The newly appointed Vice President of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi, made a nice emotional speech at the party's Chintan Shivir in Jaipur and proclaimed his love for his fellow countrymen and the grand-old party. He said he would fight for both the party and the people of India.
He praised the UPA govrnment for its flagship schemes, talked about empowering every Indian and also spoke about the tragedies that the first political family had suffered in the past. He stressed women's voice and the country's youth feeling alienated from the political class. Gandhi said power is highly centralised and those at the bottom felt to be left out. He demanded a complete transformation of the system and wanted the youth to play a big political role.
Following his father's footsteps
Rahul Gandhi's well-thought out reflections reminds one of his father, Rajiv Gandhi, who on December 28, 1985, on the hundredth anniversay of the Congress's formation, gave a speech from the core of his heart in Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium. Attacking the brokers of power, whom he accused of prevailing over
ordinary workers of the party, Rajiv said there was no rest for them and they must strive for the ideals of Jawaharlal Nehru and other great Congress leaders. He said her mother, Indira gandhi, did not give him no direction or formula to succeed in his political journey and just advised him to "understand
the real India, its people and problems." Rajiv had also rued that the party needed a self-introspection for it had lost touch with the millions.
Rahul's observation is not something new, hence. The Congress had found its popular roots eroded even in 1985, 28 years ago.
Rajiv said the revitalisation of the Congress was hugely necessary for it was the only party that could defend the nation's integrity. He said the ideologies of nationalism, democracy, secularism and socialism were the only relevant ones for India but the party kept on forgetting that it should have take the ideologies to the common men and explain them under changing realities.
The young prime minister, who had taken over following the assassination of his mother Indira, vowed to fight against corruption, give transparent politics, strengthen the judicial and legal systems, eye administrative changes and emphasise on austere lifestyle. In a nutshell, Nehru's grandson spoke in favour of structural changes. Something similar was echoed at the Jaipur brainstorming session as well.
But nothing really changed for the better on the ground. The mother-son duo of Indira and Sanjay Gandhi had destroyed the party's democratic roots to such extreme that it was an uphill, if not impossible, for Rajiv to clean up the state of affairs. Rahul Gandhi is also set to take over from a mixed kind of leadership of a left-leaning Sonia gandhi and right-leaning Manmohan Singh. It will be interesting to see how he approaches the task. He has an added responsibility of clearly leading the economic ideology of the party besides the regular political chores.
One significant aspect of Rahul's political journey will be his handling of the old guards. His father, irrespective of all rhetorics, could not settle issues smoothly with the old guards and his differences with veteran leader Kamalapathi Tripathi was well-known.
The appointment of Arjun Singh as the party vice-president and his subsequent failure proved that Rajiv's Mumbai speech did not achieve anything substantial in founding a new Congress. His political naivete never allowed him to give wings to his thoughts as a young politician and within three years of the Mumbai promise at the Maraimalai Nagar meet, it could be found that the Congress was back to square one with the old guard calling all shots. Yes, Rajiv Gandhi had an impressive legacy in terms of technology, telecommunications and even in foreign policy (Palestine and Apartheid in South Africa) but his inexperience, again, made him pay dearly in the Bofors scandal of 1987.
Rahul, while taking the same path, should keenly study history. His task is much more difficult for neither his party is expected to win an absolute majority that Rajiv had and the Congress leadership today stands much depleted today, compared to what it was 30 years ago. The likes of PV Narasimha Rao, Arjun Singh, Pranab Mukherjee and many others are no more present to guide the crown prince while an ailing Sonia Gandhi and silence-lover Manmohan Singh can not be expected to serve for very long.
Also, in the 1980s, India was still under a big influence of a monolithic political culture that had an orientation towards the Congress. In 2013, India's polity is so fragmented and with several other potential contenders fighting for the top spot, the challenge for Rahul is all the more tough.
On the question of corruption, Rajiv himself was tainted by corruption accusations. Rahul, on the other hand, will have to deal with accusations levelled against an extended family member like Robert Vadra. Won't be easy.
Rahul's aspirations are noble. But the challenges are equally pressing. Rajiv Gandhi had persished while aiming high. Can Rahul deliver?