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Sharp Politics… and some not so smart moves

By Akrita Reyar | Last Updated: Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 10:17
Akrita Reyar
Shades of Grey

Amidst the chorus of voices proclaiming Rahul to be a failure as seen through the prism of Kerala’s Amul babies, I am willing to hazard a largely different stand point. Agreed, having won by the slimmest margin in a state where the incumbent is shown no mercy, Congress is seen as wearing a crown of thorns in Kerala despite having won the elections.

But is 45% success rate for first time contestants handpicked by the young heir such a bad result – and this was supposed to be Rahul’s litmus test. I should think not.

Victory and failure are a part of politics; it is the long-term strategy that counts.

Rahul is in midst of an experiment which he started when he formally joined politics in 2004. His presence has undoubtedly energized the cadre in a party that is bound together largely by the magnet of the Gandhi family.

He took the not so beaten track by weathering the heat and dust of the country road and supping with the Dalits in their muddy hamlets. Soon, that became a style statement for every politician who wanted to endear his constituency.

Rahul came good on his proclamation that he would use his position obtained wholly due to the fact that he was born into the privileged family to work against dynasty politics and bring in fresh blood. While a lot of the young army ironically draws from political families, a fair share of commoners has been given an opportunity. And for the first time, has Rahul been able to bring in so much democracy to the Youth Congress.

Many felt he had Left leanings as he threw his weight behind protesting villagers who were against bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills of Kalahandi in Orissa. But most of his causes celebres are staged in opposition ruled states.

Look at the latest case in Uttar Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi converted a dharna by UP farmers for greater compensation against their land into national focal point, raising the hackles of Mayawati. His sit-in with the farmers, his arrest and release episode, his taking a fistful of farmers to the Prime Minister and granting them that high of two-minutes of fame, and his flagrant and yet unsubstantiated charges of unaccounted killings and 70 feet of ashes have established Rahul as a force to reckon with.

These episodes as well his earlier run-ins with the RSS aimed at bolstering the traditional Muslim votebank of the Congress show that Rahul has mastered the art of opportunism.

When it comes to his personal belief and conviction, it shone through as he firmly stood behind the PM in his hour of trial – the vote on the N-deal during UPA-I when the Left pulled the rug.

The flip-flop of electoral performances will continue. While Congress faired poorly in the UP Assembly Elections of 2007 when Rahul had campaigned prominently, his efforts bore fruit when Congress showed better than expected results in the General Elections of 2009 and won 21 of the 80 seats.

Many feel it was Rahul who wanted Congress to go it alone in Bihar and such circumstances were being created that the party is forced to part ways with the RJD. The fact that Nitish wave swept away Congress’ chances of gain, should now hold a lesson for the <i>Yuvraj</i> that it may be a good idea to nurture, promote and project regional faces in the increasingly personality driven elections.

Congress had been deemed irrelevant for the last more than 20 years in the Hindi heartland in the era of Mandal and Mandir politics. Slowly and steadily, Rahul is trying to craft the party’s resurrection in this very vital region. A good performance here gives any party a cushion against setbacks in other regions. Suddenly, Rahul’s land agitation months ahead of UP Assembly polls have brought the Grand Old Party back into competition.

Rahul Gandhi is undoubtedly who he is because of his family. He is an inheritor of a complex set of legacies, influences and tragedies. His Discovery of India tours have the imprint of Nehru, his espousing of strategically selective causes are reflective of Indira, his youth brigade similar in some ways to the one cultivated by Rajiv and a few electoral gaffes during election campaigning are so reminiscent of Sonia ahead of Gujarat polls.

While he is surrounded by a coterie of wise and some not so wise advisors, Rahul is a quick learner and he is gutsy. His inheritance lends prepotency, but he has done his own learning. Traversing this vast land would have undoubtedly offered many lessons which are his own. Sitting in 42 degrees heat to take on Mayawati is an experience unique to him and can be attributed to be a success considering the media attention it drew and the way it rattled Behenji.

Really, amidst a largely shrewd stratagem, Rahul should be allowed some not so smart moves.

First Published: Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 10:17

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