Rahul’s Political Thriller

Party leaders feel that what they need most at this juncture is the awe, aura and authority of the Nehru-Gandhi family rather than experience

Rahul Gandhi is working at it as if he were acting out a political thriller. Everyone is sure one day he must – and he will – but no one knows when! Congressmen are concerned that it may be too late by the time he does; the oppositionwallahs are happy that the longer he dithers, the better for them. Others are wondering whether he is being timid or canny, or whether he will seize everything in one go or act out his destined role in stages. Old Delhi hands are calling up parallels from the past to refresh each other’s memories. How long did Nehru hesitate to take over the Congress and how long did Indira Gandhi or Rajiv, for that matter? None of them rushed in to sort out the mess in the Congress, the government or the country just like that. They all bided their time, waiting in the wings, until they found the moment opportune or when they were left with no option but to seize what in their times everybody believed was rightfully theirs. Each one of them faced a vastly different situation but one thing was common: they cogitated, almost agonised themselves for long, before taking the plunge into the larger volcanic political world of their days.

Journalists on the political beat say that the Congress leaders who have met and urged Rahul in recent months to take over command of the party and the government have often failed to give satisfactory answers to his searching questions. He has, for instance, asked them as to what they think he should do in the current situation once he is in command. None of them have been able to give him a post-takeover gameplan. There is talk in some Congress circles that he has agreed to be the party working president in a sort of dyarchy with his mother. Others say that he has not and that he fears that a mother-son duo in command of the largest national party may not go down very well with the voters at large. There are still others who feel that his taking over as working president alone may not be enough because the real mess is not in the party organisation but in the government. Such party leaders feel that what the coalition government needs most at this juncture is the awe, aura and authority of the Nehru-Gandhi family rather than experience in running ministries.

These are men of experience who are saying this. They say that what is needed at the moment is impulse and not skill. They feel the performance of the government is not as poor as its credibility. Even performance will improve with someone like Rahul, if he can give it some credibility. So, what they expect Rahul to bring to the table is authority, credibility and youthfulness. He has all that in him and more, perhaps, of which his party men may not be aware. He can do well enough in the given circumstances, if he is just astute and able to send right impulses from the top down all the way to the last bureaucrat. He has already shown some astuteness, which should improve with time and practice. He exhibited enough astuteness, for instance, by refusing to be drawn into a wrangle with Anna and Ramdev. He must have seen that however large the two of them may seem, they are nevertheless mere political apparitions he should not agree to wrestle with.

Some people from outside his political circles say that Rahul has little time left to mend the wrongs of the past three years or to cohere the cantankerous coalition that goes by the name of UPA-2, and that he should, therefore, stay outside the government at this stage. As there is little scope left for setting the rickety economy right, he should not attempt much in this sphere but should somehow make the right noises as working president of the party and wield his authority within the organisation where he faces hardly any challenges.

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