Gandhis led the Congress's battle for survival
It is a crucial battle of survival for the grand-old party of India. Since the days when Indira Gandhi took over the reins to make the Congress a family-centric affair, the party looked up to the Gandhis whenever there was a crisis. In 1980, it was Indira Gandhi herself who emerged as the best counter-alternative to the Janata government, which had come to power after the 1977 election.
In 1984, when Indira was assassinated, the Congress chose her elder son Rajiv Gandhi as the natural successor and he led a government after getting the biggest mandate in Indian general elections till date.
In 1991, the Congress was eyeing a return to power through Rajiv Gandhi again and succeeded in its mission despite his assassination, thanks to the sympathy wave.
In 1997, when the party was again undergoing a terrible phase and many of its senior leaders were feeling discouraged and even began to pull out, it was again the Gandhis who gave the necessary leadership. A way was paved for Rajiv's widow Sonia Gandhi by overthrowing the then president, Sitaram Keshari.
Dynasty has been the party's lifeline
Hence, the Congress always had the Gandhi factor to pull it out from trouble and no matter what people say about the dynastic politics, accusing it to be 'undemocratic', the irony is that the Gandhis have been the lifeline of the Congress throughout. In 2014, when the Congress is again desperate to find oxygen to survive another blow, the Congressmen have quite logically begun to chant the Gandhi mantra.
Earlier, the Gandhis saved the Congress; this time the Congress is guarding a Gandhi
But there is a difference in the Congress leaders' approach this time. While in the previous instances, they looked up to the Gandhis to save the party, this time they are bent to guard the Gandhis to save party. The leaders are trying their best to put all the blame on a departing Manmohan Singh and keep Rahul Gandhi as fresh as he was in 2009.
But the Congress leaders can not help Rahul Gandhi escape his own share of responsibility if the party faces its worst defeat ever on May 16. It was him who had taken a lead in the party's affairs ahead of this year's election. He played a more active role after becoming the vice-president of the party in January 2013 and also openly trashed a decision of the Manmohan Singh government in September.
Congress is keen to maintain Rahul's freshness to live another day
In January this year, he raised his pitch in an AICC meeting [Read here: Rahul's AICC pyrotechnics was entertaining, not convincing] a few days after Singh formally announced his exit from the race for the prime minister's job. The Congress never projected Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate, may be out of over-confidence or under-confidence, but there is no denying that he called the shots during the party's preparation for the just concluded Lok Sabha election.
Congress hopes Rahul repeats what Indira did in 1980 and Sonia in 2004
The Congress did it deliberately to save its immediate future. It wants to protect Rahul from the ills of the UPA II government so that it can aspire to rise again in 2019 after the scion leads it as an Opposition leader for the next five years (just as Indira did in 1980 and Sonia did it in 2004). But how far successful can such artificial protection be if Rahul Gandhi continues to fail in election after election?
Both the Gandhis and the Congress are at the crossroads. But the onus is more on the former for the latter's survival depends on its good health.