Rahul Gandhi: A mute spectator in politics
The going is getting tough for the Congress in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as it grapples not only with allegations of massive corruption, policy paralysis, demanding allies, a directionless government but now also has an aspiring leadership that does not inspire, given its absolute silence on all the major issues facing the country.
Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, who is seen by many of his party colleagues as the potential prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, is being attacked not only by the opposition parties but even potential allies have started to question his leadership abilities.
The barbs directed at Rahul are not without basis as he has a long list of failures against his name when it comes to electoral politics, barring the freak show in 2009 Lok Sabha election when the Congress surprised everyone by winning well over 200 seats, which to a large extent was made possible by the extremely good show of the party in Uttar Pradesh.
Then Rahul was seen as the messiah that the Congress so desperately needed as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was only expected to keep the seat warm for the next five years for the 'yuvraj'.
But 2009 seems to belong to a different era. Since the last Lok Sabha elections, the political landscape has undergone a sea change with the Congress at the receiving end of it.
Before the country gears up for the next Lok Sabha elections, a spate of state elections are scheduled and are going to severely test the vote catching ability of Rahul. With the Samajwadi Party, which has bailed out the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance a number of times, questioning Rahul's ability to run the country, the party could face a serious leadership crisis in 2014.
By the end of the year Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, both of which BJP bastions, will elect new assemblies. The Congress is expected to come a distant second in both the states unless a miracle takes place.
Moreover the party is not keen to push Rahul into the Gujarat battle where Narendra Modi stands like a colossus, ready to swat whatever the opposition manages to throw at him.
A clueless Congress has been at the receiving end of Modi's aggressive politics, and till now has been unable to challenge him in Gujarat. The last two Assembly election victories have made Modi a big player in national politics and he is now being projected as one of the potential prime ministerial candidates of the BJP in the next General Elections.
If Modi is projected for the top most political post, then he will be pitted against Rahul and if and when that happens, the dice will be loaded heavily in favour of the former, unless those accusing him of playing communal politics of the worst kind manage to have their way and stop him from playing a bigger role in national politics.
While the 2002 Gujarat riots will always remain an albatross around Modi's neck, what is unlikely to be disputed is that under his rule the state has been consistently one of the top performers on economic indicators. Although Gujarat was never a laggard, Modi by his extremely media-savvy campaign has ensured that most of the credit for what the state is today goes to him.
On the other hand Modi's would-be competitor has no administrative experience and coupled with his silence of almost all the major issues before the country, it becomes extremely difficult to judge his capability.
After the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul took the charge of Congress's campaign during 2010 Bihar and 2012 Uttar Pradesh elections. Even though he managed to get a lot of media coverage and projected the image of an angry young man, ready to take on the world and set it right, the results showed that he was not even a serious player in the two states.
Mauled by Nitish Kumar in Bihar and crushed by Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul has been keeping quite perhaps realising that the battle of votes is not as easy as rolling up the sleeves and tearing a piece of paper in perfectly choreographed anger during an election campaign.
With Nitish Kumar doing a very job in Bihar and Akhilesh coming up an extremely formidable caste coalition and development agenda, Rahul's campaign was doomed although the Congress tried to keep up a semblance of a fight.
Electoral politics apart, Rahul has maintained a studied silence on every major issue including corruption, slow economic growth and policy paralysis. The only time he spoke on corruption was in the Lok Sabha during the height of Anna Hazare movement in August 2011. But his prepared speech on Lokpal was seen more as an attempt to derail the movement, than to take it forward.
No one has any idea about his stand on economic issues as he has never shown any inclination to either take part in Parliament debates or articulate them to the media, with whom he regularly interacts to claim that the poor and downtrodden are worse off in states ruled by the opposition parties.
Given his lack of understanding of the economy, foreign affairs and even the electoral arithmetic, it is unlikely that he can play any role to lead the Congress back to power in 2014. While Manmohan Singh is often criticised for not clarifying on the burning issues, Rahul's report card is no better.
The alarms bells are ringing loudly not only for the Congress, but also for Rahul Gandhi and going by their response till now neither have any clue of how to move forward.
A clueless Rahul, who is yet to show any leadership quality, can hardly be expected to lead a demoralised army to victory.
More about Priyarag VermaPriyarag Verma has been following all the twists and turns of Indian politics closely. He follows sports very closely and has a special liking for cricket, football, Formula One, hockey, tennis and athletics.
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