A year later, he is set for one promotion further and this time he is set for a top profile, which is that of the prime ministerial candidate. The incumbent prime minister, Manmohan Singh, also moved himself out of the way of the grand emergence of the Congress vice-president two weeks before.
Like Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) who became the chief minister of Delhi, also after a lot of drama, in December, is being projected as the new party's prime ministerial candidate, although informally. A number of top leaders of the party have expressed a desire to see Kejriwal as the prime minister after the high-profile Lok Sabha elections in April-May.
Are Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal right choices as their parties' PM candidates?
There is an interesting link between the story of projection of these two leaders as the prime ministerial candidate.
Neither of these two leaders have so far proved their capacity to lead a big and diverse nation like India, which is facing several difficulties to deal with at the moment. While Kejriwal has just took up an office of governance, Rahul Gandhi hasn't been even a minister at any level so far. Nobody knows what these two gentlemen think about pressing issues that plague the country apart from controversis piling up time and again after they or their party make some difficult-to-comprehend remarks.
What has been Rahul's contribution in public life in last 1 year?
What extraordinary contribution has Rahul Gandhi made in the last 12 months to make the lives of his party and his fellow Indians better? The Congress leader has mostly been ridiculed whenever he has opened his mouth.
While words like "India is a honeycomb", "Poverty is a state of mind", "Jupiter's escape velocity" or "They have killed my grandmother and father, they will kill me also" have failed to find a sympathetic audience, action like storming into a press conference to junk the government of Manmohan Singh on the question of protection for tainted politicians while the prime minister is abroad has fared even worse.
Rahul is reluctant while Kejriwal is overconfident. Which quality India prefers?
In terms of electoral results, the Congress was decimated in three important states (its 15-year-old regime in Delhi collapsed like a pack of cards) while it failed to make use of the symapthy factor in Chhattisgarh. Rahul Gandhi has taken on his opponents in a crucial state like UP by making a political point out of the Muzaffarnagar riots but it only led to a controversy.
The party found a consolation in pinpointing a hapless Singh as the reason just to give yet another benefit of doubt to the Gandhi scion, but that doesn't hide the fact that Rahul Gandhi, despite his goodwill, hasn't succeeded to make any difference on the ground. Winning back Karnataka was a high point of the party in the last one year, but the credit for that goes more to the BJP itself (or as P Chidamabaram had said jokingly, to Ananth Kumar) more than Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress vice-president, if anointed as the PM candidtae, will be the first since 1991 when his father Rajiv Gandhi was the party's prime ministerial candidate. But Rajiv still had served a prime ministerial term by then. Rahul's political resume still doesn't have anything of that sort.
Not even a month as CM, Kejriwal is already projected as the PM by the AAP?
Kejriwal, on the other hand, wasn't sure in the beginning what he should do with the mandate. He was happy and sad at the same time for the mandate was good for the AAP but wasn't decisive. The wish to form a majority government wasn't fulfilled and the AAP, quite ironically, took the support of the Congress to form a government after taking an informal second mandate, through the SMS. The common man's chief minister, in the 19 days of his stay in office, has dealt mostly with chaos, both external (on the roads) and internal (in the party).
His party is seen being loaded with radically leftist minds (Read: AAP's dangerous liaison with Radical Left) and leaders are heard making strong words throwing serious challenges to the State's security, again both external and internal.
Policy-wise, the Kejriwal government has so far revealed stands which are by no means suitable for the country. His government has preferred 90 per cent reservation for seats for Delhiites in the Delhi University and scrapped foreign direct investment in muti-brand retail in Delhi. These measures have already raised questions about the AAP's capacity to govern on the national stage. If Rahul Gandhi is known for his reluctance, Kejriwal is known for his over-confidence. None of these two qualities are welcome in a leader aspiring to lead an entire nation in the near future.
Rahul & Kejriwal's interesting role reversal
There is another angle to the stories of Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal. Post November-December assembly elections, the former is deliberately trying to transform his image from a khaas aadmi into an aam aadmi while the latter is unknowingly turning into a khaas leader from the aam aadmi, thanks to his party's overconfident lieutenants and a surprised-to-the-hilt media.
While Rahul Gandhi is seen interacting with the youth in the open and giving insights in interviews, Kejriwal is seen slamming the judiciary after one of his minister was accused of tampering witness. Both, having a common foe in Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, are desperately trying to make their parties an equal force in the battle against Modi, who is the chief minister of Gujarat for 12 years now, and is ahead of the combined experience of the Gandhi scion and Kejriwal.
But whatever be their individual goals and strategy, can the country hope that either of these leaders with the limited political skills they have displayed so far, can be trusted to lead the country out of the hole it is in at the moment?