On May 16th last year, it became clear towards the afternoon that the Congress would not even reach the fifty seat mark. One of Times Now’s panellists analysing the elections made an interesting remark. If, in the place of the ‘Har Haat Tarakki’ slogan under Rahul Gandhi’s picture they’d have a ‘We’re sorry’ instead, the panellist believed they would have fared better. As stupid as the hypothesis might sound, as doomed as the situation was, it just might have been beneficial in the long run. After all, politics is a game of perception.
The Congress has been reduced today not simply to their bastions but to their ultra-bastions. One doesn’t have to do much to secure ultra-bastions. Whatever it is that keeps people loyal to one political outfit for decades, -whether it is an ideological leaning or charismatic local strongmen- these are equations that even phenomena like the Modi-wave don’t affect. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Congress seems to be reassured instead of being in a state of panic. Having only the ultra-bastions in your pocket is in fact one step away from insignificance.
A pan-Indian BJP is a fairly new phenomenon and still non-existent in terms of representation. The Congress is the only party which has had a pan-India presence, at some point at least. But their current tally of forty four seats is not just bad, it’s the worst. The going was never so tough, not after Bofors and not even after the emergency. It’s hard to believe that anti-incumbency and corruption scandals, most of them too technical for the common man, would warrant such a repercussion. After all it’s the same party that got us our independence, the same Gandhi family that has stood by every Indian through thick and thin, isn’t it? As stated earlier, politics is a game of perception. The Gandhi family and their cronies are no longer perceived as people decent at heart, who have fallen on the wrong track and need to be reprimanded through democratic means. They are perceived as crooks who have milked the nation and backstabbed its populace several times over.
Today, we see a continuation of the same brazenness which was on display when they ruled. The party is internally as undemocratic and as disconnected with the masses as ever. They appear to be using their position in the opposition keeping only self-interest in mind, just as they did when in government. They might stall parliament, create implementation paralysis (as opposed to UPA’s policy paralysis which is non-existent presently) and reap short term political benefits. But this would be like throwing bucketfuls of water out of a sinking ship, instead of jumping off.
For the better part of his political career, Rahul Gandhi was referred to by most as Pappu or Shehezada. Rahul Gandhi was elected to parliament in 2004, the same year a resurgent Congress returned to power. But India didn’t see much of him in the ten years of UPA rule. Apart from the famous Kalavati speech in parliament, he made short appearances here and there every now and then. Rahul Gandhi made statements, of which most were highly immature or plain stupid. Unsubstantiated stories of a Latina girlfriend and use of recreational drugs made the rounds. He seemed aloof and disinterested, as if he was being pushed into the family business against his wishes. When he tore up the infamous ordinance in front of television cameras – although it is completely possible that the entire episode was staged- he seemed like an outsider who looked down upon the clique of his mother’s corrupt sycophants. Many were surprised when Rahul Gandhi was not declared Congress’ prime ministerial candidate in 2014. But anyone following Indian politics closely knew Congress would never have the guts to do so. People didn’t care as much about Rahul’s reputation as the Congress’ misdemeanour. Congress would never allow a Gandhi to bear the brunt of something he wasn’t responsible for.
But they did project him as their leader. On expected lines, it turned out to be an additional liability. The Goswami interview confirmed our worst fears. We couldn’t afford for our country to be in such hands. But when the election results were announced and the Congress digested their destruction, Rahul Gandhi seemed ecstatic. Standing next to his mother as she addressed the media, he smiled away as if the entire exercise had been a joke. In the first year of the Modi government, he was in the news for his sabbatical. Rahul Gandhi disappeared one fine day in the pretext of introspection. But some mainstream media outlets speculated that there was in fact a power struggle brewing between mother and son. Rahul Gandhi thought it was unjust that he didn’t control the party but was blamed for all that was wrong with it. He allegedly refused to return to India unless he was offered the reigns and his mother’s sycophants were put in their place. He returned after fifty six days and got down to business.
There seems to be a clear compromise in his approach. Rahul Gandhi no longer lives in his fantasy world, he’s part of the club now. We cannot imagine him tearing up that ordinance in his current state of being. Instead, he seems to be cosying up to the sleazeball lawyers and satraps who make up the Indian National Congress. He would have side lined most of them a year back, and probably cooperated with the government on certain issues. But his rant against the Modi government, his ‘no discussion without resignation’ stance in parliament, doesn’t give him the luxury of remaining the quiet, weird outsider. Being the Pappu among these crooks today would have been the only hope for the Congress. But now, he’s just another crook leading the Congress to its doom.