The best prime ministerial material
Everyone in the Congress, including the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, sings only one chorus: Rahul Gandhi is the best prime ministerial material with great ability and capability to deliver the best. Dr. Singh is on record having volunteered a resignation if Mrs. Sonia Gandhi desired him to do so to pave the way for Rahul’s incarnation.
He remains, no doubt, the “most eligible bachelor”. But nobody is able to enumerate the rare “qualities” and parameters on which the rank and file of Congressmen discover in him all the wherewithals that would make him a “good” prime minister.
Rahul’s likely coronation as PM has been in the air since the country went in for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. But nobody says when. Though expected to be projected as the prime ministerial candidate then, it was not done. The Tehelka weekly even published an interview with Rahul in which he claimed that if he wanted, he could have been the Prime Minister at the age of 25. Tehelka made history when it later denied that it was an interview.
In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Congress increased its tally of wins from earlier 9 to 20 in Uttar Pradesh. The credit for the same was entirely given to Rahul’s campaign.
When UPA returned to power, there was speculation again. PM Manmohan Singh even offered him a ministerial berth but the Gandhi scion rejected it saying he wanted to gain more experience. He was made one of the general secretaries of the party though he appeared the most important next only to his mother. He was made incharge of the NSUI and Youth Congress.
Though never assigned any special assignment, yet Rahul assumed one he liked to make his mark as a matter of right. He took upon himself the Herculean task of taking to the shore the drowning boat of Congress in Bihar. As result of his strenuous and aggressive campaign, Congress score of earlier 8 seats went down to just 4. But nobody blamed him for the fiasco.
Rahul’s spirits were not down, not to speak of his being out. This time he shouldered the daunting task of reviving the lost glory of Congress in Uttar Pradesh from where he is an MP alongwith his mother. For about two years, he undertook a whirlwind solo election campaign with other leaders just dancing to his tunes. He became a champion of Bundelkhand region. On his demand the Prime Minster on May 22, 2011 doled out a special package of `7,266 crores with another `200 crore to solve the drinking problem of Bundelkhand. He credited Rahul for this bounty. Yet the Congress hope to reap a bumper crop of votes was dashed to the ground. He was able to get money for Bundelkhand but not votes from the people.
He employed all the tricks of the trade to gain public support: gimmicks, histrionics and drama. He surprised everyone, including the then Mayawati government, by undertaking a tour of Bhatta Parsaul defying prohibitory orders riding on the pillion of a motorcycle followed by a gang of supporters. But the gimmick failed to earn the cash of votes. Congress failed badly here too.
In the end, Congress could just gain marginally, increasing its success tally to 28, a gain of six seats. In his own parliamentary constituency of Amethi, he could get only 2 seats out of 6, while his mother drew a blank in her Rae Bareily constituency. Same is the story in the local body elections held last month. Everybody else was responsible for this fiasco, but not the mother and son.
Rahul’s experiment with youth Congress and student bodies and zeal for injecting young blood in elections failed miserably in Kerala and Tamilnadu. Most of the ‘Amul babies’, as Kerala ex-chief minister Achutanandan called them, failed to make it to win. Similar was the fate in Punjab.
He has in his parliamentary career made, albeit read, only two speeches in Lok Sabha. The maiden one, much hyped on education and employment was watched by his doting mother by shifting from front row to the back one to have a glimpse of his performance. The second one was on the Lokpal Bill in 2011 at the height of Anna’s movement against corruption. He claimed it as a “game changer”. At the most it can only be called a game spoiler because nothing has happened since then and the stalemate continues as before.
His performance has rightly been described as cameo by none other than one of the Gandhi family loyalist, Union Minister Salman Khurshid, like an obscure batsman hitting 40 runs with just 15 balls being hailed as the greatest achiever, only to be seen being out for a duck in subsequent innings consecutively. He does make ‘cameo’ appearances and performances just to slide into the background soon afterwards.
Whenever the party or government is in crisis, the great leader is nowhere to be seen or heard. Recall the recent NCP-Congress standoff at the Centre and in Maharashtra and the effort of the party to rope in the support of Mamta’s TC and others. He was visible at the time of farewell to President Pratibha Patil and swearing-in of new President but not audible with his views on anything.
He is hardly seen open his mouth on vital issues, problems and crisis tormenting the country – terror, crime against women and senior citizens, price rise, inflation, corruption, aam aadmi’s plight and the like. He is yet to be seen or heard on the Assam riots plaguing the State. In Andhra the Congress is facing an existential crisis. But his expertise and acumen is not being put to douse the flames there. He has as yet to give his attention to revive the falling fortunes of Congress in Gujarat where elections are due in another three months. He himself and his Party, it appears, doesn’t want to foray into lands that are not safe for him and the party.
On July 18 Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi did break her silence when she said, "Rahul has to take a decision" himself on assuming greater responsibility in the organization and government. (http://www.deccanherald.com/pages.php?id=265240) But the next day Rahul came out in the typical Lakhnavi style of pehle aap, pehle aap saying, "I will play a more proactive role in the party and the government. The decision has been taken, the timing is up to my two bosses -- the Congress President and the Prime Minister." (http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=769280)
So the mystery remains: Who will bell the cat and when?
In spite of all that, he remains the best bet for the Congress. His only qualification and merit at the moment seems: he is the Gandhi family scion.