Rahul Gandhi made a couple of historic steps soon after he took over as the party's vice-president. First, he asked his party officials to speak out their minds freely at a meeting in New Delhi. And two, he has stressed to curb factionalism and strengthen the party leadership at the grassroots level. Gandhi is also preparing to tour the states to boost the party's organisation.
The new vice-president of the Congress knows very well that a series of challenges are in store for him in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi before the mega challenge of the Lok Sabha election due next year. The leader is aiming a complete makeover of the party so that it can rise to the occasion in the upcoming assembly elections.
The two steps taken by Rahul Gandhi are unique to see in the Congress, where a culture of sycophancy and family domination prevails. But only wishful thought and feel-good words don't make a mission complete. The point is: a party requires an ideology preached by a non-pretending leadership to gain a strong organisation, both in terms of geographic and social reach. Is Rahul Gandhi working on that aspect? Otherwise, just a routine reshuffle is not going to help its cause much.
Sources said that Gandhi will start his tour from Rajasthan and he will work to resolve pressing issues in the state leadership. He will also work on similar lines in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. These states have a number of well-known leaders but the inner feud has limited the party's prospects. Gandhi is likely to deal with these differences sternly. He may give election responsibility to one of the heavyweight leaders instead of projecting a chief ministerial candidate straightaway. His mother Sonia Gandhi, according to some party sources, tried to bring a similar change but couldn't really finish off the task. Can Rahul Gandhi deliver?
Rahul Gandhi needs to work on ideological foundations
His biggest obstacle will be the lack of an ideological foundation, whether be it in terms of economic policy, foreign policy or social issues. He should also know to speak clearly about his views on these issues.
In the past, it was seen that leaders from the Gandhi family formed their own circles to back their viewpoints. Indira Gandhi had formed a kitchen cabinet to replace the syndicate while Rajiv Gandhi brought together technocrats to sideline the old guards. Sonia Gandhi also followed the tradition by giving prominence to her group of supporters, who influenced her in turn. The problem is that owing to a lack of a strong ideological base, these teams ultimately turn out to be a 'club of yes men'.
Only strategising won't help
Rahul Gandhi's upcoming team will also be an ineffective bunch of individuals if he can not lay out an ideological groundwork. He should train a team to handle local affairs of the party on the basis of common ideological foundations. The grassroots organisation can be strengthened only through that. If ideological foundations are strong, then strategising is not a big challenge, the Congress party of today can learn this from Jawaharlal Nehru.
Rahul should have taken on Narendra Modi last year
Rahul Gandhi missed the trick in Gujarat last year where he had a big opportunity to test his worth. Had he set aside the vagueness and led the party against the typhoon called Narendra Modi, even if for a losing cause, the party would have been boosted automatically. Unfortunately, the man's political thought, if there is any, has been so far dominated by family-centric emotions. To regain its glory as a pan-Indian organisation in the true sense, the Congress must discover a political standing.
Vague minorityism bordering soft majoritarianism is a hopeless ideal that the party has been following since the last few decades. May be, it had been rattled by the dynamics of coalition politics and found strategising the only means to win over electoral challenges. But the party never really capitalised on the advantages it had gained during the days of Nehru or later PV Narasimha Rao and to an extent, Rajiv Gandhi. It is important for the Congress to nullify the legacy of Indira Gandhi today if it aims to win back the popular trust. It was once known for its regional reach, ideology and social coalition till the time when Indira Gandhi systematically destroyed it.
Rahul Gandhi has a long, long way to go. Hopefully, his initial moves will be sufficiently backed by stronger action. Or else, reviving the Congress will just remain a dream for him and his followers.