Politics in India is overwhelmingly clouded by elections. How good a leader is depends on his ability to gain votes and mobilize masses in a rally. This is the most popular notion of our polity. However, less-political, organizational endeavors seldom attract serious analysis. Such is the case with Congress’ Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. Expert commentary on his politics mostly highlight his (in)ability to getting votes or his supposed inability to mobilize large masses at a rally. A common refrain is how despite ‘his’ best efforts in conducting assembly elections, the Congress has seen defeats in UP, and more recently the four states that just concluded elections.
That is the key reason cited for the lack of his acceptability as a successful leader. Party’s win in Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are largely, many argue due to the local leadership and factors. On the other hand, it is routinely highlighted that his opponent Narendra Modi won three consecutive elections in Gujarat. Most commentaries romanticize his crowd pulling prowess. Only a few highlight blots on his personality, or his communal and authoritarian agenda.
Now the real question is whether a political leader is to be judged beyond his/ her performance in winning elections. Any positive response to this question takes us to an exploration of a less-celebrated part of politics. In doing so, it will also attract attention to the much-needed aspects of politics, that is political parties and their internal politics. What Rahul Gandhi stands for is a question worth addressing in this light. Rahul Gandhi was made Congress general-secretary in 2007 to provide him with a larger party platform. He was made in-charge of Congress’ frontal organizations, namely Indian Youth Congress and National Students Union of India popularly abbreviated as IYC and NSUI respectively. It was then when Rahul Gandhi undertook many reforms in these two organizations, popularly known among party workers as transformation and internal democracy.
He was experimenting something new in the party politics of India. To his credit he did not only limit this transformation to the internal democracy bringing major changes through organizational elections and opening up membership to all but he also discussed and introduced brainstorming sessions on ethics and code of conduct for political workers; this also included issues like what programs a party organization should adopt and carry out; how party cadre should be trained and oriented on various issues; and if it’s possible to introduce merit based promotions in the party organizations. Those who closely observe Congress may validate claims of him addressing these aspects none after than Mahatma Gandhi when Mahatma himself amended the constitution of Indian National Congress and discussed in length programs and membership guidelines of the Congress.
If truth and non-violence were the basic principles of Congress pre-independence then honesty and self-improvement is what Rahul Gandhi stands for today. His famous comment of ‘politics being affected with a disease of which he is a symptom’ was an honest acceptance of Congress being a dynastic party. Instead of involving any theatrics to claim to end this, what Rahul Gandhi introduced is a systematic solution to nurture new talent and providing them with a chance to make it on their own. Many parliamentarians, legislatures and office-bearers in Congress today are the beneficiary of his fair deals.
From being a somewhat reluctant politician to now a Congress life-line, Rahul Gandhi has undergone through a lengthy process of self-improvement. An avid book-reader he always was but now he closely reads the perils of Indian life and politics. If he uses his might to end long-term struggles and deadlocks of legislations then he also provides immediate relief to different sections of society, be it his demand of increasing the numbers of subsidized LPG cylinders or requesting government to provide extra two attempts to civil service aspirants. Rahul Gandhi in action is completely composed and distant from competitive publicity and rhetoric.
Analysis of what Rahul Gandhi has tried to achieve through these steps deserves a book-length space. Irrespective of the volume of success these steps achieved one must note that this is the first time in any political party politics someone from the mainstream party has addressed these issues. A little arrogant may this sound, but he didn’t have to do all this. Things would have been much easier for him had he not been into this lengthy process of transforming politics and empowering people. He was at the top of the food chain. To me that proves his metal of honesty and character. Leaders in history, here and there, did touch upon these issues but he is undoubtedly the first who has tried to bring about a change by devoting himself full-time for this transformation, devoting over 7 years to affect these change steps.
If revolutions without blood and bullet are to be achieved then they can only be achieved through investing time. Years and decades are irrelevant, what relevant is the first step towards revolution. Rahul Gandhi’s unfinished revolution gives hope to a new politics, and eventually, a new polity in India which mostly takes dangerous course of caste, religion or anarchic approach through parties such as BSP, BJP and AAP. Today his silent yet unfinished revolution has reached the thresholds of people at the margins. His recent efforts to include unheard voices through party’s manifesto consultations with street-vendors, women, students, young professionals, backwards classes, tribes, kulis and guard-men, teachers, poverty groups, social activists and geographical minorities show great foresight and an urge for political inclusiveness.
The problem with professional political analysts here is that they are trying to decode Rahul Gandhi in a framework completely made for competitive politics. The Congress Vice-President may not be a very good political competitor but in the larger settings of politics, he is a true revolutionary trying to bring about tangible changes in Indian politics. If a comparison is must then he should be compared with the founders and architects of politics and political organizations. What is wrong with these analysts was wrong with the television interviewer who spoke with Rahul in a highly watched show.
In any one-to-one interview, interviewees are allowed to show their human side. FAQs don’t make a good interview. What that particular interviewer is infamous in is that he never allows his guests to speak and instead emphasizes more on the ‘wants to know’ aspect. A simple research on Rahul Gandhi would have given him a fair idea of the issues dear to Rahul Gandhi. Rather he has researched Rahul’s opponent Narendra Modi well for the interview. Similarly, those who pass comments on Rahul Gandhi’s politics, it seems to me, haven’t taken the trouble of knowing the person called Rahul Gandhi, instead are well-prepared about the personalities Rahul Gandhi is contesting with.