Once, the people of India were proud about the democratic legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru. Post his death, the benevolent dictatorship of his daughter Indira Gandhi had an overwhelming effect on India's politics. People might have liked or disliked Mrs Gandhi's Iron Fist, but there was no denying that she was a powerful politician.
Her successor Rajiv Gandhi was admired for his charismatic and youthful appeal. Rajiv's widow Sonia Gandhi, although entered politics in 1998, but she proved herself to be a strong leader who saw the Congress winning two back-to-back elections.
The son of Rajiv and Sonia, Rahul Gandhi, has brought a break in the tradition. It might sound heart-breaking for a Congress supporter, but the 43-year-old leader of the Congress, who is expected to be its face in years to come, doesn't yet have any serious impact on the national politics. A single interview of the scion has trashed the political family that served as the powerhouse of the country's oldest political party since independence. Within a gap of 10 days, Rahul Gandhi who was believed to be in a resurgent mood (remember his high-decibel speech at the AICC meet on January 17) looked an exhausted force. He didn't even know where to look during his interview to Arnab Goswami.
Since liberalisation, the Congress has only looked an obsolete force
But it is not right to conclude that Rahul Gandhi lost out because of his debatable educational qualifications. The same audience which is mocking the Gandhi scion and his credentials like educational qualifications in various media today was more than impressed with Manmohan Singh's educational qualifications when he became the prime minister in 2004 for the first time. The irony is that both these leaders, the past and future of the Congress, have been reduced to subjects of fun by a huge section, irrespective of what their academic records speak.
The mocking of Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi (a tweet even said it is better to have a silent prime minister than a dumb one) looks unlikely to settle down, at least for some time now because both these gentlemen have failed miserably as responsible office-holders of the government and the party. After being in power for 10 years, both have made the electorate feel pity about them, which is a colossal disaster.
Rahul Gandhi has no idea about what's happening all around while Manmohan Singh has no influence on things. They make a routine criticism of Narendra Modi, clearly failing to understand today that the BJP prime ministerial candidate represents a new and resurgent India, which is not a prisoner of the past which the Congress had dominated.
They feel just catering the poor through some ad-hoc welfare measures will save the day and the elections for them. But when they received a terrible blow in December by losing in four states in the Hindi heartland, a panic set in and the Congress leadership began to ape its opponents. This is something very unlikely of the Gandhis. But they felt an urge to reach out to the people just three months ahead of the polls and Rahul Gandhi fell flat on his face.
It was a big blow for the Gandhi scion for after the interview with the Times Now, he and his party will only remain a distant third in the three-men race for the top post in the eyes of a powerful middle-class. It will also be a blow for the UPA allies will begin to feel uneasy with Rahul's leadership and the opponents will spare no chances to cash in on the Congress leader's unconvincing words on riots of 1984 and 2002. We have seen Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal already taking up the issue to spread his influence among the Sikhs.
The Congress was powerful once because it had a powerful leadership to offer. But it also prepared the route to its downfall because it gradually became rigid under a centralised leadership. Today, two decades after the country won its 'economic independence', the rigid political model which it had pursued under the family's leadership has imploded.
The political obstacle which was superficially created on the path of the economic revival has boomeranged and the Congress has no other option but to face its own Frankenstein in current times. It would have been difficult for even powerful leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi to resist the onslaught today for it is far too powerful. A wise leadership can at best absorb the shock to survive another day. But neither Rahul Gandhi nor Manmohan Singh proved to be that much wise.