The Congress will be wary of wheeling out Rahul Gandhi, when in all likelihood the Bharatiya Janata Party would field Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as one of its principal campaigners in the next general elections. Modi's image as a doer, a forceful orator, a great catalyst for the faster industrialisation of Gujarat beats the blankness of Rahul's CV, says Virendra Kapoor.
Only a dimwit would be fooled about the real objective of the Congress party's Jaipur Chintan Shivir. The entire charade was enacted to serenade the Congress's not-so-young prince. All else was peripheral to the exercise.
Mani Shankar Aiyar, who otherwise marks himself out to be quite different from the four-anna Congressmen, did not see anything wrong in beseeching Rahul to take his 'rightful place' at the head of the party.
Another Oxbridge-type -- Minister of External Affairs Salman Khursheed -- did not want to be left behind, proclaiming that Rahul was his leader too. How aside from the fact of his birth in the Gandhi family was he qualified to lead the Grand Old Party with a glorious tradition was not explained.
The unsaid reason for such demeaning flattery of someone who had so far failed to distinguish himself in any field of human activity was that the entire sycophantic lot felt that he could still be a vote-getter.
Rahul's record proves that he is no vote-catcher
However, Rahul's record in several state elections duly proved that he was no vote-catcher. Maybe the other reason which made seemingly intelligent Congressmen such as Aiyar behave like unthinking supplicants was that they believed that only a member of the Gandhi family could hold the party together.
Whatever the reason, the orchestrated show in Jaipur was meant to sanctify the fait accompli of the Gandhi scion taking over the reins of the family-owned firm from his mother. That limited goal overshadowed any 'chintan' the party leaders might have done about the grave social, political and economic ills confronting the country.
Against the backdrop of the recent public outrage over the gang-rape of a Delhi girl, and Modi's harnessing of the urban youth to foster a vibrant Gujarat, party president Sonia Gandhi in her scripted speech paid homage to the urban middle-class, noting that its concerns could no longer be neglected.
Belatedly, the Congress had woken up to the fact that the urban and semi-urban middle-class now constitute nearly a third of the electorate. Not long ago, the Congress party had treated this section of the electorate with utter disdain, believing that either it did not vote or, if it did, it voted for the non-Congress parties.
Singh is a liability due to his do-nothing approach
Traditionally, the party had relied on the illiterate and economically backward masses for winning elections. The change in demographics and the faster rate of urbanisation, particularly post-liberalisation, have forced a rethink in the Congress party.
Notably, the 2009 Lok Sabha poll was unusual in the sense that for the first time the Congress had pipped the BJP in a large number of urban constituencies, a feat credited to the sober and un-Congress-like appeal of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
With Singh having become a liability due to his do-nothing approach towards governance even as his ministerial colleagues allegedly loot the national treasury, the Congress fears a wipe-out in the urban areas in the coming polls. The prolonged protests triggered by the gang-rape in Delhi seemed to have jolted it out of its complacency.
But by merely saying that the urban middle class was fed up with corruption scams and that the 'aam-aadmi' faced corruption in his dealings with the government at every level, Sonia was following a well-worn formula.
Even though she was the final arbiter of the Congress-led governments at the Centre and in the states, the old ploy to distance the Gandhis from the negative fall-out was meant to insulate them from any blame the people might heap on them.
Modi's image beats the blankness of Rahul's CV
Again, thanks to the deepening of the democratic process and the growth of the mass media, political literacy has grown tremendously in recent years. It was no longer possible to credit the Gandhis for anything good the government might do, and blame all others but them for its failures. People were no longer so gullible.
Shorn of the gloss, the Chintan Shivir also reflected the growing concern about the dipping popularity graph of the party in a year when it is set to face elections in as many as nine states and one Union territory.
And next year there will be the big one, the Lok Sabha poll. Given its terrible record in governance, it is natural for the Congress to be mighty concerned about its prospects, regardless of the unsettled leadership issue in the BJP.
The Congress will also feel wary wheeling out Rahul, when in all likelihood the BJP would field Modi as one of its principal campaigners. For, no two politicians could be more unlike each other.
The only thing going for Rahul is his birth in the 'Family'; in the case of Modi that is the least important part of his CV. His image as a doer, a forceful orator, a great catalyst for the faster industrialisation of Gujarat beats the blankness of Rahul's CV.
The Congress is now like a business enterprise
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
This must worry all those sycophants, including that rabid Shiv Sainik-turned-rabid-Congressman Sanjay Nirupam. The 'Chintan Shivir', in the final analysis, was all about the party's 'chinta' about its sinking public stock. One fails to see how it can be boosted given the formalisation of the Rahul's status as the number two.
He cannot clear the huge mess on the economic front. Nor can he wipe out the taint of humongous corruption on the forehead of the United Progressive Alliance.
Poor Rahul is like the reluctant bridegroom who must go through the motions of marriage because the 'baraatis' are determined to have a feast. Substitute 'baraatis' for Congressmen and you get an idea of the decline and fall of the Grand Old Party from its halcyon days when it was a genuine vehicle for social and economic change.
It is now a business enterprise meant to keep its members in a clover, mostly at the cost of the 'aam-aadmi'.
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