No matter how much Congress vice-president tries, his surname will never allow his name to find a foot on the ground. Take for example, the just concluded Tripura election. The Congress was more than routed by the Left Front which retained power for the fifth successive time and extending its period of ruling to 25 years, just 9 short of the record 34 years in West Bengal.
According to a news report, the Opposition alliance (the Congress contested this election together with the INPT and NCT) was completely shattered while supporters of the red regime celebrated whole-heartedly. And why not? The chief minister, Manik Sarkar, proved himself to be close and hence more reliable for the people of the state and led from the front to ensure that the Left was not erased from the soils of India.
This brings us to the other side of the story. If Sarkar vowed to work for the local people, the Congress's 'Crown Prince' took a road which is generally taken by overconfident power centres. The leader, as he always does, just flew in from the national capital, still considered distant from these parts of the country, and addressed a couple of public rallies.
He spoke about the Chinese apprehension about the Indian Leftism and expressed a desire to boot out the Left from the country. His thought was that the Congress would take a moment to 'repeat its feat of toppling the Left in Bengal'. None of these viewpoints were bought, needless to say.
More like a colonial representative
Gandhi's campaign looks like as if a representative of a colonial power or superpower turns up for a distant event to give his local managers some tips to get the job done. The 'powerful' man doesn't give a due to the local sentiments and socio-political complexes and just wish them away. We saw how the erstwhile colonial masters ruled poor countries of Asia and Africa and in modern days, how superpowers intervene in foreign land with an aspiration to cement the process of democracy. Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq... the list is a long one. But it doesn't work that way.
Gandhis have connection with the ground reality in Tripura...
Consider the mood among the local people in Tripura. One shopkeeper asked: "Ambashar tilaye kibhabe jhoom-kheti korte hoy uni janen?" (Does Rahul Gandhi know how to do jhoom cultivation?) while another local resident asked who is actually working for the people? "Jokhon tokhon proyon-aproyojon e dilli ure jaan jara? Jara kendriya netrityer pashapashi thakte chan?" (those who fly to Delhi for every small reason and show their loyalty to the central leadership of the party?).
or West Bengal...
Do the Gandhis make any impact in seats which are won by the Congress? Seems no. One of the winning candidates of the party although said he would not like to comment on the Congress's loss, but on his own victory, he said it was possible because he worked at the grassroots level. Thus even for those 10 seats earned, the Gandhis were not a factor. It was made possible with the party's limited strength on the ground.
The same story was unveiled in the three by-polls in West Bengal. All the three seats which had gone to the polls belonged to the Congress and no Gandhi was responsible for the wins in 2011. The party rode the anti-Left and pro-Mamata wave to finish on the winning side.
Today, when the party is not in alliance with the Trinamool Congress and localised power centres dominating its functioning, it's not surprising that different centres are witnessing different results. While Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury factor wins in one centre, the Krishnendu Choudhury factor wins in another while the absence of the Pranab Mukherjee factor defeats the party in the third. Gandhi, again, is no factor.
And finally, Rahul Gandhi was on a visit to Mumbai on Thursday where hje would meet his party workers and boost them. But the vice-president's arrival in the commercial capital did not impress people for traffic was stalled at the peak hour because of his convoy.
One tweet said: "Diyar Rahul Gandhi & Congress, your wisdom is infinite, but blocking roads in a always hurried Mumbai doesn't win voters & influence people."
Suhel Seth, the man who is known for speaking his mind out, tweeted: "Has this country lost it??? Roads from the airport Bombay closed owing to Rahul Gandhi's arrival so what's that crap about 'aam aadmi??
The same story of an top-down approach of an elite who cares little about the local sentiments. Rahul Gandhi's rush stopped the city for eight minutes, causing loss to many, but why was he rushing? It is said that he was supposed to cement the growing fissures in the Mumbai unit of the party before the next set of polls, both at the assembly and national levels. How much damage can he control through this politics of mobility?
While the top brass is flying to and fro, the position of the Mumbai president of the party has remained vacant for a year now after Kripashankar Singh resigned following charges of fuelling factionalism and indulging in corrupt practices were raised against him. Maharashtra is not a small and 'ignorable' state like Tripura either and if the Congress fails to beat the anti-incumbency factor here, there is no dearth in political alternatives.
Imperial powers never learnt from history and they always messed it up by ignoring local issues. Does Rahul Gandhi read history?