Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018 | Last Update : 09:34 AM IST
There is no question that Mr Gandhi is a dynast, and the issue of family connections does loom large in the Congress.
We have to wait and see whether Rahul Gandhi’s evolutionary progress to Congress president, which became self-evident on Monday with no other Congress leader throwing his hat into the ring, marks a change of guard or a change of era. Coming on the back of a Lok Sabha defeat and a string of setbacks in Assembly polls in the past three years, Mr Gandhi and the party he leads will need to pray for paradigm change — something which goes beyond the difficulties of generational change.
Leading the main Opposition platform, but one which is only just ahead of the other Opposition parties in influence, can be a daunting responsibility when the focus is on winning the next Lok Sabha election. No other past Congress leader has been faced with such a challenge.
Mr Gandhi cannot afford to be deflected by even an outright defeat in the coming Gujarat election, although a win or a near-win will be a big boost for the Congress and its new chief since misfiring in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah would bring the BJP under enormous pressure.
The reason why the new Congress leader must carry on with a straight face regardless of the Gujarat result is that he has to ready a flaccid organisation for over half a dozen state polls in the next year or so. The new Congress president must hit the deck running.
Mr Gandhi hasn’t put all his years in politics to good use. Given his energy and familiarity with a wide range of issues, as those who know him attest, he could have made a mark in Parliament. He didn’t. Besides, his hard work in the organisation hasn’t had much effect on poll results generally because he entered the picture when, for socio-political reasons, the Congress had hit the downward trajectory. There was little chance of anyone else doing much better.
But of late, Rahul Gandhi is looking transformed and is giving the BJP top brass nightmares, eliciting from them a campaign of personal attacks and vicious communalised politics in Gujarat. He needs to build on his skills. Any story of a frontline general in politics must begin with easy accessibility, greater faith in local organisational talents rather than subjective personal preferences, and eschewing a priori assumptions and premises.
There is no question that Mr Gandhi is a dynast, and the issue of family connections does loom large in the Congress. But this problem has not left the BJP untouched either. It should be remembered, however, that no Nehru-Gandhi has succeeded another as Congress president before. But that doesn’t make Rahul Gandhi’s elevation politically unethical, although his opponents will mock him in hopes of electoral mileage.