May 03, 2015

RAHUL VERSION 2.0

WHAT RAGA NEEDS TO DO TO REVIVE HIS CAREER & THE CONGRESS

After abandoning the Congress party for a good 57 days, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family - Rahul Gandhi made a grand return to the country couple of weeks back. Ever since his sojourn, he seems to be a changed man; much to the delight of the Congress leaders and supporters, he has been making the right kind of noises and attacking the Modi government on a wide range of issues. Be it standing up for the farmers against the Land Bill or speaking up for Net Neutrality in the Parliament or meeting home buyers in the NCR and raising their concerns over the amendments made to the Real Estate Bill, the MP from Amethi is slowly building up a strong front against the policies of the NDA government which has hardly delivered on any of the numerous tall promises it made during its election campaign.

Though I have been a critic of Rahul and his style of politics for long, I have been pretty impressed by Rahul - version 2.0 and whatever I have seen of it so far. With the 'honeymoon period' for the Modi government coming to an end, the failure of the incumbent regime to bring in the 'Aache Din' and the ignominious defeat faced by the BJP at the hands of the AAP in the Delhi polls, the Congress Vice President has upped the ante and is leading the much delayed Congress fight back from the front. His actions in mobilizing a united front consisting of farmers, the middle class and the youth to take on the NDA government in the past two weeks has taken most of us, be it political analysts or the common man, by surprise. Move over RTI and Women Empowerment, in his brand new avtaar Rahul Gandhi, like so many of the illustrious Congress leaders of the past is connecting with the people on the ground and engaging with the karya-kartas at the lowest levels to check mate the BJP lead national government in New Delhi.

Rahul's comeback has evoked contrasting response from various factions within the political circles of the country; naturally enough, the Congress has hailed this as a game-changer, the regional satraps are treading a cautious line, the media has termed it as a 'revelation' whereas the BJP sees this as just another attempt to relaunch the Gandhi's scion 'failing' political career. In my opinion, a more mature Gandhi junior is good news for our democracy. After all, he is all set to become the President of the largest Opposition party in the coming weeks. A strong, well-informed leader at the helm of affairs in the INC will keep PM Modi and his colleagues in the cabinet on the tenterhooks. At a time when many are scared that the fringe groups within the Sangh Parivaar may derail the government's development agenda, an Opposition led by a level headed Rahul may help check their excesses and raise the issue that are actually affecting the people.

This is certainly not the first time that the Amethi MP has burst out on the national scene all of a sudden. Be it speaking on behalf of Kalavati in the Parliament during the debate on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal or tearing off the ordinance protecting parliamentarians from arrest, Rahul has made waves in the past too. However, the problem with him seems to be that he fails in sustaining the enthusiasm surrounding him. The reluctant politician in him seems to arise every time one thinks that he is going to break out from the shackles and make a permanent space for himself in the political arena. Perhaps, he can take a leaf out of the book of his namesake - 'Mr Consistent' Rahul Dravid. Besides, here are a few more things that he can do so that the people of the country take him more seriously.

They say that a man is known by the company he keeps. The first thing that Rahul has to do is that he needs to do away with 'incompetent' advisors who have done more damage to his political career so far than good; people like Digvijaya Singh and Madhusudan Mistri need to go. The junior Gandhi has to surround himself with a coterie of people who have sharp political acumen and are aware of the aspiration of the electorate in different parts of the country. Moreover, there is a need to have state level leaders too in this committee who can help him take the right decisions. The more diverse and more competent this core group, the more returns it will yield for Rahul and his party.

Raising the right issues at the right time is an art that makes a successful politicians and this is something that the Amethi MP needs to master as soon as possible. As of now, he has done very well. The trip to Punjab to meet the farmers was a good move considering that the state goes for polls in 2017 and that there is simmering anti-incumbency against the Badals there. Speaking up for neutrality of the Internet has surely won him admirers amongst the youth, a constituency that had stood behind Modi during the 2014 General Elections. The meeting with the flat buyers and his opposition to the Real Estate Bill in Delhi will help in wooing the middle class, another section that had gravitated towards the BJP till some time back. It is imperative that Rahul keeps pilling on more pressure on the government at regular intervals.

Thirdly, the Congress Vice President has to be more accessible. The party workers on the ground have long complained that it is very difficult to get an audience with him. Rahul's absence on the social media, his minimal media interactions and his absence from the Parliament during the times of important debates only adds to the negative publicity surrounding him. It is high time that Rahul finally sheds this tag of being aloof from the realities on the ground. An account on Facebook and Twitter are long over due; considering that this is a good platform for connecting with the youth, the Amethi MP needs to make his debut on the social media as soon as possible. He has to address more press conferences and speak more often in the Parliament so that his views on issues of national importance are well known.

Next and more importantly, there is an immediate need to revive the Congress which seems to be moribund at the moment. After being reduced to 44 seats, the least in its history, the INC needs a complete reform. Earlier, Rahul has spoken about his ideas to reform the Congress by initiating schemes like holding primaries to select party candidates and decentralizing power by empowering state leaders. However, none of these ideas actually took off in the right spirit. The recent spate of electoral defeats that the party suffered in the past two years only has made the matters worse. The urgent need of the hour is for Rahul to take control of the party and infuse some enthusiasm amongst the party workers. As the morale of the workers will boost, the prospects of the INC too will brighten, thereby helping it regain lost ground.

Last and in no way the least, Gandhi needs to make some working arrangements with leaders of non-NDA parties in the Parliament so that pressure can be built up on the Modi regime. TO begin with, the Amethi MP has to improve the co-ordination between the various parties that are still within the UPA. The Bihar by-polls has shown that the only way to combat the BJP is to form newer, innovative alliances cutting across traditional political barriers. In this aspect, the relaunched Janata Parivaar is a strong anti-Modi Front and Gandhi has to work more closely with the likes of Mulayum, Lalu and Nitish so that they can take on the NDA in the Parliament. The Left parties have always stood against the BJP and befriending Karat & Co. should not be difficult. Regional players like Mamata, Mayawati, Chandrashekar Rao and Karunanidhi can be cajoled into forming alliances with the Congress for the state polls. Certainly, Rahul Gandhi's political success in the near future could depend on how many friends he can win in the next few months.