Naanijaan would say, “Poot Sapoot to dhan sanchay Kaahe ko, Poot kapoot to dhan sanchay kaahe ko (What is the need to amass wealth when your child is capable and why amass wealth when a child who is good-for-nothing).
This old saying seems to hold true for the Congress vice president, Rahul Gandhi, who’s on course or may already have squandered everything that his ancestors have earned through their tireless work and multiple sacrifices.
The only time I met junior Gandhi was when he had just entered electoral politics in 2004 and was busy campaigning in Amethi, his late father Rajiv Gandhi’s constituency. My first impression about him after a short interview was that while he lacked the charisma of his father and grandmother, Indira Gandhi, he looked determined to fly the flag for the Congress party towards a bright future.
Twelve years on, Rahul Gandhi has turned out to be an utter disaster causing irreparable damage to India’s oldest party. From his flash in the pan politics early on to his failure to capitalise on political opportunities, Rahul Gandhi has gone on to become a classic case study of how not to be a leader.
After having spectacularly blown away the Congress’ chances of a win in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Rahul has done very little to redeem himself. Ok, he has now done away with his shoot and scoot politics that formed an integral part of his personality in the past. For a change, he’s now taking a stand and has shown several instances of aggression on issues that have impacted the population at large.
But, his protest has always hit a dead-end, thereby failing to cause any significant dent to his rival, that is the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The demonetisation move by Modi was a God-sent opportunity for BJP’s rivals. As the leader (he’s the face of Congress even though his official designation remains that of vice-president) of India’s biggest opposition party, Rahul has once again failed to grab the opportunity to extract the much-needed electoral advantage.
Once again, he has chosen to spend his energy more on rehearsing and delivering lines from Hollywood films (read my lips et al) and absolutely none on the delivery of a meaningful political strategy out of what’s now come to be known as Modi’s ‘demonetisation disaster’.
A case in example of a missed opportunity, to put it mildly.
Consider this! The opposition parties in a rare show of unity against the governments demonitisation debacle seek to meet the President. It can only take a Rahul Gandhi to ditch his compatriots in favour of a meeting with the prime Minister related to an issue which is far removed from that of demonitisation.
Only few days day ago the Congress VP was threatening to ’cause an earthquake’ with his so-called explosive revelation on the prime minister’s personal corruption.
Rahul meeting Modi on the day the united opposition was scheduled to apprise President Pranab Mukherjee about hardships felt by people across the country was a stupid idea. Period! Even though several spin doctors are now making desperate attempts to blame the inner tussle between Rahul’s young advisors and Sonia’s old confidantes for the move.
And this ill-advised decision hasn’t come in isolation. Thanks to his bright advisors coupled with his own sense of entitlement, the junior Gandhi has pretty much single-handedly blown away every opportunity that came his way since 26 May 2016. Vyapam, Vasundhara Raje, Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya, Petrol/Diesel price hikes, Sahara/Birla diary and most crucially demonetisation to name a few.
On almost all bar the issue of note ban, Rahul’s anger appears to have been either confined to social media outrage followed by a trending hashtag or sexy one-liners borrowed from some action flick.
The demonetisation has been a spectacular own goal by Modi. Testament to this is how even BJP lawmakers have been reacting in private. An overwhelming majority of the BJP’s national office-bearers on Thursday bluntly told the party president, Amit Shah, that the decision to ban Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 had simply backfired. An internal survey by the RSS made similar assertion warning that the demonetisation can potentially harm the party’s prospects in next year’s assembly polls.
As an opposition leader, Rahul ought to have caused grief to the ruling party, but he isn’t doing that. Two leaders who have been evidently making hay while the sun shines are, in fact, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Bengal counterpart, Mamata Banerjee.
These two leaders, known for their fire-brand politics and their image as rabble-rousers, have been able to successfully wake up the passive Indian population from their slumber. Had it not been for Mamata and Kejriwal, the issue of demonetisation too would have gone into oblivion, dying a premature death. Just what happened to the series of other scams under this regime.
I wouldn’t be surprised if between Mamata and Kejriwal, one seriously positions herself/himself as a potential prime ministerial candidate for 2019. Both of them have vowed to take the issue to the masses with the intention to highlight the ‘demon’ hidden in Modi’s demonetisation announcement.
Mamata has already warned not to rest until she’s dethroned Modi from 7 RCR- the prime minister’s official residence. Having followed Mamata’s politics from close quarters in Kolkata in the nineties, I know only too well just how foolish it will be to take her threats lightly. Who would have thought that this aam aurat Kalighat, left in a lurch by her former party, the Congress, would one day bring down the Left Front government all by herself.
Kejriwal is no less a maverick when it comes to whipping up a narrative both on social media and on the ground. Relatively new in politics, the Delhi chief minister has already appeared to have grasped the know-how of a successful politician.
Modi is a master orator, great at outsmarting his opposition with skillful strategies and headline grabbing exercises. Not only did he successfully use these qualities to win a historic mandate in 2014, they’ve also worked well during his current tenure all throughout.
One can’t blame Modi for dreaming about a possible second term despite his disastrous policies and poor governance, for he has simply brought India’s largest opposition, the Congress party, to ruins. However, three politicians that even Modi is frightened of are Lalu Yadav, Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee. The good news for Modi is that Lalu, after dealing a crushing blow to BJP in Bihar elections, has somewhat mellowed down.
But the bad news is that Mamata hasn’t, even after annihilating the BJP in this year’s Bengal polls. She has now decided to spoil the BJP’s party outside Bengal with a single-minded approach to bring the Modi government down. With Kejriwal on Mamata’s side, Modi has everything to worry about.
But with Modi, one more person, who ought to be having sleepless nights is Congress in general and Rahul Gandhi in particular. While the Congress VP continues to indulge himself with the sense of entitlement, more able politicians have already filled the space for credible opposition in the country.
The only chance of revival for Congress is to let Rahul focus on things he likes other than politics and bring in a new face to lead the party. Priyanka will be a game-changer but there are enough other capable faces withing the party who can bring about the change in fortune for the grand old party of India.