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Rahul does the magic, but will it last?

January 18, 2014 03:05 IST

Rahul does the magic, but will it last?

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Anita Katyal

'Rahul has a tendency to disappear.'

'That’s the problem with Rahul Gandhi... it’s a classic case of on-off.'

The Congress No 2 was the hero of Friday's party meet, but senior leaders have their share of doubts if his pace will sustain till the upcoming polls. 

Anita Katyal reports

“It was an aggressive speech and this was precisely the need of the hour,” remarked a visibly elated Congress delegate from Uttar Pradesh on hearing party Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s address at the All India Congress Committe meeting at the Talkatora Stadium on Friday.  

If the purpose of Rahul’s speech was to  enthuse Congress workers, who have been feeling dejected after the party’s dismal performance in the recent assembly elections, the Nehru-Gandhi scion succeeded and how!

Although the Congress VP's speech followed the same trajectory as his earlier addresses to party workers when he promised them a greater say and role in the organisation, his unusually combative and long speech on Friday had the delegates in raptures. “He raised issues which have been agitating the workers… they were looking for a reassurance from the leadership,” explained a senior Congress minister.    

The delegates cheered wildly and rushed to the dais to greet Rahul when he finished speaking. For a change, he  even managed to overshadow his mother, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who spoke after him (for the second time at the meet). There were few takers for her closing remarks as the electrified delegates were far too taken up by their 'yuva neta'.

“Workers who were earlier feeling discharged are now feeling recharged,” remarked Naresh Baghel from Chhattisgarh. This was the common refrain among the delegates who believed that Rahul had succeeded in sending out a clear message that they must prepare for the tough election ahead and that they should not lose courage or stop till the battle is won.

This upbeat mood was in sharp contrast to the gloomy atmosphere in the morning. Already downcast after the recent assembly polls, the delegates were obviously feeling cheated as they were expecting that Rahul would be named the party’s prime ministerial candidate at this meeting.




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Anita Katyal

The Congress working committee’s call on Thursday not to make any such announcement, which was followed by Sonia's categorical statement on Friday morning that this decision was final, further agitated the already restive delegates. The “Rahul for PM” chant continuously reverberated through the stadium periodically till their VP took the floor. Outside, delegates privately admitted that the purpose of the AICC meeting had been defeated since there was going to be no formal declaration on the party's PM nomination. 

However, the mood changed dramatically after they heard Rahul, who sounded the bugle for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections with a sharp attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, though he did not name him or the principal opposition party.

Taking a dig at Modi, the Congress No 2 remarked that the country cannot be run by one man. "Democracy cannot be ruled by dictatorship, it cannot be ruled by one man. It has to be run by elected representatives," he said, adding, “We don't respond by turning persons against one another or by igniting communal passions." He further lashed out at Modi for constantly declaring that he wants to see a “Congress-mukt” India.

The Congress, according to him, is not just a party but an ideology of brotherhood and social justice which is deeply embedded “in our hearts and minds”.   

Rahul’s critical statements about the BJP flowed from his remarks at the CWC meeting on Thursday where he underlined that the “Congress today faced the biggest ideological threat” and this had to countered strongly.

The delegates were equally enthused with Rahul’s promise to democratise the party, empower the workers and ensure a better deal for them. "I want that the common people should be able to walk into the political system. We need to ensure they can come into politics at ease. Packaging in politics is replacing passion," he declared before a cheering crowd.

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Clearly, the biggest challenge before the party is to propagate the United Progressive Alliance government’s achievements, as Rahul and other speakers including Sonia and Union ministers Ghulam Ali Azad and P Chidambaram, lamented that they had not been able to communicate these effectively to the people. “Unlike the opposition, we are very poor at marketing,” they all rued even as they urged delegates to spread this message across the nation.

While there was all-round acknowledgement that Rahul had managed to enthuse the despondent workers, there were also lurking doubts about his ability to sustain this pace till the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress VP is not known for his consistency and is often described as a “hit-and-run” politician.

“That’s the problem with Rahul Gandhi… it’s a classic case of on-off,” a  senior Congress leader told rediff.com, adding that now that he has set out on this path, he should demonstrate leadership by staying in power. For instance, he had declared after the party’s defeat in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in 2012 that he would not abandon the state or its people. However, he was barely seen subsequently.

In fact, one of the biggest complaints about Rahul has been his inability to focus on an issue and follow it through till the logical end. Congress workers have often pointed out that the party’s image and their morale has taken beating because Rahul has been inaccessible and uncommunicative. 

“Workers find it difficult to meet him.. he has this tendency to disappear. It is critical that he is seen and heard continuously in different parts of the country especially now that we are heading into a tough election,” another senior Congress leader told rediff.com

For the moment, however, party workers were willing to overlook his earlier transgressions as he held out the promise of a new dawn in the party. "The party workers have the first right of contesting elections on a party ticket. We want to give priority to our workers. When I visit our party offices, workers tell me that despite our government in power, no one listens to us. We will change this system,” he assured the cheering workers.



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