Can Raul Gandhi save the Congress from Oblivion? –

Can Raul Gandhi save the Congress from Oblivion?


This article appeared for the first time in Riding the Elephant.

Finally, the years of waiting are over.

Rahul Gandhi, the 47-year-old "emergent" vice president of the Indian Congress Party, is being elected-an anointed would be more precise-as the party president. [19659004] Stay up to date with this story and more subscribing now

Nominations for the office are closed this afternoon without a rival candidate emerging and generations of senior politicians from Congress gathered at the headquarters of the party to congratulate the "young" Gandhi, who has resisted his coronation for years.

At the end of this month, when the procedures are completed, Rahul Gandhi will succeed his mother Sonia, who will turn 71 on December 9 and is not in good health. She has held the position for 19 years, hoping that he is ready and willing to inherit the dynastic mantle of his father, and his husband, Rajiv Gandhi, who was badbadinated in 1991.

The succession of Rahul Gandhi has been widely mocked and criticized for its lack of democracy and the inevitability of its rise during a process of selection of candidates at the national level laborious and long delayed, without arising any rival. Prime Minister Narendra Modi today congratulated Congress on his "Aurangzeb Raj", a reference to the antidemocratic succession of the Mughal rulers of India.

 GettyImages-661274166 Rahul Gandhi meets with Indian farmers from Tamil Nadu while protesting in New Delhi on March 31, 2017. MONEY SHARMA / AFP / Getty

"Rahul has been the favorite of the men of Congress and Women of Congress and this is another step in their devotion to the party and the country of Congress, "former 85-year-old Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a television reporter in a comment that seemed unnecessarily complimentary, but in fact echoed the opinions of the majority of congressional politicians. the match would break without a Gandhi at the top.

How well Rahul Gandhi does or does not as a party leader, and many expect a negative rather than a positive result, is of vital importance to the future of Indian politics and politics. the noisy and chaotic but effective democracy of the country. [19659003] If it emerges from the ineffective role it has played since entering politics in 2004, Congress could once again become a major force, working with other mostly regional opposition parties to challenge the dominant Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata.

But if he fails, the political opposition to the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will remain fragmented, and Congress itself could implode gradually.

Gandhi's descent should not be dismissed as a questionable but inevitable dynastic heritage in the family that has dominated the Congress Party since before independence in 1947, when Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi's grandfather, became prime minister .

The state badembly elections that are taking place in Gujarat, Modi's home state, present Gandhi with his first crucial test. An election has also recently been held in Himachal Pradesh, a small northern state currently run by Congress.

Voting in Gujarat, where the BJP has been in power continuously since 1995, is scheduled for December 9 and 14 and the count of both states will be December 18.

The BJP will almost certainly win in Gujarat. The success or failure of Gandhi will be judged if he has managed to work effectively with other opposition groups to significantly reduce the number of BJP seats from the 115 he won in the last elections in 2012 to less than 100. That will be difficult, Although BJP leaders seem resigned to losing a part of their majority after 22 years in power.

Gandhi has had a string of electoral failures since becoming vice president in 2013, when he gradually took over part of his mother's party leadership. 19659003] Congress lost badly in the 2014 general elections, after ten years in power, winning only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha with 543 seats. He was also defeated in the elections of the state badembly in Bihar in 2015, and this year in Uttar Pradesh (UP).

The BJP won a landslide victory in UP and won significantly six of the ten seats in the Amethi and Rae Bareli districts, the traditional political base of the Gandhi family where Rahul and Sonia Gandhi are members of parliament. Last week in UP civic surveys. Congress lost both seats of Amethi's municipal board.

The BJP has been targeting the Amethi electorate with Smriti Irani, an ardent politician and government minister, opposing Rahul Gandhi in 2014. She reduced her 370,000 majority in 2009 to only 108,000, and now attempts to humiliate him further by defeating him. in the general elections of 2019.

It may seem strange that the BJP is putting so much effort into attacking and ridiculing the hapless Gandhi. "Some people grow in age but not in understanding," Modi said in parliament in May last year.

The reason must be that they realize that the Congress Party can not function effectively without a Gandhi as a leader. Making fun of him and defeating him in key elections, therefore, weakens him and the party. On the other hand, if he emerges as an effective leader now that he is the party president, he could gather opposition and provide significant opposition to Modi in 2019.

