Eastern Eye (UK)
Why Rahul may not fulfil family destiny
BEING born into India’s most famous political dynasty is traditionally seen as a guaranteed ticket to the prime minister’s office, but Rahul Gandhi’s chances of fulfilling that destiny now look smaller than ever.
The 52-year-old is the son, grandson and great-grandson of former Indian leaders. But his family legacy has not equipped him to compete against the electoral juggernaut of prime minister Narendra Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds a near-monopoly on power.
Modi has cast his opponent, dubbed an “empty suit” in leaked US embassy cables from 2005, as an out-of-touch princeling more interested in luxury and self-indulgence than fighting to helm the world’s biggest democracy.
Rahul was born in 1970 at a time when his grandmother Indira Gandhi – daughter of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru – was the country’s leader. He was enrolled at Harvard but dropped out after a year following his father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991. He later graduated from Rollins College, Florida, and in 1994 earned a master’s degree from Cambridge.
While in his 20s, he lived in London, as his mother Sonia, took charge of the Congress party. She worked to groom her son for top office, but by the time he was ready to lead, the political fortunes of the charismatic Modi and his BJP were on the rise.
Under Rahul, Congress suffered two landslide election defeats, with Modi openly mocking his privileged upbringing and comparing it to his own humble origins as “a son of the soil”.
Rahul stepped down as opposition leader in 2019 after the second loss and his mother also vacated the party presidency last year. But analysts say the family is still in de facto control of the party. And Rahul remains the most likely candidate to defeat Modi in next year’s election, even if experts think another BJP landslide is a near certainty.