Rahul To Crack The Whip
The making of Rahul Gandhi as a leader is the biggest political fallout of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections 2012. And this will have far-reaching consequences for the functioning of the Congress party in the months and years ahead.
With mother Sonia not quite in the pink of health having decided to slowly retreat from active politics as was evident in the UP elections “it is now Rahul’s time” as his brother-in-law Robert Vadra so succinctly put it during the election campaign.
That time will be visible now, say party insiders with Rahul now focusing on Mission 2014 to give the Congress a simple majority in the next general election and for that a large number of ruthless decisions will be taken in the months ahead which will bear the Rahul imprint and which will all be targeted to gear up the states where the Congress has fallen behind and to chop those leaders who have become a liability for the party and who are a hindrance in the active growth of the Congress.
Sources say that the decision to announce Captain Amrinder Singh the next chief minister was Rahul’s decision and it helped the party to win marginal seats, without which the Congress may have been looking at a hung assembly in even Punjab. The Punjab decision was a clear signal to both the leaders and the rank and file of the party that Rahul was active in the decision-making process of the party and that the status quo politics of the Congress which suited some key leaders may now be a thing of the past.
For Rahul the transition may not be so easy ince there is a great deal of vested interest at the top levels in the party and attempts are being made to block him at every stage by influencing the Congress president Sonia Gandhi that change is not necessarily a good thing. That attitude and philosophy has kept the Congress from acting against the non-performers, which according to key Congress leaders is what Rahul Gandhi wants to change at the earliest. And which he needs to change, they add, if the Congress has to be toned up to take on the challenge of Mission 2014 when Rahul would want to govern without the crutches of allies like Mamata Banerjee who have proved to be liabilities as partners in the process of governance.
Indications from the Congress are that Rahul would be playing a big role in the distribution of Rajya Sabha seats with a large number of vacancies coming up in April in the upper house. Already it is being said that the upper house would now be more tuned towards Rahul with his own brigade making their presence felt for the first time.
But the real test is likely after the conclusion of the Budget session when Rahul Gandhi is likely to be formally anointed as the working president of the Congress party with a much bigger role in the running of the party and the appointment of key persons at the helm of affairs. The Congress president is expected to make way for a bigger role for Rahul as has been scripted within the family. It was decided that the right time would be after the UP elections which according to insiders have turned out to be a huge learning experience for Rahul.
The metamorphoseis is evident and there for all to see. Having sheded his reticence and his hestitation, he has travelled the length and breadth of Uttar Pradesh, spoken to thousands of people, adressed huge rallies as well as personal interactions, made mistakes but remained determined that he would not let the Congress die in UP. The tone and tenor of his speeches reflects that he is no longer playing act but comes across as a determined, angry, aggressive young man who wants to put UP on the road to development and if not in this round, then by the next election UP would be ready to believe in him and give him what he wants: and that is a big slice of the seats in the state which he needs if the Congress has to stand on its own without the crutches of the Mamatas and the Karunanidhis. And without the “compulsion of coalition politics” that Dr Manmohan Singh so frequently refers to.
But insiders in the Rahul camp say that this can only happen if some tough decisions are taken and if the non-performers and dead wood are bundled out. This they say applies to states as well as the centre (in terms of the AICC). The fact that the Congress came down to four seats in Bihar but there was no accountability for the performance speaks volumes of the manner in which decisions are being taken by the party. Or the fact that states like Rajasthan and Haryana are in a mess but their chief ministers are being protected and continuously given a new lease of life despite stiff and severe opposition from the party rank and file. Or the fact that Narendra Modi has been allowed to continue in power with no action against him despite the killings of innocent people while the Congress in Gujarat has remained a helpless spectator and no magic formula to revive the Congress in Gujarat.
While the Congress may have reason to cheer on March 6 when the results of five assemblies is pronounced, there are a number of states where the party has let itself fall on bad times and unless quick cut surgical procedures are adopted, Rahul Gandhi may find his Mission 2014 to be nothing more than a mirage.
Party insiders say that the drift cannot continue for long. That the next few months are expected to be eventful for the man who has shown his senior party leaders that there is no substitute for hard work and that despite the odds it can yield rich dividends.
Rahul’s whole-hearted decision to take the plunge in UP came after a number of senior leaders in his party advised the young man not to put all his eggs in the UP basket, since the media would tear him to pieces and announce him as a failed political entity with no vote getting prowess or charisma if he could not muster a respectable amount of seats in UP. But despite the advice he decided to move ahead in his mission to bring the Congress back in UP, and like he explained once, “ I have no choice. Without UP the Congress cannot stand on its own two feet. And elections are about winning and losing so I am not afraid of failure. You cannot hope to win all the time so there is no such thing as a make or break election.”
This reflects the thinking of a politician who understands that it is now time to take on the responsibility of the Congress party and that there is no reason to be afraid of what lies ahead. Whatever may be the result of the UP elections for the Congress party it has established the leadership of Rahul Gandhi as a politician both within his own party and outside it with rival groups targeting him and opponents launching abuses against him. A sure sign that it is now the coming of age of Rahul who is set to take his politics to the next level.
By Renu Mittal