FROM THE ED­I­TOR- IN- CHIEF

India Today - - INSIDE - ( Aroon Purie)

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

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