Khurshid's comments on Rahul are BJP fodder
Minister Salman Khurshid's remarks Tuesday that a lack of
ideological direction plagued the Congress and that Rahul Gandhi
was performing only a cameo role triggered
The Congress' 2009 victory fostered the belief in the party of a
similar success five years later followed by Rahul Gandhi's
coronation as prime minister. Now, there is a shadow over both the
As much was clear from the disappointment voiced by Law Minister
Salman Khurshid - although he subsequently wanted the media to see
it in a positive light - about the heir apparent's failure to rise
above playing of "cameo roles".
These, according to the minister, included the young prince's
efforts to democratise the party. For others, his practice of
occasionally spending a night in a Dalit home falls in this
category. Since these forays were generally seen as a campaign
tactic, the cynics could regard them as exercises in slumming
which did not indicate an overpowering desire to experience the
lives of the underprivileged.
But what was odd about the minister's ruminations, which haven't
gone down well in a party whose feudal traditions preclude even
mild criticism of the lords and ladies of the zamindari-style
household, was his observation that Rahul was "undoubtedly and
unquestionably the No.2 leader in the party". Yet, considering
that he has only been playing "cameo roles", how has he acquired
the high status?
The answer, of course, is known. It is his lineage which has
enabled him to parachute down from the top to be No.2 with the
possibility of becoming the No.1 in the government and perhaps at
a later date in the party as well. But it is this biased
succession process at odds with Rahul's efforts to democratise the
party which partly explains the Congress's present "directionless"
condition, to quote the minister.
It goes without saying that if the top positions in a party are
not acquired on the basis of a person's political ideas,
organizational skills and popular appeal, the outfit can appear to
be lost. In Rahul's case, there is little doubt about the veracity
of the third factor, judging from the crowds which flock to his
meetings, unnerving his opponents, as was evident from Mayawati's
acerbic comments about him during the UP election campaign.
But it is also undeniable that the multitudes which he attracts
are drawn more by the still prevalent charms of the Nehru-Gandhi
dynasty than Rahul himself. He is, of course, seen as a
representative, but for the crowd he is only the means through
which the masses conceptualise a bond with the dynasty's stirring
historical record. But the emotional linkage does not seem to
extend to Rahul himself if only because he does not offer an
uplifting vision. Instead, he banks on platitudes. This is the
reason why the attendance at his meetings does not translate into
votes for the Congress.
Throughout the party's century-old history, its vision has been
its USP. The Congress was seen as the party capable of guiding
India from its colonial past to a future where its multi-cultural
ethos will find full fruition under a governance which reflected
the constitutional imperatives of the rule of law. As such, it was
against the encouragement of caste divisions and the branding of
minorities as aliens. When the people flock to Rahul's meetings,
it is this image of the Congress which they have in mind.
Unfortunately, this perception is not true of the party today.
Moreover, when Khurshid says that the party needs "an ideology to
be given by our next generation leader, Rahul Gandhi", he is
exposing the reason why the Congress is faltering. For, what he is
acknowledging is that the party does not have an ideology at the
moment. Nor is the reason for the vacuum a secret.
As is known, and the reason has already been identified by foreign
agencies and columnists at home, the Congress is torn between the
pro-market views of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the
socialistic outlook of the party president, Sonia Gandhi. Hence,
the lack of direction. For Rahul to give an ideology, he has to
choose between the two.
There have been signs that he largely agrees with the prime
minister. This partiality was apparent when he sided with Manmohan
Singh on the nuclear deal although Sonia Gandhi's reluctance was
evident when she said that the Leftists had a point in their
objections. That was the time when the prime minister nearly gave
up the hope of striking the deal, for he had said that the world
would not come to an end if it was not signed. The other occasion
when Rahul gave expression to pro-reform views was when he
extended support for foreign investment in the retail sector.
But such indications have been few and far between. In any event,
he has never given a coherent account of his economic thinking.
Unless he is more forthright, he will remain a guest artiste
playing cameo roles.
Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be
reached at email@example.com