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വായന

24 July, 2012

Waiting for sonrise

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

As heir apparent of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Rahul Gandhi could have claimed a place in the government any time since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance returned to power in 2004. However, he was content to remain a low-key general secretary of the party and turned down suggestions from partymen to enter the government.

Last week, dropping the reluctant bridegroom posture, he expressed readiness to play a proactive role in both party and government. A decision had been taken, and it was for his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to decide when to give effect to it, he said.

He is now expected to be inducted into the Council of Ministers at the earliest, possibly before Parliament reassembles next month. That will give him the opportunity to gain governmental experience before being projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the Lok Sabha elections due in 2014.

Barring a couple of short interludes, the Congress party’s leadership since Independence has been in the hands of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Sonia Gandhi was not inclined to enter politics after her husband Rajiv’s assassination but eventually gave in to pressure from Congressmen who needed a Gandhi at the helm to hold them together.

She was the party’s choice for the prime minister’s post when it was in a position to stake a claim to form the government but she stood down, realising her Italian origin was a political liability. It was widely believed even at that stage that Manmohan Singh, whom she nominated for the post, will be replaced in due course by her son.

Rahul Gandhi has been a member of parliament for eight years and a general secretary of the party for four years but he is yet to emerge as a leader in his own right. Few believe that he has used the time at his disposal well and equipped himself to shoulder the onerous responsibilities that await him.

It is difficult to identify an occasion when he made a mark in parliament or played a significant role in backstage political negotiations. The party has been beset with serious problems but it is difficult to pinpoint any contribution he made to their resolution.

This is not to suggest that he was remiss in making use of opportunities. He has curbed factionalism in the state units of the party’s youth and student affiliates by evolving a formula under which the larger faction’s nominee becomes the president and the smaller faction’s nominee the vice-president. The formula has a fatal weakness: it perpetuates factionalism instead of eliminating it.

His efforts to rebuild the party in Uttar Pradesh, the family’s original base, have met with only limited success. It still ranks fourth, after the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, in the state which sends the largest contingent of 80 members to the 574-member Lok Sabha.

However, the responsibility for the failures on the organisational front rests mainly with Sonia Gandhi, who has done nothing to end factionalism in the 16 years since she assumed stewardship of the party. She has also not taken any steps to revive the dysfunctional party apparatus. Valuing personal loyalty more than leadership qualities, she has chosen to work with a bunch of colourless men incapable of infusing dynamism in the party.

While Rahul Gandhi has evinced a keen interest in the problems of the common man, who figures prominently in the party’s electoral calculations, he is yet to demonstrate a capacity to formulate concrete steps to address their problems and push them into the government’s agenda. 

Since the national political spectrum is extremely fragmented, coalition governments will be the order of the day for a long time to come. The situation calls for a set of leaders who can deal with the small parties tactfully as well as firmly. Manmohan Singh has been a failure in this regard. Rahul Gandhi will do well to develop the skills needed to manage troublesome partners.

The fight against corruption is an area where the Congress party and the government have been found wanting. Rahul Gandhi’s speech in the Lok Sabha during the debate on the Lok Pal Bill showed he is aware of the gravity of the issue. It may be the issue which ultimately determines his political future.

The rising great-grandson can learn a lesson from Jawaharlal Nehru’s eloquent words: “Success often goes to those who dare and act. It seldom goes to the coward.” -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, July 24, 2012.

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