After assuming prime ministership, Deve Gowda couldn’t hold on to it for long. Eventually, his party couldn’t hold on to its home state of Karnataka. Today, even holding on to those districts which have been traditional strongholds is quite a struggle. Rahul Gandhi’s downfall will be similar, only much more pathetic at several levels. When he sought to become prime minister in 2014, his party delivered its worst performance in history. Now Rahul Gandhi is being considered as the chief ministerial candidate for Uttar Pradesh, which will be another major disaster. And in 2019, if Smriti Irani isn’t the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh already, she will hand him a crushing defeat in Amethi.
But let’s back up. Yes, Rahul Gandhi is actually being considered by the Congress Party for the chief ministerial candidacy in Uttar Pradesh. The party’s newly hired ‘master strategist’ Prashant Kishor put forward this proposal, arguing that they will have to project either one of the Gandhi siblings if they aspire to be serious contenders. Priyanka, according to sources, declined. Rahul Gandhi on the other hand has twelve years of political experience, and is a three-time member of parliament from Uttar Pradesh. The man who is credited with scripting Narendra Modi’s win in 2014 and Nitish Kumar’s win in 2015, has zeroed in on the Congress Party’s young turk to carry the mantle.
Congress leaders are up in arms about this proposal. Many of them have openly told the media that this demeans the heir-apparent. They have also stated that Kishor’s job is limited to manage the party’s campaign, and that no candidate selection of any sort is within the jurisdiction of the ‘master strategist’. But nonetheless, this proposal speaks volumes. It allows us to determine realistically the prowess of the ‘master strategist’ as well as the extent of damages India’s grand old party has undergone.
Two theories are making the rounds as to why Kishor shot off such a proposal. One group believes that Kishor is highly overrated. It is hard to deny that both Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar would have won their respective elections without Kishor anyway, so calling him ‘Mr. right place at the right time’ isn’t entirely misplaced. This group believes that Uttar Pradesh will be Kishor’s waterloo. After all, it isn’t very shrewd to choose a man who’s prone to gaffes, who has a tainted reputation, who’s citizenship is doubtful, and who is the butt of every joke in the country, as a chief ministerial candidate. So the first theory making the rounds is that we are getting to see the real Prashant Kishor, who is no master strategist.
The second theory is more interesting. This is what many in the Congress Party subscribe to as well. They think Kishor is hand-in-glove with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, and is trying to pull a fast one over the Congress Party. It is no secret that Nitish Kumar wants to lead an amalgamation of anti-Modi forces in 2019.
Rahul Gandhi might be an obstacle to his dream, and so they believe Kishor wants to sacrifice the Congress scion at Uttar Pradesh’s political altar.
The political demise of Rahul Gandhi will weaken the party substantially and leave it with no option but to support a Nitish-led front. After all, BJP dumped Kishor and the Congress has a reputation of mistreating those who work for it. Nitish Kumar has treated Kishor with respect, and the prospects of the ‘master strategist’ are brightest over there.
Whatever may be the real reason behind this proposal, the fact remains that Kishor made it and that such a thing isn’t considered to be preposterous any more. The Gandhi family, which is spoken of only in terms of prime ministership (or super prime minsitership) may now have to lower its standards and take the plunge at a state level. With a strong BJP led government at the centre and regional players dominating several states, this is what the grand old party has been reduced too.
Moreover, when it comes to Uttar Pradesh, the Congress can strategize as much as it wants to. The fact of the matter is that even if it performs extraordinarily, even if it were to double its tally in the state assembly, it will remain in the fourth position. Why choose such a state to project Rahul Gandhi and attempt a political resurrection which will never be? The answer is quite simple actually. In a fortnight, the Congress would have lost Kerala and Assam. Considering Siddaramaiah’s governance in Karnataka, re-incumbency is out of the question. The best bets for new Congress state governments lie in Uttarakhand or Puducherry. It makes more sense to ‘die trying’ in Uttar Pradesh.
Two years ago, the Gandhi family ruled India like their personal fiefdom. Today they are being wiped out, and fast. Hated across the country, and heavily tainted (National Herald, Agusta Westland, Emaar MGF, DLF-Vadra, British citizenship), their stature is diminishing by the day. Targeting the family isn’t taboo any more, as BJP made it clear by inducting Subramanian Swamy in the Rajya Sabha. And fighting a losing battle at the state level further points to how the tide has turned. The Uttar Pradesh elections will further damage the party, let’s wait and watch how much it damages the family.