Demonising Rahul Gandhi for every failure of Congress is dangerous

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Barack Obama’s new memoirs selective reporting have given another handle to the opponents of Rahul Gandhi to mock at him. Most of the time, once an election is passed and if Congress performs better, media does not speak about Rahul Gandhi but if the party fails, they start not only mocking at him and want him to be replaced or asking the party to rebel against him. But this time, two things have come at one time. The Obama memoirs and the dismal performance of the Congress Party in Bihar and the usual chorus for his replacement have started. Most of the time, these things don’t come from Congress Party but BJP’s IT cell which has been making a mockery of not only Rahul Gandhi but his great grandfather Jawahar Lal Nehru. Let us discuss some of these points honestly.

There is no doubt that Rahul Gandhi comes from a political family or may we call it, the first family of independent India.

His family had tremendous privileges but then many other enjoyed those privileges politically and the result was that after the landslide victory of Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, the Congress actually went into a slumber and lost its appeal and mass base. Rahul’s entry in the Congress party happened at the moment when Congress was finished in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and the numero uno position of the party in India’s political spectrum, as the party of governance had gone and the BJP was replacing it with the new ruling party mostly backed up powerfully by the Savarnas.

The Two UPAs did some good work but in terms of communication with the masses, they remain horrible. The official’s files, the media management, the communication with people and the party cadres were missing.

The fact of the matter is Congress Party’s cadres and even the politicians don’t have a clear ideological commitment and most of them switched their loyalty to BJP. They were unable to differentiate between secularism and Hindutva. Under this fragility, Congress lost the Savarna leaders and voters who it nurtured during the period but it wanted to get it back. In the newly emerging political scenario, it is a difficult task because now the OBCs, Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims too seeking their representation in power structure which congress does not want to concede.

In the Two UPA Congress lost the perception game. Its honoured demand for Telangana on December 9th, 2009 and buckled under pressure to withdraw it later. By that time, it has given enough space to KTR who was not really the main party in the region. Ultimately when the Centre decided to accept the demand for Telangana, the party had lost goodwill in the region while its order made it villain in Andhra. The management was so poor that party lost both the states miserably. Rahul Gandhi was not responsible for this.

Then the Land Act and it came after much struggle. Congress’s main focus of achievement was MNREGA but it never helped and was overemphasised.

Anna’s movement had already finished the acceptance of the party in the Savarna classes who attacked the party on corruption charges while nurturing anti-reservation feelings. Hence in 2014, when Rahul was asked to lead a campaign against Narendra Modi, he was sure to have flopped. That was the biggest tactical mistake of the Congress leadership to make him president that time to face the burden of hugely unpopular Man Mohan Singh government, being blamed for inefficiency and corruption. The result was on expected lines party lost and the blame of that went to Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi is honest and speaking of his mind but he is not able to connect with the masses but it is also a fact that people come to listen to his meetings.

The problem is not in Congress’s leader’s oratory and we have enough examples where leaders were never good in oratory and yet succeeded. So, oratory is not the only criteria, you need to have substance and more than that you need to have cadres and leaders. Congress Party’s biggest problem is in its structure which is still controlled by the Brahmanical elite who have not really changed.

The party never had a candidate to field at 70 constituencies in Bihar and yet it decided to go for it. Was it not important for the party to give the ticket to those who are traditional party people and belonging to the marginalised sections? There has been the allegation that many of these Congress leaders were actually in Nitish Kumar’s ‘good books’ and might dump the party.

It is easier for the BJP to break Congress party as the leaders are without any ideological background.

I said it many times that ideological issues were rarely responded by the parties. Congress and RJD decided that they won’t speak about CAA, NRC or violence on the Dalits and responded in a casual manner.

Rahul Gandhi raising the Chinese incursion issue will not succeed in north India where people will feel it is an insult to the armed forces. He should be careful but we don’t know who advise him these things.  Obviously, his trips were not planned or he was not briefed about the local issues.

Congress must understand that a few more seats for RJD and CPI-ML would have been beneficial for the grand alliance but the leaders from Delhi who go to negotiate there are traditional congress leaders who remain under the impression that once the alliance is there, the party will be able to fair well.

It is time, Congress do an honest survey of its position in these states. Rahul Gandhi has not visited Bihar nor did Priyanka. Similarly, we have not seen them active in Odisha and therefore the party is being replaced by BJP. So, Rahul cannot just be a leader speaking and taking Narendra Modi head-on, he needs an Amit Shah or a man who is mobiliser and understand the political dynamics but remember such a man will be equally ambitious.

Rahul has been great on many issues like demonetisation, Chinese incursion, foreign policy, economic meltdown but perhaps he is better equipped to speak up with the English audiences where he has got flaire and arguments but for the Hindi audience he is not able to connect.

Probably, the party will have to look for other leaders too and develop local leaders. Rahul must continue but also important for him to allow powerful local leaders who are not paratrooper from Delhi.

Therefore, Barack Obama’s comment on Rahul Gandhi can just be taken as an impression at first sight but can’t be taken seriously. It is not that they have been working together or in constantly observing work.

Moreover, Rahul might have met him when UPA was in power and till 2015 and that was the period when he was definitely not clear on many things and most of the people got the impression that he was an unwilling leader being imposed by Sonia Gandhi.

The fact of the matter is that Rahul Gandhi became sandwiched in the internal power politics of the Congress Party.

He had to defend a government, whose leaders were leaking stories of his being ‘Pappu’ and knowing nothing. His party was not defending him when he was being lampooned by the Sangh Parivar.

Barak Obama worked a lot with prime minister Narendra Modi and his analysis of Indian Prime Minister would be great but that is where American established leaders won’t speak for various reasons but let us hope he writes and we look forward to that.

When a person like Obama writes about global leaders, he feels that means then if he is sincere in his approach, he needs to speak about the heads of the state that he worked with and whether the things happening in India concerned him. If Obama does not speak about this, then in my personal opinion, he has played politics and he needs to explain it. Is a silence on Narendra Modi to appease the ‘Indian voters’.

Has Rahul Gandhi become a victim of internal politics of the united states to appease the Indian voters who are aggressively hanging to BJP and therefore to the Republican party?

A few other things before I close this article.

Leaders lose elections and remain leaders of their party. Nobody asked other politicians and parties to resign or any other political leader who is out of power for decades. Rahul Gandhi has become the easier target for this ‘liberal’ club so that they look ‘ secular’ and ‘balanced’.

We are at an extraordinary time and Rahul Gandhi, as well as Congress Party, need to reinvent itself and make it a coalition of India’s diversity. Congress need to strengthen its social base and focus on building up leadership from the margins. Too much dependence on the upper caste leaders will bring nothing to the party. It was unfortunate that Rahul’s team in Bihar was just TV and social media warriors but where were the local leaders who have understanding and grasp on the issue.

Rahul Gandhi has as much right to be in politics as President Obama to speak about him but if India’s political parties using Obama certificate to lampoon Rahul Gandhi then they must respond to the question as why Obama did not speak about Narendra Modi. Is not speaking about Modi, not an insult or an indication of his uncomfortably with Modi who claimed Barak was his friend.

If Obama has spoken about Narendra Modi in his book then the entire excerpts are selectively produced by the New York Times. So, it will only be known about November 17 when Barack Obama’s book ‘ A Promised Land’ will be out in public and only then we will be able to know the exact contents of the book.

Of course, political leaders speak about each other’s but their words can’t be the gospel truth and Obama’s comments about any political figure including Rahul Gandhi should be taken as his impression about him and not a ‘certificate’ to demonise him.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

November 14th, 2020

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