Is Rahul exempt from accountability?
Editorial: March 2017
Hardnews Bureau Delhi
After the results of the five assembly elections came out, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi grandly announced that the score line was 3-2 in favour of his party. Such bland reading of the election results does great injustice to the massive victory that BJP secured in Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand, contrary to most media and pollster’s predictions. Though the Congress emerged as the single largest party in Goa and Manipur, it failed to protect its lead and allowed the BJP to cobble together coalitions in both states. It seemed as if the Congress Vice President was sleeping at the wheel. The only consolation for the Congress is that it managed to form the government in Punjab under the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh, who displayed tremendous self-belief and purpose during campaign season. What was also important is that by withstanding the onslaught of the Aam Admi Party, Singh managed to cast aspersions on the view that the grand old party needed a gathbandhan like Bihar to beat the BJP. While the win in Punjab puts a spoke in the BJP’s plans to make the country Congress-free, what it has been able to achieve in UP and Uttrakhand and plus the manner in which it has been able to snatch the two states of Goa and Manipur should give sleepless nights to Rahul Gandhi and his advisors. Rahul should personally worry about the quality of his leadership and whether he has the skills, political astuteness and courage to lead his party to the crucial 2019 elections. The consensus, though, is that he does not have the bandwidth to take on Narendra Modi or the guiles of BJP President, Amit Shah. During the run up to the UP elections, Gandhi manfully campaigned, but he looked like a greenhorn Ranji Trophy player fielded in a tough international Test Match. He seemed out of depth, not in front of Modi, but also when he hung around with his Samajwadi Party ally, Akhilesh Yadav.
There is a growing clamour that Rahul should give way to someone else in the Congress party. This demand is coming not just from within the party, but also from all those who are deeply distressed with the collapse of the Congress party and the disappearance of a national opposition to the BJP. They worry when they see Rahul lampooned on social media and made to look like someone who is unhinged from reality. His statement after the UP loss, which has the potential to change the course of national politics and take the country away from the values that this country is known for, is a case in point. Rahul may have worked hard in the polls, but he has not been able to improve the image of the party despite being in the opposition for the last three years. During the UP campaign, Congress was seen to be a liability for the alliance. BJP workers, too, would strut around saying that Akhilesh would have done well if it had not been for the Congress. It is apparent that Modi and Shah have succeeded in showing Rahul and the Congress as entities who deserved to be in the opposition longer. When Rahul and the Congress leaders pore over the results of the UP assembly polls they should worry about how the party has lived up to the impression of an electoral liability. It has consistently done badly in all the seven phases and it has seen all its traditional voters shying away from them.
The big challenge for the Congress party is how does it reinvent itself? The alliance with SP in UP has not helped. There is little likelihood that the Congress would succeed in the future if it does not find a charismatic ruler who fires the traditional vote base in a manner that lures the masses back to its core values of secularism and inclusion and presents itself as a political and economic counterpoint. By the look of it, Rahul does not really inspire confidence to change much in the party. Is Priyanka the answer or it is time for the party to look beyond the family?