Last Updated: Tuesday, April 08, 2014, 14:09
With great power comes great responsibility. But sadly that isn't the case with Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi. He wields absolute power over the party, and to a large extent over the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government as well, but he seldom has come forward to shoulder a responsibility or play the role of a minister.
After the Gandhi family scion finally agreed to shoulder the mantle and said yes to playing a more ‘proactive role’ as the party vice president a year back, the horizon was wide open for him to don the role of a minister and prove his abilities as a politician, or project himself as the prime-ministerial candidate and commandeer his party into the 2014 battleground. But a man's biggest strength is also his biggest weakness. Mere utterance of his surname —'Gandhi'— can makes heads turn and make one sit up and take notice, for many who wielded the title also swayed the sceptre in corridors of power; but Rahul seems overburdened by it and often too much is expected of him.
Some would say Rahul was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, politics is in his genes and a crown on his head; and there's no doubting that. His great-grandfather Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi, who despite their affluent upbringings earned their badges in the political battlefield and went on to prove their worth as prime ministers. And in 2014 General Elections, the stage perhaps looked set for the Congress to declare Rahul as the PM candidate and let him lead the poll campaign. And after Manmohan Singh declared that he wasn't in the PM race any more, the 2014 polls had in them the making of son-rise in the Congress.
But in the face of a Narendra Modi wave, it was speculated that such a move could prove harsh baptism by fire for the 43-year-old. Plus the Congress-led UPA-II went through a nightmare in its last few months with one after another allegation of corruption, scams, policy paralysis, high inflation and financial mess leaving the Manmohan Singh government flummoxed. By openly projecting him as the PM candidate the Congress would have done him more harm than good, for a bad show would've nipped in the bud the projection of him being the Congress party's future.
But the Congress needs a Gandhi to lead it. Historically, the party has fared badly whenever it hasn't had a Gandhi at the helms. After Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991, Sonia had refused to take over the Congress' reins. But after the party was trounced in the 1996 elections under the then president Sitaram Kesri, she was forced to join the party in 1997 and donned the party leader's in 1998. And until the next time, she will continue to be the Gandhi that Congress follows.
The Congress party cadres hoped that projecting Rahul as a youth leader could help them bag the vote of youngsters, the elders they hoped would once again want a Gandhi as their leader. But on the few occasions that Rahul Gandhi tried to lead the Congress—like in the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections where he was the face of the campaign or when he openly came out to denounce the party line over ordinance on convicted politicians—the results were far from encouraging. Congress suffered a crushing defeat in UP and his outburst against the ordinance left his own party red-faced.
Perhaps after the General Elections, it would be better suited if Rahul Gandhi took up the role of an active Leader of Opposition or a portfolio to prove that he can deliver.
Though there may be others in the Congress that are more meritorious and deserving than Rahul but they don’t stand a chance—because they simply don't have a 'Gandhi' as their surname. One cannot blame Rahul for not trying. In the run up to the 2014 General Elections, he has rolled up his sleeve and travelled the length and breadth of the country proclaiming that the Congress gave the junta the power of RTI and empowered women; 'how' is another matter altogether.
But full marks to him for engaging tribal women, coolies, youngsters et all. And he has also heralded into the Congress 'primary' elections for the sake of ticket distribution. But the question remains, can he persist? Will he take up the role of a minister in occasion of a UPA victory? Or take the blame if the Congress fares badly, and then invest five years to restrengthen the Congress' cadres to launch a fightback in the next polls. For Congress and Rahul's sake, one would hope he does. After all there is a limit to enjoying power without accountability.
First Published: Saturday, March 29, 2014, 02:33