Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi often appears angry nowadays. He was angry when the Union Cabinet passed the Ordinance on convicted lawmakers. He was angry when the Maharashtra Cabinet rejected the Adarsh report, and he appeared angry when he talked about the fact that ISI was trying to recruit victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots belonging to the minority community.
In other words, Rahul is the ‘angry young man’ of Indian politics and wants to change the system. However, what at times becomes difficult to fathom is who is he angry at? If he is angry at the way corruption has seeped into the very ethos of India, then he should be blaming the Congress-led UPA government which has been ruling for the past ten years. If he is angry at the plight of Dalits in India, then also he should be blaming his own party as they have ruled the country for most part of the post-Independence era. And if he is angry at the very system that exists in the country, then he should be answering as to what he has done to change it in the years that he has been in politics.
The first time that Rahul portrayed himself as an angry man was in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections in 2012. He campaigned in the Hindi heartland without shaving, and his kurta sleeves rolled up. He tore up a piece of paper in an election rally saying that the Samajwadi Party manifesto should be torn and thrown away. He presented himself as a panacea for all ills to the electorate of UP. But we all know what happened when the results were declared – Akhilesh Yadav won hands down and became the youngest CM of the state and Rahul’s party won a mere 28 seats. Akhilesh Yadav did advise him then, that too much anger was not good for health.
Maybe Rahul should pause for a moment and heed to the counsel given to him by his contemporary and political adversary. The Congress in Uttar Pradesh went to the polls without a strong cadre or organisational base, without strong local leaders and without a chief ministerial candidate. In such a scenario, Rahul’s anger and his attempt to do a one-man-show failed to yield any results.
Cut to 2014 and one feels a sense of déjà vu. Going into the General Elections, the Congress is definitely on the backfoot. Ten years of anti-incumbency, accusations of policy paralysis, allegations of scams, rising prices and some wrong decisions coupled with a Prime Minister who was not seen as decisive and strong, has resulted in a sort of anti-Congress mood in the country. The recent Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi gave an indication of this mood to a certain extent.
In such a scenario, Rahul’s anger at the state of affairs does seem well-thought out and somewhat contrived. And if it isn’t, then someone needs to tell him that it is slightly late in the day to present himself as a crusader in front of the electorate. At least that is what most of the opinion polls and surveys are suggesting.
Rahul entered the political scene in 2004 when he fought and won the Lok Sabha polls from Amethi. Since then he has been involved in the youth Congress and in revamping the organisational structure of the party. However, he has by and large been seen as a reluctant politician by the media and has been unwilling to take on any position of responsibility. He has been seen taking up an issue and then vanishing from the scene. No interventions in Parliament and couple of electoral defeats in state polls, have not helped matters. Nor has it helped that in election rallies, instead of spelling out his vision for the country he has talked about the sacrifices made by his family and about what the Congress has done for the people of this country.
To be fair to Rahul, some of his ideas do seem earnest, but at the same time, he doesn’t seem to be taking them to a logical end. He talks about eradicating corruption but we have not heard his opinion on 2G, coal blocks allocation, Railway recruitment and Commonwealth Games scam. He did take on Maharashtra government on Adarsh scam, but kept quite after the state Cabinet partially accepted the report and virtually gave a clean chit to the Congress leaders. And there has been no comment from him on the allegations of corruption against Himachal Pradesh CM. He opposed the Ordinance on convicted lawmakers, but may go for an alliance with the RJD in Bihar whose leader, Lalu Prasad Yadav, was recently convicted in the Fodder scam.
Rahul has been in politics for a decade now but the people still do not know his views on a host of contentious issues confronting the country. If Rahul aspires to be the PM of the country, then he needs to be more forthcoming. Appearing before the media once in a while, and saying that he is angry at the system, may not take him far. The Congress vice president cannot pretend to be an outsider any longer and tell the electorate, at the time of elections, that he means business and should be given a chance.
However, the recent political happenings in the country seem to have spurred him into action. He is said to have told CMs of Congress-led states in a recent meeting in Delhi, to become serious on price rise and corruption and pass Lokayukta Bill in their state. He is also interacting more with the media. At the same time, as per reports, he made a strong pitch for increasing the quota of subsidised LPG cylinders for households when he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently. Rahul also made a strong case regarding passage of bills like Citizens Charter Bill in the upcoming session of Parliament.
But the moot question is - With the Lok sabha polls just a few months away, is time running out for the Congress VP. Maybe yes. An example of this can be seen from some of the recent polls regarding the next PM, where Rahul is constantly slipping in the popularity charts. Need we say more?