No leadership potential

Until recently, he has shown no potential of leadership and has not had a different political or economic message. He has not been apparently interested in formulating and developing governmental policies beyond occasional bursts of noisy oppositions and speeches and interventions written carefully in parliament. He refused when Congress was in power to gain experience as a minister, despite the fact that Manmohan Singh urged him to do so.

He earned the reputation of "emerging" by the way he suddenly dealt with problems or visited trouble spots, especially those that affect the landless poor, but have shown little or no interest after some noisy performances and mocking

In early 2015, he literally disappeared from public life just before Budget Day and was absent, presumably abroad, for 56 days without any explanation of where he was or why he had left. It was later learned that he had been reflecting on an important political role, perhaps becoming party chairman, a position he now accepts by the end of 2017.

Even Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of the most competent and discreet Congress politicians in the Gandhi's generation, and a close adviser, said in a television interview that, although he accepted the leadership of Rahul Gandhi (and Sonia), "the moment of introspection is over." I think the time of execution [of a new approach] should have started a couple of months ago. "That was in March 2015 and until now the new approach has begun.

Revitalized campaign

the energized Rahul Gandhi has emerged in recent weeks during the election campaign in Gujarat where, for the first time, he has kept the course with several one-day visits full of electoral meetings.

But his style is not subtle: for example, with the Hindu nationalists as his main opponents, he has suddenly made a series of visits to the Hindu temples, which has not In a temple, it was included in the guest book on the "non-Hindu" list, which unnecessarily gave Modi and others the opportunity to question their religion, reliving memories of the criticisms Sonia Gandhi faced due to her Italian Catholic origin 19659003] It has also harbaded the government, especially for its controversial policies of demonetization and sales taxes (GST) that have caused widespread disorders and difficulties Merciants and very small businesses. With some justification, he can affirm that he forced the government to introduce extensive improvements to the GST.

There have been press reports that the Congress Party has been in contact with Cambridge Analytica, which helped President Trump win his election. with narrowly focused campaigns. He also increased his Twitter and other campaigns on social networks, although that had problems with several thousand retweets in a tweet @OfficeOfRG of alleged "bots" of Russian, Kazakh and Indonesian origin.

More positively, he allowed his Twitter drivers to announce something sarcastically, but with a sense of fun, that his dog Pidi was the mastermind behind his tweets.

"People have been asking who tweets for this guy … I'm clean, it's me … Pidi, I'm so much better than him, look what I can do with a tweet … oops … try ! " Rahul tweeted with a video of Pidi balancing a cookie on his nose and then, obediently, by order of Rahul, eating it.

Perhaps his main failure is the sense of right that he has as the crown prince of the dynasty that has played a leading role in Indian politics for a century and has had a dominant role since independence. Although he may be a conversational friendly person genuinely interested in social and other causes, he has an air of superiority that is not acceptable to leaders of other parties.

Sitaram Yechury, a Communist Party leader who has had good relations with Congress, said on television last month that "Sonia is the glue that unites the opposition," adding that "the united opposition will be broken if Rahul It takes over".

For that reason, reports suggest that Sonia Gandhi will continue to play a role in the broad opposition issues, leaving Rahul to lead the Congress Party. How well it will work remains to be seen. One of the reasons why Rahul declined to be president in recent years has been a clash between the older and younger generations of party leaders, with Sonia Gandhi next to those who want to minimize the change.

That is a challenge that Rahul Gandhi will now have to deal with. Much will depend on who you choose as your primary advisors, and how well he and they work with the previous generation.

Later, there will be speculation about whether he ever wants to be prime minister and if, if Congress emerged from a general election as a ruling party (although it seems unlikely today), he would hand over the prime minister's job to someone else, as his mother did with Manmohan Singh.

What is clear is that the Gandhi family came to stay, with Priyanka, the sister of Rahul, hiding for now in the background but as a potential player.

For many observers, as the Financial Times published in an editorial a few days ago, the presidency of Rahul cements the "status as a hereditary anachronism" of Congress. [19659003] However, the reality is that while it may seem anachronistic from the outside, it is not like that in India where there are many political dynasties in the states.

The most important point is that, by not moving aside, Rahul Gandhi has been doi has done the country a disservice because he has been blocking the evolution of the Congress Party, either under new competent leadership, or by allowing it to separate and crumble and thus encourage new alignments of opposition.

Now you have the opportunity to prove the critics are wrong.

John Elliott writes from New Delhi. His latest book is Implosion: Tryst With Reality from India (HarperCollins).

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