The biggest political debate which is going on in the country these days is whether the 2014 General Elections will witness a battle between Congress’ ‘Yuvraj’ Rahul Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party’s most charismatic leader Narendra Modi.
But, what is most surprising is Rahul’s reluctance to challenge Modi in Gujarat Assembly polls due later this year. Even as Congress has made sure that their Yuvraj stays away from aggressive campaigning on Modi’s turf, contrary to what the Gandhi scion did during the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar Assembly polls. It seems Akhilesh Yadav’s emphatic win in UP has had a negative effect on the confidence of the Congress and Rahul both.
Recently, while addressing a rally in his home state, Gujarat Chief Minister Modi threw an open challenge to the Congress leadership saying, "Now Congress says Rahul is not coming to Gujarat. Why? People of the state and I want to know the reason.” Modi also challenged UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi,
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi saying that he “was ready for any contest".
To Modi’s challenge, the grand old party has come forward with a guarded and a tepid response. When AICC spokesperson Manish Tewari was asked whether Rahul will campaign in Gujarat like in UP, he said, "Election in every state is fought on the basis of local issues and all senior leaders, who are given the responsibility to campaign there, will do it. The Gujarat Congress is ready for an electoral fight in the state." Such statements only give an impression that the Congress doesn’t want to compromise with Rahul’s image any further.
Given Congress’ political history, Rahul is destined to be the prime ministerial candidate of the UPA or any party-led government. But, the 41-year-old has proved to be nothing but a mute spectator in politics, who comes forward like a flash and disappears the same way. Rahul has a number of failures in his political career and has been at the receiving end not only from the opposition but even UPA allies. At the same time the Hindutva poster boy has superbly projected himself as the ‘messiah’ of ‘development’.
Narendra Modi has developed his image as an able administrator and brandished the development card successfully. Not only this, Modi is also considered the best chief minister in the country, who has single handedly led the BJP to conquer Gujarat thrice. On the other hand, Rahul’s report card is certainly poor. He has got a drubbing not only in Bihar but Uttar Pradesh also - a state where his family held power for four generations. His silence or rare remarks on important issues has only sent a message across that he is least concerned about the plight of crores of people of this country who look upto him.
Not only has the Gandhi scion failed to impress voters during his campaign in the state Assembly polls, but he also lacks knowledge in administration, foreign policy and he has maintained silence on economic issues. His repeated silence on issues like the Anna Hazare movement, 2G spectrum allocation scam and the most recent coal blocks allocation row have earned him only criticism. On the other hand Modi, who is still not sure whether his party will nominate him for the PM’s post, has silenced all with his growing stature and development politics. He has not only projected himself as a successful chief minister, but also aggressively spoken on various issues that the nation faces, including economic policies, terrorism and corruption.
It seems the wary Congress hasn’t forgotten the recent Uttar Pradesh debacle and wants to keep Rahul Gandhi away from Gujarat because the party fears that if Rahul’s magic fails again, which is most likely to happen given Modi’s charisma, then it would be very hard for the grand old party to bring its ‘Yuvraj’ at the forefront in national politics and nominate him as UPA’s prime ministerial candidate. It may even find it hard to convince its allies like the Samajwadi Party which has recently been very critical of Rahul. Samajwadi Party general secretary Mohan Singh has said, "Rahul Gandhi lacks the ability to run the country. He has not been able to rise up to the challenge."
And not to forget the common man who is watching the entire drama unfold before his eyes. Though Rahul sometimes has raised his voice on issues like mining in Niyamgiri Hills, ‘Marathi manoos’ and his famous Kalavati speech, he has failed to yield results and impress people. His folding of sleeves or tearing up of Samajwadi Party’s manifesto seemed more of Bollywood ‘masala’ stuff.
Gone are the days when fingers with indelible ink mark simply used to choose the open palm (
haath), as that was the only main option. More and more parties are in the fray to woo voters, making the competition in the political arena far more competitive than years ago. Rahul just cannot sit, relax and rely upon his last name to get elected as the prime minister of the country. He seems to be ignorant of the fact that the urban youth is tilting towards Modi and given the facts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Rahul’s magic is waning. Voters are definitely judging the Gandhi scion and at this point Narendra Modi certainly seems to be way ahead of the fourth-generation political heir of India’s Congress party.
While 2014 will reveal whether it will be Rahul Gandhi Vs Narendra Modi in the next Lok Sabha elections, one thing is certain - if Modi comes out with a roaring victory in Gujarat Assembly polls, it will be next to impossible for Rahul to match Modi’s persona, and even the BJP which is reluctant to announce its PM candidate will have to bow down to populist choice.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)