Rahul Raj

India Today - - INSIDE -

The re­luc­tant prince fi­nally takes charge of the Grand ol’ Party. Can he pull the Congress out of the abyss it finds it­self in?

Will he, won’t he? Af­ter keep­ing the Congress as well as the coun­try guess­ing for the past 13 years, Rahul Gandhi fi­nally put that un­cer­tainty to rest on De­cem­ber 4. He will now be­come the sixth mem­ber of the Nehru-Gandhi fam­ily to take charge of the 132-year-old Grand Old Party of In­dia.

On pa­per, at least, the Nehru-Gandhi scion is well-placed to lead the party: at 47, he has in­terned un­der his mother, So­nia Gandhi, for 13 years, four years as No. 2 in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. So­nia her­self was a po­lit­i­cal novice when she be­came Congress pres­i­dent at 52; fa­ther Ra­jiv was younger at 41 when he was forced to take charge of the coun­try and the Congress af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion of his mother Indira Gandhi in 1984.

How­ever, Rahul in­her­its the Congress man­tle at a time when the party is plumb­ing the depths of po­lit­i­cal for­tunes. It has a mis­er­able 44 seats in the 543-mem­ber Lok Sabha, its vote share hav­ing plum­meted to a his­toric 19.5 per cent low in 2014. In the past three years, the Congress has faced de­feat or failed to make any im­pact in 15 as­sem­bly elec­tions, and in the process lost sev­eral of its strongholds such as Ma­ha­rash­tra, Haryana, As­sam and Ker­ala. Cur­rently, it is in power in just eight of In­dia’s 29 states, re­tain­ing a mere 766 seats in the 4,120 as­sem­bly con­stituen­cies across the coun­try. Congress-mukt Bharat has never seemed a more dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity.

Un­til re­cently, Rahul him­self had not done much to in­spire con­fi­dence. De­spite choos­ing the elec­toral route to the top post in the party, there is lit­tle he can do to shake off the tag of an en­ti­tled dy­nast, some­thing the BJP never misses a chance to bring up against him, whether it is party pres­i­dent Amit Shah call­ing him ‘she­hzada’ or Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi de­scrib­ing his cur­rent as­cen­sion as the be­gin­ning of ‘Au­rangzeb raj’. His sud­den, pro­longed ab­sences, string of public gaffes and in­de­ci­sive­ness have only helped the BJP’s so­cial me­dia ma­chine es­tab­lish him as a ‘Pappu’ in public per­cep­tion. He is ac­cused of be­ing in­con­sis­tent, and lack­ing any po­lit­i­cal or eco­nomic vi­sion, lead­ing Union AF­TER RE­SIST­ING IT FOR 13 YEARS,


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