Is Rahul Gandhi fit to rule the ‘beehive’?

By Biplob Ghosal | Updated: Apr 11, 2013, 12:50 PM IST

With 2014 general elections approaching fast, the buzz surrounding the prime ministerial candidates is also growing louder. And even as Rahul Gandhi remains the frontrunner for the Congress party, one wonders whether the Yuvraaj of Congress will do something miraculous in his 9th year of political career and save his party from a likely defeat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections?

The irony is that Rahul Gandhi’s political career started in 2004 — the year Congress-led UPA came to the power after a hiatus of nine years. It now appears that the current reign is set to end for the Congress.

Given the unchallenged power Rahul Gandhi enjoys, can anyone really say that nine years were too few for him to establish his credibility in the political arena? Are two back-to-back stints at the Centre not enough to implement one’s dream projects? Perhaps, the Congressmen would think so.

In all these years in the limelight, Rahul Gandhi never missed a chance to describe himself as the voice of the oppressed in the power capital. The recently anointed Congress vice president has advocated giving powers to every citizen of this country and put forth his idea of decentralising the system such as moving power away from MPs and MLAs to the village pradhans. But who has stopped him all these years from implementing the same?

If one looks at his speeches over the past few years, they appear almost the same. The recent speech at a CII event was no different.

While giving a good lecture-like speech, the Congress heir apparent seemed to forget or became ignorant of the fact that his party has been in power for the last nine years, with him along with his mother Sonia Gandhi at the helm of party affairs. If this time period was not enough to at least bring in some change, then certainly the Gandhi scion seems unfit to lead this nation which he described as a “beehive”.

Rahul has virtually denied a number of times over the past few months that he is in the race to be India`s next prime minister and said people entering politics should be chosen according to their merit. Ironically, he was given a ticket because of his surname more than anything else. This is fact that he has himself acknowledged.

In his speech at the CII conference, Rahul appeared to be pledging his life in service of the people of this country but didn’t say anything substantial about strategy.

Seldom does Rahul come forward to publicly express his views; he gives the impression of being an idealistic. His biggest drawback is that the Gandhi scion lacks the ability to present his ideas in a way that they seem visionary or implementable.

Though Rahul has denied having any aspirations of becoming the PM, given Congress’ political history, it is hard to believe he is not in the race. Many, especially Congress loyalists, would argue that Rahul is not power hungry and would follow in his mother Sonia Gandhi’s footsteps who sacrificed the PM’s chair and elevated Dr Manmohan Singh despite her being the obvious choice of the Congress. But if one goes a little back into history, it was the political compulsions which made Mrs Gandhi let go of the top job. However, the Congress president made sure that she remained the power center, indirectly.

The country’s ‘first family’, which has stayed away from the top post for more than two decades now, has ensured that it maintains a tight hold over government and party affairs without having to take much responsibility. Rahul also appears to be following the same ‘mantra’ and wishes to run the affairs without owning up for decisions.

Not only does Rahul rarely present himself in public, but the MP from Amethi is also a regular absentia from Parliament, thus skipping the most important forum from where he could really usher in the ‘change’.

However, if Rahul is really serious about his views, then he should walk the talk. Hope the Congress vice president’s words are put into action and the party works for real change than just doling out reservations based on caste and pro-poor schemes like mid-day meal, MNREGA and the proposed Food Security Bill. It is a well known fact that all these projects have led to massive corruption and many economists have criticised the same saying these schemes aren’t helping the people to progress but making them more dependent on the government.

Rahul claims he wants to break the shackles and change the system, even abolish dynasty politics. For that to happen, he first needs to reinvent himself. If the Gandhi scion really wants to improve his own image and the party’s, then he not only needs to articulate his vision fast, but also desperately needs a success story to cite to fellow Indians, especially the impatient Gen Next.

Also, only time will tell whether Congress would take the risk of projecting its ‘Yuvraaj’ as the prime ministerial candidate, given his list of failures, or will the grand old party first try to win the polls and then safely undergo the transition by putting Rahul into Dr Manmohan Singh’s shoes?