FROM THE EDITOR- IN- CHIEF
The emergence of a new political entity from the Nehru- Gandhi family is usually accompanied by sycophantic drum- beating and a metaphorical fireworks display of Olympic proportions, like Rajiv Gandhi’s induction in Bangalore ( INDIA TODAY issue titled ‘ Sycophancy Unleashed’ dated January 31, 1982). Son Rahul Gandhi, who joined politics more than nine years ago, for long seemed to wobble on the thin line between birthright and evolution— tilting alternately in either direction. For a Congress party desperate to crown its heir apparent, his personal ‘ discovery of India’ was delaying the inevitable beyond reason. The moment of transition was expected to come in January after the All India Congress Committee session in Jaipur, where he was named vice- president amidst slogans proclaiming him the pride of the nation. But Rahul’s continued unwillingness to lead reached a point where the discredited UPA Government threatened to rob him of his promised inheritance. On the other side of the spectrum, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi soared after every public rally, sweeping across India with his promise of development and his disarmingly witty critique of a paralytic Central leadership. Just when the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign headlines are being hogged by Modi, Rahul has decided to shed his reluctance, possibly changing the game, albeit in the most awkward of circumstances. As one wag described it, it’s as a chef saying he doesn’t like his own cooking.
His “nonsense” moment, at a time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in the United States, would have been an offence worthy of rebuke, perhaps even dismissal, for any other member of the party. But it became a clarion call. As Rahul sounded the gong, leaders, ministers, the Prime Minister, and even the core committee of which his mother Sonia was a part, had no choice but to fall in line. Five days later, the ordinance and the proposed bill protecting convicted politicians, which he had opposed, were junked unceremoniously by the same Cabinet that had passed it after deliberating twice before.
In one fell swoop, Rahul has shown he’s now in command of the Congress party, and that he isn’t averse to embarrassing Manmohan Singh and overruling his mother Sonia. This self- coronation has revitalised the party cadre coming on the back of his silent restructuring of the party. He has reshaped the youth wing along a rural empowerment model and he’s creating corporate departments such as communications and social media that he’s housed in American- style ‘ war rooms’ and splinter cells.
Our cover story, written by Deputy Editor Kunal Pradhan and Special Correspondent Kumar Anshuman, captures the impact of Rahul Gandhi’s assertion of power. The party’s senior leaders are worried about where they stand in the New Order even as junior colleagues embrace their new expanded roles. There is still a general sense of optimism because it means that Rahul’s plan for the party, and for India, has finally got a 2014 deadline.
He’s earned his spurs with his journeys into the rural heartland and his sleepovers with impoverished Dalit families. He has an instinct for what people want, which was reflected in his role in stifling the highly unpopular bill on convicted politicians. There is also an earnestness which helped his father Rajiv gain immense popularity. With his latest act of rebellion, Rahul has gone from a Leader Awaited to a Leader- in- Waiting. He has shown tremendous patience in rebuilding the Grand Old Party of his forefathers but can he distance himself from the disastrous UPA 2 misrule as he has clumsily attempted to do recently is the big question.
OUR SEPTEMBER 2005 COVER