Can a ‘reluctant’ Rahul Gandhi take on Narendra Modi?

By naming Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for 2014 General Elections, the Bhartiya Janata Party has sounded the poll bugle.

Updated: Sep 22, 2013, 17:22 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Manisha Singh

New Delhi: By naming Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for 2014 General Elections, the Bhartiya Janata Party has sounded the poll bugle. The move is said to have energised the party cadre and Modi too on his part is looking and sounding increasingly confident, a man on a mission.

Now with the BJP having taken the all-important decision on Modi, the question being asked is by all and sundry is whether the Congress will name its vice president Rahul Gandhi as the party’s PM candidate for the next Lok Sabha polls. Though the party has not confirmed anything on the matter as yet, the reaction by Congress leaders on Modi’s anointment has been interesting.

While on the one hand they said that it was BJP’s internal matter as to whom they wanted to project as their PM candidate, but on the other hand various Congress leaders also took barbs at the announcement made by the main Opposition party. Some said that the BJP was celebrating Diwali early, while others said that Modi was delusional and desperate. Then there were others who said that the BJP had committed political suicide, while some called the Gujarat CM divisive.

However, when asked about their own PM candidate, the Congress maintained that the decision may be taken after the Lok Sabha polls were over, but the at same time they reiterated that Rahul Gandhi would lead the Congress’ campaign for 2014. At a time, when the BJP has been saying that the next Parliamentary elections will be quasi-presidential and at a time when Modi is leaving no stones unturned to take on the Congress-led UPA government on matters of corruption and policy paralysis, many feel that the grand old party ought to have clarity as to who is going to be their face in the run-up to the polls.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already said that he is ready to work under the leadership of Rahul and the Congress cadre too want the Congress VP to take the charge. However, he is seen by many as someone who has been forced into centrestage and someone who is not able to shed the ‘reluctant politician’ tag. One can safely say that they do have a point. It is also said that after Rahul suffered a setback in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2012, there is an attempt to shield him. If the UPA is unable to come back to power next year, then the blame for Congress’ defeat will not be pinned on Rahul, if the party goes without a face for the 2014 polls.

Rahul surfaces once in a while in the public arena then is said to go underground. He has not been heard speaking in Parliament since he made the ‘game-changer’ speech on the contentious Lok Pal Bill. He was said to be missing in action when the country was protesting on the streets after the brutal rape of a para-medical student in the national capital on December 16.

Rahul has also been accused of not interacting enough with the media and his presence on the social network is negligible. While on the other hand, Modi has been relentlessly addressing various sections of the society via various platforms and leaving no stones unturned to woo the youth and the middle class, as well as tapping into new segment of the electorate.

Rahul has been seen recently campaigning in Rajasthan which is due to go to the polls later this year and has been saying things like ‘your dreams are my dreams’. However, he has often been criticised for meandering and saying things which at times are difficult to connect with. On the other hand Modi is considered a master orator and knows how to tap the pulse of the people.

Most of the opinion polls and surveys done in recent times have placed the BJP’s PM candidate ahead of Rahul for first choice to occupy the top post of the country. And most have also projected Modi to be more popular amongst the youth of the country. It is ironical that the Congress vice president who is in his forties is not young India’s first choice to lead them.

Thus, if the Congress has to stop the so called Modi juggernaut then they will have to get their act together and Rahul will have to be more pro-active. After all, the party is staring at a decade of anti-incumbency and the RTI Act, the Food Security Bill and the Land Acquisition Act alone may not be enough to give then a consecutive third term at the Centre.