I found some news analyst finding the ongoing chaos in India similar to what prevailed in France ahead of the famous revolution towards the end of the 18th century. This is a personal viewpoint and the writer may have his own logic. But for me, this situation is more akin to Emperor Nero's Rome further back in history.
What left India surprised in the last few days is that amid problems creating back-to-back challenges for the Congress government, there was no visibility of Rahul Gandhi in any capacity to address the burning issues. And Rahul and the Congress had said a month or so ago that the young Gandhi was about to assume a greater responsibility.
That Rahul was not found making his presence felt while Assam was burning, northeastern people were fleeing from southern and western parts of India, raises a big question: Is the 'Gandhi' factor beginning to wane and the Congress heading towards a fall? The age-old party will find a tough test of survival if indeed its central force, the Gandhis, have begun to decline.
Rahul, an indifferent leader?
The 'future prime minister', Rahul Gandhi, looks to be totally out of place in handling threatening realities. If he is indeed aspiring to play a 'larger role', then why did not he utilise such a big opportunity to prove his leadership mettle before the countrymen? Why it was the ageing Sonia Gandhi who was found running to the north-east and meeting local leaders and speaking to promote national unity?
This gave the critics a chance to speak about Sonia's activities as a super PM but had the younger Gandhi took the opportunity for all the hard work, things could have led to a different perception about Rahul, his party and the future leadership in the country. Even Rahul was seen visiting Assam following a boat tragedy in May but not when a bigger tragedy struck.
What was surprising that Rahul Gandhi even did not want to reply to LK Advani's controversial 'illegitimate remark' on the UPA government. "He knows what he is saying," was his answer. He was not seen assuring the fleeing northeasterners from Bangalore, either. Is this how a future leader works towards his larger responsibility?
Rahul Gandhi, for that matter, is hardly seen taking any seen on any vital issue. Whether right or wrong is a different thing, but an aspiring leader for a huge and complex country like India must have a stand on any given issue. Rahul Gandhi, similar to Emperor Nero, is too indifferent to effect any change on the ground. This is a serious concern, particularly as far as the future of the Gandhis and Congress is concerned.
Rahul has a few serious challenges
Rahul Gandhi, unlike his father and uncle, has a couple of disadvantages. First, his mother is not Indira Gandhi but Sonia Gandhi, who towards the end of the second term of her party's government, has clearly failed to maintain a link with the Indian masses. Whatever good work she had intended in 2004, has been undone in 2012, thanks to massive issues of corruption.
The second problem is the India of 2012 is not what it was like during the time of his grandmother and father. By the time India's political landscape underwent a huge transformation, i.e., the early 1990s, both Indira and Rajiv were dead and the Congress's last massive mandate was a thing of the past.
The Congress, in the age of Sonia and Rahul, has an uphill task before it if it aims to regain its lost glory. But the tradition of over-centralism that the party had nurtured during the days of Indira Gandhi has put its future in great peril. This is because Indira Gandhi had systematically destroyed the party's local leaderships for her own and dynastic gains. The consequences of that practice is clearly visible today.
Destroyed base has hit the Congress hard
The party struggles to tackle grassroot problems and every now and then, Sonia Gandhi has to reach out to deal with a localised issue. The party crumbled in several states because of this and even the latest crisis in Assam revealed that inefficient and selfish games played by the local leadership led to a serious national crisis. The Congress's electoral defeats in Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh (bypolls) this year reveal the extent of erosion at the grassroots and the failure of the top leadership to make up for that.
With the leadership clearly discredited, it was left for the Gandhi family to bring out another magic formula like it had done in the past. Indira Gandhi had brought Rajiv Gandhi into politics after Sanjay Gandhi's sudden demise in early 1980s while Sonia Gandhi came out in the open to win back control of the Congress in the late 1990s.
No leadership, no ideology either
But the apparent reluctance of Rahul Gandhi will establish the fact that now even the Gandhis are clearly waning and might not provide a 'readymade leadership' to the country, more so during the times of crisis. The problem is, the party itself has no democratic culture within, and it will clearly struggle today to nurture a new leadership from below.
Neither there is a coherent ideology to appeal to the masses, except a universal neo-liberal economic stand, which, because of a lack of regulation, has led to massive misappropriation of money.
Whether the Congress wins or loses the 2014 election is not important. The actual concern is that it stands a crippled political force today and the mediocrity that prevails at its top in the form of the current Gandhis does not promise a brighter future.
Rahul Gandhi's lack of interest in fathoming or shortage of skills in handling the ongoing Assam crisis and its consequences in other parts of the country sends a wrong signal: 'Nero' is busy playing the fiddle while 'Rome' is burning.