Rahul Gandhi may not be a force alone yet but he is no more a ‘Pappu’ either
New Delhi, Dec 17: Rahul Gandhi completed a year as the president of the Indian National Congress (INC) on December 16 after succeeding his mother Sonia Gandhi who was the longest-serving chief, doing the duty for almost two decades. Rahul was often mocked as the leader of a party which will turn 133 in a fortnight and had as its president stalwarts during his long journey, one after another.
But just four days ahead of his first anniversary, the 48-year-old leader had the peak moment of his not-so-impressive political career as the INC snatched three states in the Hindi heartland from the BJP's clasp, something which hasn't happened for a long, long time in Indian politics. The BJP toppling the INC was being considered an irreversible process but then Rahul Gandhi's leadership saw something miraculous happen.
The Congress chief ministers of all the three states where the party won recently - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh - took oath on Monday, December 17, and that the swearing-in took place smoothly and without a delay owing to political logjam also marked a victory for the INC chief. Though the INC did not go with a chief ministerial face in any of these three states and had more than one heavyweight individual to choose from, it was not an easy task to settle the matter outright.
In Rajasthan, we saw how the loyalists of Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot clashed over making their own favourite leader the chief minister and the apprehension was on since the INC is not a cadre-based party like the BJP or the Left where organisational discipline is strong and binding. That work of the glue in the INC is done by the Gandhis and Rahul played it perfectly well without promoting one camp at the expense of another. In MP and Chhattisgarh, too, there were potential threats to the INC over choosing a chief minister and it did overcome all questions well.
'Pappu' challenge made Rahul learn the business of politics faster
These are signs of a maturing leader. For Rahul Gandhi, all the taunting and mockery in the form of "Pappu" has in fact helped him learn the nuances of politics faster than he would have otherwise. Just as he said candidly after the election results came out that he learned from Prime Minister Narendra Modi what not to do, the words are not too insignificant. For those who thought bashing Rahul Gandhi would remain an eternal source of earning applause, there might be a serious time ahead for course correction.
It is true that the three recent results do not necessarily hint at a BJP defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections even if the Modi critics are calling them to be a semifinal that the saffron party has lost. The agenda and issues of the general election are vastly different from the state polls and also when the urban electorate will come into play, the BJP's prospects will not look as slim as it did in rural India. The INC's win in the three states doesn't make it a favourite overnight against an opponent that kept on bulldozing it on most occasions in the last four years or so.
The INC will also feel uneasy over the defeat of the alliance it joined for the Telangana polls along with a regional heavyweight Chandrababu Naidu. Can just putting up an alliance do the trick against a formidable Opposition? In the past, the INC fought polls in West Bengal (2016) joining hands with the Left and Uttar Pradesh (2017) along with the Samajwadi Party but on both occasions, they were humbled by Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi, respectively. In 2018, Telangana also saw the repetition with another heavyweight K Chandrasekhar Rao having the last laugh. The INC's idea of alliance-building still needs a lot of homework to be done before it becomes a truly lethal one.
Rahul Gandhi can't be taken lightly again, this is what Dec 11 conveyed
But the one aspect which would go in favour of Rahul Gandhi post the December 11 results is the he will not be taken as lightly as he was been all these years and that is slight disadvantage for Modi and his saffron brigade since the INC president was a key component of the 'superstructure of superiority' that the BJP has built over the past few years.
He was looked down upon as "Pappu" and it was being conveyed that the man was a useless leader and it was better for the country if it had got rid of the INC which is being led by such a "worthless" leader, hence paving the way for a Congress-Mukt India. But now, with three states coming back to the INC's kitty, the dream for Congress-Mukt Bharat takes a blow and since the INC is no more an evaporating force, its president Rahul Gandhi can't really be written off at will. This back calculation will take some key portion of the BJP's strategy-makers ahead of the next general elections and this is a good signal for Indian democracy. For if there is no balance in a democracy, it is hardly a democracy.
In politics, it's the victory that matters. Since Rahul Gandhi's career path was going on expected lines and it was failing to excite people, the 'Pappu' image was not deserting him as his core followers would have liked. But now with three big victories under his belt, the equation is bound to change.