The Gandhi family’s downfall has been, for lack of a better word, spectacular. It exercised complete control over the country for several long spells, the latest one being between 2004 and 2014. Perhaps no family in the world had such a profound impact on such a massive population. It is hard to think of any positive effect the family might have had on India, and their present situation is poetic justice for many. It has never looked so bad for the Gandhis in the last seventy years. People across the board are writing them off completely.
The latest salvo to hit them was a notice from a court seeking information. The Congress Party was always an amalgamation of yes-men revolving around the family. The party lent ninety crores from its coffers to a defunct newspaper so that it could service its debts. It is alleged that as a quid-pro-quo, the defunct newspaper was sold at a dirt cheap price to a company which was controlled by the family. What the newspaper did possess though, and it is now essentially in control of the family, is real estate around the country valued at close to two thousand crores. After several attempts were made to scuttle or delay the legal proceedings, the court has finally asked for documents pertaining to the money lent by the Congress Party to Associate Journals Limited, National Herald’s parent company.
Until these deals came to light, Rahul Gandhi was mostly absolved of corruption by the public at large. The Congress Party was commonly known to be corrupt, but the likely heir personally remained clean. The National Herald case altered this perception, for many believe the money trail leads directly to the Gandhi family. Rahul’s sister Priyanka too has quite an unfavourable image after certain real estate deals her husband Robert Vadra made came to light. People from the family have been accused of several misdeeds in the past, including graft. The difference this time is that unlike their forefathers, the current generation began donning such an image much before they were at the helm of affairs.
Many believe Rahul Gandhi is not cut out for politics. Almost every action, every speech and every interview of his have damaged the party and the family. The discourse around him outside television studios and newspaper columns is made up of jokes that portray him in a bad light or sensational stories about his personal life. The National Herald case propping up every now and then just keeps making matters worse.
No wonder the Congress Party keeps promising to promote Rahul Gandhi to the party’s presidency every few months, but stops short of delivering. The infamous two-month long sabbatical that Rahul Gandhi took is believed to have been part of the succession battle. But his attempt at a hostile takeover seems to have flopped. After their biggest defeat ever in 2014, the party has moved from one electoral failure to the next. It is on the back-foot because several of its members are being investigated for corruption, and new scams still stumble out of the closet. The ecosystem that it created very carefully around itself to advance its propaganda, made up of the media and the intelligentsia, is steadily losing credibility and influence. In a situation such as this, no party would want an indifferent, incapable and tainted leadership.
Controversies like the one brewing right now about Rahul Gandhi’s comments linking the RSS to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination further dent the party.
Those who took him to court over this statement have refused to settle the matter outside court, and seek nothing short of a public apology. If the case is taken to such a point, it would be a major loss of face for the Congress Party. Rahul Gandhi’s core team, especially those who control his Twitter account, have not helped the cause by reiterating the statement and standing by it. This is contrary to the position taken by him in court. With Sonia Gandhi being out of action due to ill-health, the party seems to be in complete disarray. Several different voices claiming to be the party’s voice have emerged regarding various issues. This is a trailer of what one might see if the Rahul-Priyanka generation were to ever take over the party.
The Congress is in shambles electorally, and at several other levels.
Apart from corruption, stories about mismanagement and manipulation by the Manmohan Singh government keep emerging at a steady pace.
How their ecosystem made up of the media and the intelligentsia functions has been for all to see, and so now this ecosystem isn’t taken seriously anymore. There is a vacuum of leadership, and at the same time a reluctance to allow the natural process of heredity to play out.
But despite all this, many believe that the only way the Congress Party can rise from the ashes is if the mother-son duo were put behind bars in the National Herald case.
Those who hate them are happy to see that the taint is visible afar, but wish that it doesn’t go beyond this so as not to create a sympathy wave for the family. But I for one would be surprised if the people of India took any pity on this family, whatever may be the consequences.