For Rahul, proof of the pud­ding is win­ning elec­tions

For In­dia’s Congress party vice-pres­i­dent to suc­ceed in 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, he has first to as­cer­tain what went wrong in 2014

Gulf News - - Opinion - By Amulya Gan­guli Amulya Gan­guli is a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst.

One of the main take­aways from In­dia’s Congress party vice-pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi’s re­cent in­ter­ac­tion with stu­dents and the me­dia in the United States is the in­di­ca­tion that he has given about be­ing his party’s prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date in 2019 — if his party ap­proves.

It is pos­si­ble that the charge against him of be­ing a “re­luc­tant” politi­cian, which he ad­mit­ted, made him say that he is will­ing to play a more proac­tive role and be his party’s “face” in the next gen­eral elec­tions.

If any­thing, the dec­la­ra­tion of in­tent means that it will not be long be­fore he be­comes the Congress pres­i­dent. There is also the im­pli­ca­tion that he will be in­creas­ingly seen on pub­lic plat­forms, which was ear­lier promised by some of his party mem­bers, es­pe­cially at the time of his un­pre­pos­sess­ing tele­vi­sion in­ter­view in 2014, but never im­ple­mented.

For Rahul’s sup­port­ers, it was prob­a­bly just as well that he agreed to go to the US shortly after vis­it­ing Nor­way. The rea­son is that con­trary to the feel­ing that the Congress vi­cepres­i­dent was more in­ter­ested in trav­el­ling abroad than in politics at home, his ex­changes at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia in Berke­ley showed that he is ma­tur­ing as a politi­cian — even if slowly.

Two con­fes­sions un­der­line this point. One is on the pro­fu­sion of dy­nas­tic politics in In­dia even if he has been crit­i­cised for be­ing out of touch with as­pi­ra­tional In­dia. The other is the ad­mis­sion that the Congress’ “ar­ro­gance” made it lose con­tact with the peo­ple a decade after com­ing to power in 2004.

As for the chil­dren of politi­cians fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of their fathers, he said that there are any num­ber of such in­stances in In­dia. It isn’t only the Nehru-Gand­his who are guilty of this prac­tice, but also the Ab­dul­lahs in Kash­mir, the Badals in Pun­jab, the Karunanid­his in Tamil Nadu and the Mu­layam Singh Ya­davs and Lalu Prasads in Ut­tar Pradesh and Bi­har, re­spec­tively. Then, there is Odisha Chief Min­is­ter Naveen Pat­naik, who is the son of a for­mer chief min­is­ter, Biju Pat­naik; Union min­is­ter Jayant Sinha, who is the son of a for­mer fed­eral min­is­ter, Yash­want Sinha; BJP mem­ber of par­lia­ment Anurag Thakur, who is the son of a for­mer Hi­machal Pradesh chief min­is­ter, Prem Ku­mar Dhu­mal; Ut­tar Pradesh leg­is­la­tor Pankaj Singh, who is the son of Union Home Min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh and so on.

It is now up to Rahul Gandhi to prove or dis­prove Union min­is­ter Sm­riti Irani’s quip about be­ing a “failed dy­nast”, but he is right about dy­nas­ti­cism be­ing a fact of life in In­dia — in politics, in films, in the cor­po­rate sec­tor, in the le­gal pro­fes­sion — even if it is not some­thing to gloat about.

In Amer­ica, too, there are the Clin­tons and the Bushes, while ear­lier there were the Kennedys; and in Pak­istan, there are the Bhut­tos.

At­ti­tude is­sue

The proof of the pud­ding lies, of course, in the eat­ing, and in the case of dy­nasts, it is the win­ning of elec­tions that mat­ter. For Rahul to suc­ceed, he has first to as­cer­tain what went wrong with the Congress in 2014. If it was due to ar­ro­gance, as he has said, he has to find out whose haugh­ti­ness let the party down. Since Man­mo­han Singh is gen­er­ally not as­so­ci­ated with hau­teur, was it the at­ti­tude of Congress pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi, who has been called — per­haps un­fairly — the power be­hind the throne?

In any event, it is dif­fi­cult to be­lieve in the Congress be­ing con­ceited at a time when it was im­mersed in a plethora of scams that brought about its down­fall. So there must be some other ex­pla­na­tion for its de­cline and fall.

Although the Congress vice-pres­i­dent did talk about his party’s achieve­ment in lift­ing mil­lions out of poverty, he only spoke in gen­eral terms about how a growth rate of eight per cent over the next 10-15 years could lift 130 mil­lion out of poverty by 2030. In this con­text, it was pos­si­ble to get some idea about his hith­erto hazy eco­nomic ideas, for he said that the high growth rate should be pro­pelled by small and medium busi­nesses, which, ac­cord­ing to him, con­sti­tute the “bedrock” of the In­dian econ­omy, and not by “mas­sive fac­to­ries” as in China.

Ev­i­dently, his dis­like of the cor­po­rate czars, which he ex­pressed through his jibe about the present gov­ern­ment be­ing “suit-boot ki sarkar” (a gov­ern­ment all dressed up in fancy cloth­ing) re­mains un­changed. But what the pri­macy of the small and medium-scale in­dus­tries will mean is that In­dia will have to con­tinue to im­port planes, ships, sub­marines, how­itzers and the likes since th­ese can be built only in “mas­sive fac­to­ries”. His thumbs up to Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s ‘Make-in-In­dia’ ini­tia­tive is wel­come in this con­text, but the in­vestors may not be in­ter­ested only in small and medium en­ter­prises. Rahul’s eco­nomic out­look ev­i­dently needs to be brushed up.

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