The humongous Himachal debacle was Rahul Gandhi’s 17th straight defeat. There has not been a single election in which he has singlehandedly led the Congress party to victory. The victory in Punjab was a complete captain’s show and the credit goes only to Captain Amarinder Singh, one of the few surviving regional satraps of the Congress party.
A track record such as this would have confined any other leader to the archives of political history, but not Rahul Gandhi who has hidden behind the protection offered by his lineage and continued to lead the congress party to defeat after defeat. In face he was made the Party President. Today the congress party has been reduced to the fringes of Indian politics solely because of Rahul’s lackadaisical approach and sheer lack of charisma. The only other major state (besides Punjab now) where the Congress is in power is Karnataka but that also looks like slipping into the hands of the BJP soon going by the present trends and the mood of the people of Karnataka.
Rahul’s brand of “shoot and scoot” politics, his penchant for taking long vacations in foreign locales, and his disappearing acts after every defeat are not the qualities of a leader who can succeed, leave alone survive in the hustle and bustle of Indian politics. He is also up against arguably the most popular leader ever, comparable to the heady days of “India is Indira” whose work ethic, political nous, oratorical skills, and people-connect is incomparable – Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi is a mismatch like no other. If the Congress continues with its suicidal policy of pitting Rahul against Narendra Modi then they must resign themselves to a long hiatus in the wilderness of Indian politics.
To contrast how leaders behave one needs to look no further than Akhilesh Yadav who got his fingers burned after allying with the Rahul Gandhi led Congress. He suffered a massive defeat in Uttar Pradesh but he addressed a press conference, accepted defeat graciously, refused to blame the Congress (though he was well within his rights to), and was there to console his party members and share in their collective defeat.
Rahul Gandhi at the time of the UP Election made his now patented disappearing act only to emerge after a few days to make the most inane comments, embarrassing himself and his party. After Gujarat and Himachal, he claimed Moral Victory.
I am reminded of a small news item dating back to the time of J. Jayalalitha’s death. While condoling her death, M.K. Stalin made a remark that captures the essence of what it means to be a politician of repute. To paraphrase what he said “We may have had our differences and we have been bitter rivals, but we are going to miss her fighting spirit and her never say die attitude. Who will we fight against now? Will we ever face an opponent of her caliber again?”
Measured against this, Rahul Gandhi fails miserably to live up to the most fundamental requirement of a politician. Why the Congress party is continuing to stick with Rahul is a mystery best known to the party or rather the coterie that has benefited the most from hanging on to the coat tails and aprons of the Nehru parivar members. However, if it is the fear of what might happen to the party in the absence of someone from the Nehru parivar leading it then it is a misplaced fear because sticking with a reluctant and clearly out of depth leader is doing greater harm to the grand old party. Young leaders with the credentials and the stomach for a fight are being neglected and it won’t be long before there is a revolt from within.
This has already started happening – Himanta Biswa Sarma who was humiliated by Rahul Gandhi made the switch to BJP and has already delivered two states to them – Assam and now Manipur where BJP had absolutely zero presence till recently. Milind Deora in Mumbai and Sandeep Dixit in Delhi have already expressed their reservations with regard to how the congress is being led and have called for introspection and change but the coterie is once again closing shop to protect the reluctant heir who will surely sound the death knell of the oldest political party of India.
Rahul Gandhi needs to listen to the right people who are telling him to go follow his dreams, whatever they be elsewhere, because he is simply not cutout for politics particularly of the Indian type that requires dedication, hard work, the stomach for a fight, and a never-say-die attitude all qualities anathema to Rahul Gandhi. He however chooses to listen to advisers like Digvijay Singh who is the one person Rahul must never listen to.
In conclusion, democracy cannot and must not function in a vacuum with one party having a free run. The nip and thrust of politics and democracy requires a credible opposition that can live up to its role of being a watchdog of democracy. It is for this reason if not for anything else that the Congress needs a dose of oxygen that can revive it and the revival for sure is not going to happen through Rahul Gandhi. Neither is it going to happen if the party waits for Rahul or his family to make that call because that call will never come because the family believes that the Congress is their personal company and they can do what they please with it.
What the country needs today is a Rahul-mukt Congress even more urgently than a Congress-mukt Bharat. And only Rahul can resurrect Congress by leaving it.