The cameras tracked every movement that Rahul Gandhi made as he travelled in a car, then on foot, and finally jumped on a bike to reach the spot of protests and meet the farmers that were agitating against the Madhya Pradesh government.
To anyone unfamiliar with the political career of the Congress scion, it would feel that it was a leader who was in touch with the masses and would do anything to hear them out.
But sadly, for those who have followed his work ever since he became an active part of his party's running and came into active public life, know that this is just his latest attempt at grabbing the spotlight and trying to emerge as a serious political contender.
This latest foray into the news though is different than previous such tries. As it comes connected with other political developments and can be clearly marked out as his last chance at being considered a credible leader of not only the grand old party of India but also the country.
The latest attempt
The point of his presence in the BJP ruled state of MP is not an isolated outing, but part of a larger move which can be seen in connection with other moves opposition political parties are trying to make against the Narendra Modi government.
These include efforts of conjuring up some unity among opposition parties, including regional players, for the election of the President set to be held in July this year and Gandhi to be the face of this group. Such an attempt can clearly be seen as an experiment being conducted with the 2019 general elections being kept in mind.
Since the results of state elections held post-2014 have made it certain that a divided opposition will have no chance of even making a dent in chances of the prime minister coming back to power, let alone beating him.
Along with this, the movements in the Congress are also pointing to the eventual and long-awaited move of Gandhi assuming the leadership of the party, both practically and officially, by taking over as its President.
These include the younger generation of leaders close to him like Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, Sachin Pilot, party's Karnataka in-charge K C Venugopal, Randeep Singh Surjewala among others playing a more prominent role in order to make sure that the old guard of the party is not able to resist the leader's eventual rise in position.
The reasons behind it
The news regarding him taking over the party in an official capacity has been doing the rounds for what seems to be an eternity but have never been materialised.
And this can be seen as an indication of the party high command realising the political reality of the country. After the BJP romped to power three years ago, it was clear that it enjoyed the support and backing of the voters of the country, and the defeats that the Congress would be dealt in different states were an almost obvious eventuality.
Taking over in such a scenario would have meant that all such defeats would have been jotted down under his leadership and would reflect poorly on his political acumen. So the delay is nothing but an attempt to keep his CV clean of such defeats.
In addition to this, the drubbing that was inflicted on his party in the general election, where from being the ruling party it was brought down to a count of merely 44 seats, seems to have influenced the delay.
Along with these, the unwillingness of smaller regional parties to be associated with a weakened Congress, let alone accepting its leadership, till they realised the enormity of the challenge to take on a leader such as Modi alone dawned on them, seems to have made the wait longer.
While these can be seen as the cause of the delay, the timing for the current push can be seen in line with the thinking that the party expects the anti-incumbency factor, that the BJP will most probably suffer from after five years in power, in the next Lok Sabha elections to raise the tally of the Congress. And this would be able to be projected as an improvement under his leadership and shown as his achievement.
Though this may seem odd as even though he may not be official head at the time, it was under his leadership, for all intents and purposes, that defeats till now have occurred. But such is the culture of, and convention in, the Congress where those around him seem to have made him believe that such a plan would not be able to be seen through by the voters.
The chinks in his already weak armour
This type of thinking and such advice from the coterie surrounding him, of those who won't say no to him and so can never be honest, are exactly the reasons that he still has not been able to be seen as a serious leader and an opposition to prime minister Modi.
Advisers, who are not grassroots leaders, with plans such as these and his own mistakes in taking questionable political decisions which make the debate on his political acumen one sided.
But this is not the first time that he can be held guilty of making blunders on the political front which have not only hurt him but also his party.
An example of this can be seen by the first such visible decision which highlighted his political immaturity, when in the last years of the Congress-led UPA's rule when he held a press conference and criticised his party's own government for bringing in a bill and tore a piece of paper symbolising his decision to veto the proposed new law, thus undermining the then administration and its Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, while he was on a plane to attend a meeting with world leaders.
Acts such as these and other similar decisions like his choice to disappear from the public view after previous attempts to make him the face of the opposition, or when his party goes through tough times following electoral defeats, bring to the fore his political naivety.
What makes matters worse for him is not only the dismal state that the Congress finds itself in following a string of defeats in elections, but also the strength of his opponents, the BJP under the leadership of Modi, which unlike the Congress seems to be consolidating its power and support with every election.
And even though the current government for the first time in its tenure is facing open and public criticism, the idea of the Congress under Gandhi's leadership being able to take advantage of such a situation seem slim at best.
Will it work?
And so except for Congress loyalists, all serious political analysts and leaders have little hope of him being able to follow up on his latest actions and really make a dent in the political arena. No matter what the case, this really is Gandhi's last chance to win enough credibility as a genuine political leader and an alternative at the national level.
Especially since the leader seems to have more opponents in his own party than it's rivals, which considers him as their strength. With the leader of the Trinamool Congress and the chief minister of Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, going as far as calling him an asset for Modi.
Given his track record till now, even though he has inherited the oldest and most popular party since independence without having to fight and work for its leadership, the only chance that seems probable for him remain in the 2024 elections, as after that, if not sooner, others in the party and outside would start to ask to replace him, or for his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is considered to be more popular, to step in.
It is said that in politics, perception is reality and the truth is negotiable, but presently Gandhi seems to be losing the battle of both perception and truth. And to be fair to him it's not as if it is that he has not been trying, as can be seen by the latest attempts, but he has not been able to follow up on them, either due to his own lack of perseverance, or the difficulty to continue with the wrong decisions taken, or simply due to being defeated by the ever-growing dominance of his opponents.
And though a sudden change in circumstances and surprises might lead to his popularity shooting up, and he may still be able to make it in his political life. But as things stand now even though the cameras keep on following him where ever he goes, the chance of him being able to attain the levels of success achieved by his great grandfather, grandmother, father and mother would remain impossible if he fails to change the way of his functioning, in what is almost certain to be his last chance.