Rahul will do well to speak out more
When the UPA is up against 10 years of anti-incumbency, and this is compounded by prolonged neglect on the price front, questions relating to corruption, and the desertion of political allies over time, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi makes the assertion that he was “reasonably confident” that his party would win the Lok Sabha election.
Many may be surprised by this as this is the first time anyone on the government side has made bold to be so categorical.
The ruling party had held its silence for something like six months when its principal adversary, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, the BJP’s candidate for prime minister, in a strong pitch to be seen as a “strong” leader, had been baiting the Congress and predicting that the Lok Sabha poll would be the party’s Waterloo. For this reason in particular it is a pity that Mr Gandhi’s clear-cut response in a lengthy television interview on Monday was not elaborated.
Purely from the point of view of ordinary people who would be voting for Parliament in a little over a hundred days, it would have been fascinating to get the Congress leader’s understanding of the political and electoral landscape if he had been interrogated on the reasons he thought he was going to win.
It is a good thing, however, that media are now seeking to interview the man who is leading the Congress into the election battle and that he is prepared to face questions one on one. For much too long has Mr Gandhi remained “offline”.
His views on complex issues need to be known so that people may make an informed choice about him and his party. Seen from this standpoint, the Congress leader needs to be more specific about how he wants to transform India into the world’s leading manufacturing hub, or create conditions for young people — whom he sees as full of energy but possessing little political opportunity — to break the glass ceiling in political parties and enter the frame themselves, beholden to no one. Mr Gandhi, while speaking of a long-term overhaul of the system, also underlines women’s empowerment (or India will only be “half a superpower”), but again appears short on specifics. He must know that being passionate about vital questions is not adequate.
It appears the Congress leader is content to find alibis for not speaking up earlier on questions like 2G, Coalgate, or persistent inflation, by proposing that he had expressed himself clearly on these matters to the PM. Evidently, the thought of being an active agent of change — even in the short run — has come to him late. But he answered questions fairly, although not always directly. Other PM hopefuls have not even been posed questions.