Despite the transformation, it would be a Herculean task for Rahul Gandhi to rejuvenate the Congress which is on a rapid decline.
New Delhi: His rise was on expected lines. But for the new Congress chief, Mr Rahul Gandhi the battle starts now and it’s a difficult road ahead. Over the years, the BJP had ridiculed, mocked, jeered and had successfully managed to paint him as “Pappu” (the goof up man).” The media often regarded him as a “reluctant” politician, who preferred to spend time abroad. Even his party men did not take him seriously and wanted his sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to replace him.
What surprised all and even the BJP was Mr Gandhi’s transformation as he lead the campaign against the powerful BJP and it’s mascot, Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi in Gujarat.
For the first time, the new found politician, Mr Gandhi was holding his nerves, setting the agenda and none other than “invincible” Modi was responding to him. Mr Gandhi’s description of GST as “Gabbar Singh Tax,” attacking Mr Modi’s development plank saying, “Vikas gando theyo chhe (Vikas has gone crazy) had become a virtual anthem for the electorates during the elections. Whatever maybe the outcome of the Gujarat polls, Mr Gandhi seemed to have managed to rattle the BJP in Mr Modi’s home turf and the saffronites have finally began to take him seriously and not underestimate him.
Despite the transformation, it would be a Herculean task for Mr Gandhi to rejuvenate the Congress which is on a rapid decline. Mr Gandhi’s electoral record is nothing but pathetic. His gamble to join hands with Samajwadi Party chief, Akhilesh Yadav during the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls sunk both Congress and SP. Congress lost Uttarkhand and is set to lose Himachal Pradesh. A senior Congress functionary said that the main challenge for Mr Gandhi would be to galvanise the party and make himself credible to the electorates. The leader made it clear that at this juncture “there’s no comparison between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi as far as appeal to the voters go.” For him, “Modi is far ahead of Rahul Gandhi as a mass leader.” Besides being superior in oratorical skill, Mr Modi is viewed as a poor “chaiwalla” who rose to power on his own, while Mr Gandhi, a scion of Nehru dynasty was born into power and money.
Like his mother, Mr Gandhi has taken charge of the party when it is at it’s nadir. In 1998 (when Sonia Gandhi took over as Congress president), BJP was flavour of the nation. But in six years, Mrs Gandhi branded as a “foreigner” by the saffronites, gradually brought the Congress to the center stage of national politics and ousted the BJP in 2004. When Mrs Gandhi took charge in 1998 Congress was in power in just four states-Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Mizoram and Nagaland. At this juncture Congress is in power in five states-Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Mizoram and Meghlaya. Of these the party is set to lose Himachal Pradesh and could find difficult to retain Karnataka.
Mr Gandhi has been hinting of a complete overhaul of the Congress for some time now. However, sources revealed that the leader was not going to go for any drastic changes immediately and wait to put the house in order. As the nation approaches the 2019 general elections, internal dissension continues to plague the party in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala among other states. It has been pushed into oblivion in states like Odisha, Telengana and Andhra Pradesh.
Unlike Mrs Gandhi, the new Congress chief is also not have a great rapport with the RJD chief, Lalu Prasad Yadav and former SP president, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav. It remains to be seen, how the TMC supremo and the Congress ally reacts to Mr Gandhi in near future, a Congress functionary said.
Mrs Sonia Gandhi had “the ability to ally the Opposition. Rahul is yet to be tested on that front,” he added.
With nearly 15 months to go for 2019 polls, the Congress under Mr Rahul Gandhi would need to forge a front and round up allies to take on Narendra Modi. In Gujarat, Mr Gandhi did manage to connect with the young turks like Patidar community leader, Hardik Patel andk OBC leader, Jignesh Mevani. He is also close to Akhilesh Yadav (SP chief) and Tejaswi Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s son and former deputy chief minister, Bihar.