In spite of his trying hard he is unable to connect not only with ordinary voters but with most party colleagues as well, observes Virendra Kapoor.
By insisting on playing the de facto boss, Rahul Gandhi not only damages the chances of revival of the Grand Old Party, but, what is more, he hurts the emergence of broader Opposition unity required to take on the formidable challenge of Narendra Modi.
Before the last round of elections, and after the Group of 23 had expressed their deepening concern about the drift and disarray in the party, Rahul and his coterie of novices had banked on the outcome in Assam, Kerala and West Bengal.
The party drew a blank in Bengal and despite controversially tying up with Badruddin Ajmal's All India United Democratic Front in Assam failed to wrest power from the BJP.
The biggest jolt was in Kerala where against the established trend it failed to oust the Left Front Government.
But neither introspection nor any corrective action followed the blow to the Rahul Congress.
Remember he is a Lok Sabha member from Kerala.
Remember too that the BJP is still a negligible presence in the state.
No less humiliating was the fact that Adhir Ranjan Choudhry, the Gandhis' handpicked man to head the Congress in the Lok Sabha, did not notch up a win for the party in even one of the seven assembly seats in his Behrampur constituency.
All said and done, the Congress's spectacular failure in the last round of assembly elections resulted in changing little in the party's functioning.
To paraphrase an old saying, the more the Congress fails, the more it remains the same.
After he resigned as party president following the humiliating loss in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and mother Sonia Gandhi stepped forward as interim head, despite repeated pleas, including by the G-23, nothing tangible has changed in the way the party is run.
The Gandhi troika continues to rule roast unchallenged and unbothered about the fast declining fortunes of the once almighty Congress.
Now we are told the party is concentrating on the coming assembly polls and all talk of leadership change must cease forthwith.
Of course, it is crucial for the Congress to retain Punjab, though by all accounts the Gandhi siblings have mishandled the party affairs so thoroughly that what had earlier looked like a certain return to power has now become iffy.
Their handpicked man to head the Punjab Congress now threatens to be the cause of the party's undoing, given the way he undermines the first Dalit chief minister of the state.
If truth be told, Navjot Singh Sidhu's my-way-or-highway approach makes him unfit for any leadership role.
Such poor judgement of character reflects badly on Sidhu's patrons who in a most haphazard manner removed the well-regarded Amarinder Singh from the chief minister's post and virtually forced him to wreak revenge by his aligning with the BJP and the rebel Akali Dal of Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.
Whether or not the former chief minister wins, though he is assured of the RSS-BJP vote in urban and semi-urban areas, he will work against the Congress party.
In UP, despite Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's frequent visits, and her catchy call to women -- 'ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon' -- chances of the Congress faring well remain nil.
It just doesn't have the wherewithal needed to fight elections at the ground level in the country's biggest state which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
Add the other big Hindi belt state -- Bihar -- to the list where the party has virtually vanished and you have the Congress's cup of woes runneth over.
Even winning Uttarakhand despite the BJP changing three chief ministers in a matter of a few short weeks may not be easy for the Congress.
The key factor which continues to hobble the Congress revival is Rahul Gandhi himself.
In spite of his trying hard he is unable to connect not only with ordinary voters, but with most party colleagues as well.
Aside from his inner coterie of newbie politicians, access to Rahul is strictly monitored.
For senior leaders to meet him entails passing through multiple filters.
As for state-level leaders, despite repeated supplications it is hard for them to get a darshan of the Chosen One controlling the destiny of the 136-year-old party.
So flawed is his approach, and so determined is he to heed his own counsel, that at the recent meeting in Jaipur where the theme selected was to emphasise the growing misery of common man due to runaway inflation the Great Leader chose to lecture on the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva.
Instead of 'mehangi daal roti', the Gandhi scion harangued on his being a Hindu but not a Hindutvawadi.
Predictably, the inflation plank went for a toss as the news headlines highlighted Rahul's thesis on his and the BJP's Hinduism.
Meanwhile, the BJP continues to have a field day targeting the Gandhi dynast while barely noticing the virulent opposition of Mamata Banerjee and others.
As any marketer would tell you, a brand once rejected is hard to sell.
Rahul Gandhi is one such tainted brand.
Small wonder the professional election market strategist preferred to work for Mamata Banerjee, rejecting the invitation from Priyanka Gandhi to put life back in the moribund Congress.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com