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26 November, 2017 12:31:33 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 26 November, 2017 12:43:23 AM

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From mother to son

Rahul is drawing huge crowds wherever he goes. The turn-out at his public meetings in Gujarat is huge and people flock to listen to him
Kumkum Chadha
From mother to son

Going by Rock Hudson starrer way back in the sixties, it should ideally have been Come September for the Congress party in India; going further if one were to steal a little bit of the lyric from the theme song, “Everything wrong gonna be alright….  But then neither are we rewinding to the sixties nor are we in a song or dance sequence.

And more importantly, the Congress party is no film or its protagonists Rock Hudson or Gina Lollobrigida, the other lead actor of the legendary film. They are players in their own right but not of the genre of world class artistes or talented performers. In the present context what would, however, resonate with the beleaguered but grand old party is a wish of everything wrong gonna be alright…But first things first. As the world stepped into the last fortnight of November, the Congress announced the schedule for the election of the new President of the party.
Currently its President is Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi’s widow who came out of oblivion some seven years after her husband was assassinated. She has held the reins of the party since 1998 after it was somewhat orphaned after two successive assassinations namely her mother in law Indira Gandhi and her husband Rajiv Gandhi a few years later.
Come December and the poll notification will be issued on its first day followed by nominations till December 4. Voting will be on December 16 and the results three days later i.e. December 19.

But the crucial date is December 5 when the scrutiny process will be over because that will decide if there will be a contest or whether the President will be elected unopposed.

For those familiar with the Congress functioning and its overriding culture of sycophancy, the poll schedule is a formality and one done to merely follow a norm, dubbed by critics as an “eye wash”.

In the recent past, there has never been a challenge to the Presidential candidate. Yes, there have been some exceptions: some 17 years ago Congress leader Jitendra Prasada threw his hat in the ring and filed his nomination against Sonia Gandhi in a contest that was a walkover for Sonia Gandhi.

Congress scion Rahul Gandhi is unlikely to face a contest.  He would be “elected” President to succeed his mother who has been the longest serving Congress President.

Sonia Gandhi was elected President in 1998. Rahul was elected General Secretary in 2007 and some six years later elevated to the Vice President’s post within the Congress.  

The demand for Rahul’s elevation is neither recent nor new. A section of Congressmen has been very vocal about the baton passing from Sonia to Rahul Gandhi. This is despite the fact that Rahul has been calling the shots and his mother had voluntarily taken a back seat to help Rahul occupy centre-stage.

Therefore, Rahul’s coronation is a certainty and he would firmly be in the saddle before the year is out. However, whether the new President or the New Year will usher in good news for the fledgling fortunes of the Congress Party remains to be seen.

 However, the question that stares one in the face is that while the change is a certainty, is it also a necessity? Isn’t Sonia Gandhi a better and safer bet?

One factor ofcourse is Sonia Gandhi’s failing health. That she has been in and out of hospital is well known and this has been a matter of concern both for the family, her loyalists and Congressmen.

The second and more important is that she would like the political succession complete when her supremacy is unquestioned and partymen are willing to go along with what she decrees. As of now Sonia Gandhi remains the unchallenged Party Chief whose word is law. Nobody dare question her decision, irrespective of Rahul Gandhi’s  performance or non performance. As for him, it has, so far been a mixed bag with more misses than hits in his kitty. Electorally, the Congress has not done well in state elections and the BJP seems to be on a high, particularly after its UP polls sweep.

However recent months have shown an otherwise reluctant and reticent Rahul Gandhi come out on his own. His US tour, where he met with academics, journalists and NRIs, has gone down well and his speech at University of California, Berkley won him praise. Almost overnight from one who was ridiculed the moment he opened his mouth to suddenly being taken seriously has been a kind of a reinvent for the Gandhi scion. Therefore, this may be the best time for his coronation.

Rahul surely is in a combative mood and is taking on Modi who is battling policy controversies including the anger over implementation of the Goods and Services Tax or the GST.  What therefore may work for Rahul is that the perception has changed and instead of dismissing him as a fool, the people seem to view him with some seriousness. Given his track record that certainly is not bad for a start.

Rahul is drawing huge crowds wherever he goes. The turn out at his public meetings in Gujarat is huge and people flock to listen to him. In this lies hope for the Congress and a warning for the BJP given that Gujarat is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state and the forthcoming elections there are a test case both for Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. The BJP cannot afford a poor showing there and the Congress is desperate to make a dent in a state where the BJP has ruled for years.

Rahul has been campaigning vigorously in Gujarat. Interestingly, Congress’s organizational poll results are slated for December 19, a day after Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh poll results come in. Therefore, any outcome would have a direct bearing on Rahul Gandhi and his capacity to lead and win elections. As of now, the Congress is hell bent on giving Modi a tough fight in Gujarat.

But intent versus action and outcome are two different things. And this is where Rahul Gandhi challenge lies: on what and how much he can deliver.

The next year and the year after, are election heavy. In 2018, state elections are due, crucial being the states of  Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. 2019 marks the end of Modi’s five-year tenure and chances are that Rahul will be pitched against Modi as Prime Ministerial candidate. That in itself is a tall order.

Opposition unity is another issue that Rahul will need to look at and it is unlikely that veterans like Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati,  Karunanidhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav would be comfortable talking to a political novice like Rahul.  He has been thrown into the sea without even knowing how to swim properly in a pool.  

As for the electorate, the script would also need to be redrafted and differently worded.  A mere hit out is not enough to oust Modi. Congress needs to put forth an agenda for governance and what the Congress, if voted to power, will do for the people of India. More important than hammering what Modi government did not do, it is imperative to say what the Congress will do. The narrative must change from the negative to positive and affirmative action. Unless that happens, everything wrong goanna be alright…may remain a pipedream.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com)

SHK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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