he
would be the PM if the party wins 2014 election. But lamenting about power being
concentrated at the hands of few like Rahul Gandhi did at the convention while in reality his
own family is the biggest hoarder of power and his speech to project his leadership so that
his family can continue to have that power post-2014 election, it just sounds a bit hollow and
self-serving. As a democracy it is gravely wrong to perpetuate dynastic politics and I hope
Rahul means what he says and nurtures leadership beyond Gandhi family.

from:  Suvojit Dutta
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 07:45 IST

Forget about Rahul making changes, the dynasty is the root of all evil and everything that's wrong with Indian politics. Rahul baring his soul is a carefully cultivated scene in this whole movie, and only naive journalists can believe it.

from:  Ramesh
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 07:21 IST

To begin with I am not attached or a sympathiser or supporter of any political party. This anaysis of Smitha Gupta raised only one question for me and that is why is it Congress did not encourage other potential, capable & charismatic congress leaders space to project their potential and prepare them to occupy positions of real responsibility and accountability. I have no issues with Rahul Gandhi but he should not replace his mother who has all power but no accountability. Incidentally only now they have included middle class also in the aam admi category, so far they had been rediculed as geeks obssessed with twitter, facebook, blogging, flash mob etc.

from:  K Venkatachalam
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 06:58 IST


Honestly I wish him well. But I wonder if it is gong to be
a wishful hope only, considering his past track record.

from:  james kottoor
Posted on: Jan 22, 2013 at 06:44 IST
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