The grand old party (GOP) of India, Indian National Congress, which governed India for close to 60 years out of 70 years of independence is currently facing an existential crisis in Indian polity. The party, which took part in the independence struggle is reduced to just a fringe element and over the past three and a half years, Congress is losing elections after elections and is now fighting for its survival and its relevance in the 21st century of democratic India.
Rahul Rajiv Gandhi and the future of Congress party is at crossroads. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is currently on a tour of America, where he is addressing students, Indian diaspora and is trying very hard to change his image as a reluctant politician and in most of his addresses in various universities he has critiqued and commented on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s performance as a leader and his policies for the better part of last three years, since he got elected.
The speeches and addresses have touched a nerve and the 47-year-old leader has commented on low growth rate, lack of jobs, slow pace of development, Goods and Services Tax, demonetisation, intolerance, cow vigilantism, debate on communalism vs secularism and in overall painted a picture of India and what it is going through. The refreshing thing about these interactions is that Gandhi is coming across as a very good speaker, who is speaking his mind, is not afraid of taking criticism and accepting his shortcomings. Also, during the one of the briefings, Rahul touched a very delicate subject of dynasty and accepted that in Indian political system dynasty is inevitable and even though it is not fair and perfect, there are very few options apart from it.
The peculiar thing about this tour is that Rahul Gandhi is finally emerging as a leader and breaking the shackles, who can debate the government on policies, plans and the actual data rather than getting carried away with the rhetoric. Gandhi back in India has an image of being not a very bright politician, one who does flip flops and a leader who is not sure about leading the party and so far Gandhi hasn’t accepted becoming the president of Congress, despite repeated attempts by the senior party leaders and his mother Sonia Gandhi (Congress president) to take the baton and lead from the front.
The next 20 months are very crucial for Congress as BJP currently has government in 18 states and are very confident of retaining their seat at the centre. Rahul Gandhi has to rejuvenate himself if Congress has to have any chance of upsetting the odds then Gandhi scion has to rigorously work hard to earn the trust of people, who have deserted Congress. The test of this new avatar will come in 2019 Lok Sabha elections and if GOP loses than all this image makeover of the ‘chosen one’ will count for nothing.
Post Script: Congress in 2014 parliamentary elections bagged 44 seats and it can’t get much worse than that. The real test for Rahul Gandhi lies in stopping the winning chariot of Narendra Modi. If BJP comes to power then Gandhi can’t run away from responsibility like he did in 2014 and will have to look for an alternate career.