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Tap Your Assets, Mr Gandhi!

Tap Your Assets, Mr Gandhi!

Rahul Gandhi took over as the Congress President a little over two months ago. However, there is no list of office-bearers even now. Gandhi needs to announce the list of new office-bearers of the party at least for the sake of technicality as the term of the old set of office-bearers have ended when Sonia Gandhi ceased to be party president.

Very few outsiders are aware of what is happening in the Congress but when the formal list of who would hold different posts in the central organisation of the Congress is not released, it is reasonable to presume that there is some transition trouble in the party.

Gandhi’s takeover as the Congress chief was something that every party leader and worker had been demanding for several years. That he had no challengers for the post does not, however, mean that he can have his way in deciding everything in the party.

Is this something Gandhi has not understood or is not willing to accept? It would be natural for youth around him to aspire for plum positions, but he should realise that nobody does party work for charity. If the old guard has been ‘loyal’ to the Congress’ first family, it has been because they have benefitted from such loyalty.

While it’s easy to have loyalists for anyone who wields power, a discerning leader would look for a crop of talented and hardworking people with grassroots connect and ability to read people’s mind to build his/her team. Sycophancy will not be a criterion certainly.

Hopefully, Gandhi has not been carried away by the use of the ‘dynast’ word by media and the BJP. While the word is meant to run him down, he should know that he is just first among equals in the Congress leadership and has to share power with every rooted leader, even while seeking their cooperation in helping the younger lot to learn the games of power play.

With general elections just a year away, Gandhi has little time to get going. If he turns realistic, it’s only a matter of time before the Congress veterans would help him to fight his battle coherently against Narendra Modi-led BJP. At the moment, he may be a big hit on social media with the BJP and Narendra Modi’s follies highlighted day after day, but social media can only be an additional weapon to win the war in 2019. He needs the help and support of party veterans, whose self-interest, needless to say, comes before the nation or party.

Look, Who’s Helping Who!

If Rahul Gandhi’s ‘hesitant and impractical’ ways are a matter of concern for Congressmen and those who want a party with all-India presence to be presented as credible challenger to Narendra Moid-led BJP in 2019, the maximum help for the Congress seems to be coming from top leaders of the BJP.

Almost every pronouncement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has something that becomes an instant joke. To give recent examples, he told an audience in Davos that 600 crore Indians voted for BJP and he compared Congress Parliamentarian Renuka Chowdhary with Surpanaka for laughing at one of his claims in the Rajya Sabha.

While replying to the motion of thanks to the President’s address to the joint session of Parliament, Modi tried to pitch Sardar Patel against Jawaharlal Nehru, drawing historians to unanimously point to the fact that both were great leaders who worked as a team and had great love and vision for the country.

Modi’s attempts to run down Nehru is actually helping a generation that had remained ignorant of the greatness of modern India’s architect to have a better understanding of him through several contemporary debates and writings that have appeared to correct Modi’s disinformation.

There was a time when many members of the RSS used whisper campaigns to spread canards against Mahatma Gandhi. Having realised that it was ineffective, they have tried to co-opt him now. Patel, Ambedkar and all other icons too are what BJP would like to co-opt because it has no leader of standing that fought for India’s freedom movement. However, Modi’s attempts to ridicule Nehru seem to be a gift he has given to Nehru’s great grandson Rahul Gandhi .

Among several hundred retorts to Modi’s address in Parliament was one who ridiculed him on twitter saying, “I know you are not telling us how much money was deposited during Demonetisation and how much black money was unearthed because Sardar Patel could not become India's first PM instead of Nehru.

Modi is not alone. His party President Amit Shah has been going around exposing Modi unwittingly through remarks that have boomeranged on the BJP Government. Shah tried to justify Modi’s promise of ‘depositing Rs 15 lakh in every citizen’s account after seizing black money from abroad’ as a ‘Jumla’ (analogy). Ever since the explanation, ‘Jumla’ has become a byword for the Modi Government.

One lesson was not enough for Shah. He went on to defend Modi’s comment that ‘those selling pakoras (snacks) and earning Rs 200 a day cannot be classified as unemployed’. It may have been Modi’s desperate measure for self-reassurance. But after he pronounced it openly, it created a furore with the Opposition questioning the economic wisdom of such interpretation of gainful employment.

Shah, instead of trying to divert the attention from Modi’s faux pas, justified the remark by saying that selling pakoras was nothing shameful but only comparing it with begging was. What he may not have expected is questions from ordinary people if he would be willing to ask his own son to do the same.

It may not be far from the truth to say ‘Modi’s enemy is himself and Amit Shah’. Their aggressive defence of their party and Government seem to be backfiring regularly. So why is there still chance of Modi returning to power in 2019?

If Modi’s greatest enemy is himself, his greatest asset seems to be Rahul Gandhi. Fresh from taking over as party President, could he have not at least stood up to challenge Modi in the Lok Sabha when he alleged that Congress was responsible for the Partition of the country?

How much reflexes and guts does it take to ask Modi in the House if he was endorsing Advani’s clean chit to Jinnah? That would have been a good way to tell his partymen that he meant business. The Congress MPs would have ensured after such intervention that Modi ate his words. Unless it is a strategy to expose Modi, Gandhi’s silence in the House looked like an advertisement of his incompetence as a leader.

(abey.kay@gmail.com)

(Published on 12th February 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 07)