Home > India, Indian Economy, Indian media, Politics, Social Trends > Can Rahul Gandhi deliver for the Congress?

Can Rahul Gandhi deliver for the Congress?


The Nehru-Gandhi ‘dynasty’ has not connected to India in the last 40 years after India Gandhi – and it is not for lack of trying.

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan;

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan;

Does nurture work?

For a few years now, Rahul Gandhi’s political persona is being crafted in New Delhi. There is clear and conscious design behind this.

The trips to UP, a politically important state, the selective engagement with the Government, the complete lack of involvement with the Government are new ideas in political nurturing.

This लोक सेवा ‘lok seva’ and ‘power I dont want’ stance is being projected extensively.

Rules of the game

MJ Akbar captures this surreal political atmosphere in his recent post

Rahul Gandhi in the Hindi heart-belt. Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; cartoon courtesy http://bamulahija.wordpress.com

Rahul Gandhi in the Hindi heart-belt. Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; cartoon courtesy http://bamulahija.wordpress.com

It is axiomatic that a largely impoverished nation needs a political party that the poor can identify with. The Congress has set out to be the party of the poor in daytime, and of the rich at night. Its sunlight politics will fetch votes, its twilight policies will enable it to govern. This is an extremely clever act whose opening scenes are being played out for a new generation that is vague about Indira Gandhi and amnesiac about Nehru. The hero of this drama must have the charisma to dazzle the poor and the flexibility to keep the rich onside. That is the challenge before Rahul Gandhi. His avowed role is to be the guardian of the poor in Delhi, which means that the poor need protection from Delhi. He is at home with the elite in the in the evening and is now making the effort to capture the sunshine hours. (via Crown prince Rahul cannily turns left : India : M J Akbar : TOI Blogs).

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; 2009 May 08	in The Times Of India Bengaluru  |  Click for larger image.

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; 2009 May 08 in The Times Of India Bengaluru | Click for larger image.

The political apprenticeship of Rajiv Gandhi needed Indira’s Gandhi’s assassination to win an election. After that one singular victory, Rajiv was electorally ineffective and politically insignificant. Before Rajiv, his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi could not take on the Nehru mantle as his mother had done. Priyanka Vadra’s attempts at politics did not get the electoral traction that the Congress needed to win an election.

Rahul needs BJP’s help

If Rahul Gandhi succeeds, the single biggest reason may well be the BJP. Headless and clueless, BJP out of power, is a shell of BJP before coming into power.

Losing power can do some strange things to people.


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  1. A fan of your blog
    August 30, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    It is difficult for anyone to love or hate Rahul Gandhi at a personal level because no one really knows what he stands for. He has not really taken a stand ony any issues. No one really knows whether his actions of visiting farmers and dalits are out of real concern for their conditions or purely political stunts. He has gone about rejuvenating Youth Congress and making it more democratic, which is definitely a worthy cause. I do not support this party, but any efforts to make it more transparent and democratic is welcome. He has mentioned several times in his speeches that the only reason he is who he is today is because he was born into teh Gandhi family. This makes me think he may be down to earth and may have a good head over his shoulders.

    There are doubts about his educational achievements. Did he move from Harvard to a no-name Florida college because of academic performance (or lack of it), or because of security reasons? He does seem to have done a stint with a consulting company in London.

    What is unknown is where does he fall in the political spectrum? Is he left leaning? Right leaning? Is he an Anglophile like his great-grandfather? Believe in banana raj like his father? Stubborn and power hungry like his grandmother? What is his vision for India?

    Without knowing these views, it is difficult to judge him by any yardstick.

    The tragedy of India is overall lack of leadership. This dynastic leadership trait is a remnant of a feudal mindset. We seem to follow this mindset even in our publicly traded companies, where the son/daughter of the “owner” takes rein. Also, in general, there seems to be a real lack of leadership in governance of all kinds today. Somehow, personality worship has overtaken all forms of character development.

  2. Galeo Rhinus
    August 30, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    The single biggest reason for Rahul Gandhi’s success…

    Success! What success?

  3. August 31, 2010 at 7:04 am

    On re-reading this sentence in isolation, I need to qualify my sentence.

    Instead of

    >>The single biggest reason for Rahul Gandhi’s success may well be the BJP.<<

    It should read as

    >If Rahul Gandhi succeeds, the single biggest reason may well be the BJP.<

    I will change this in the post too. And let these comments also stand.

  4. August 31, 2010 at 7:33 am

    The tragedy of India is overall lack of leadership. This dynastic leadership trait is a remnant of a feudal mindset. … Also, in general, there seems to be a real lack of leadership in governance of all kinds today. Somehow, personality worship has overtaken all forms of character development.

    I have greater respect for the Indian Voter. I have seen him vote very intelligently.

    How would you like to explain how the Indian Voter drubbed Nehru in ’56, and threw out Indira Gandhi-’77, Rajiv Gandhi-’89, BJP-’04. Congress, BJP, Mamta didi watch out

  5. Galeo Rhinus
    August 31, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    …hopefully it wasn’t a freudian slip :( because of your low opinion of a “headless and clueless BJP…”

  6. A fan of your blog
    August 31, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Anuraag Sanghi :

    The tragedy of India is overall lack of leadership. This dynastic leadership trait is a remnant of a feudal mindset. … Also, in general, there seems to be a real lack of leadership in governance of all kinds today. Somehow, personality worship has overtaken all forms of character development.

    I have greater respect for the Indian Voter. I have seen him vote very intelligently.
    How would you like to explain how the Indian Voter drubbed Nehru in ’56, and threw out Indira Gandhi-’77, Rajiv Gandhi-’89, BJP-’04. Congress, BJP, Mamta didi watch out

    Anuraag,

    I believe we are discussing two different things. One is dynastic rule, which comes from a feudal mindset (my original point). I believe it emanates from our caste system, where the son of a barber becomes a barber and the son of a king becomes a king. Ego, son of politician becomes a politician, son/daughter of PM becomes PM, etc. Why just politics, you see this even in the film industry. Son of actor becomes an actor. As if acting is hereditary and outsiders to the industry cannot partake in the action. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but it generally holds true. This kind of mindset is defeatist because some folks feel they are entitled to things while others feel they are not. As an example, management gets passed to the next generation even in publicly traded companies.

    The second one is about your argument of Indian voter being intelligent, I have heard that many times but am yet to see it. What you are using as proof of intelligence of Indian voters are times when they did not vote for the Gandhi dynasty. That is a very poor measure. Even Pakistan has voted the Bhuttos in and out more times and has elected more leaders than India has. Using that yardstick, Pak would be a better democracy with more intelligent voters than India. This argument of intelligent Indian voter is created by the pseudo-secular and Anglophile Indian media. You should perhaps take a 2nd look at it.

    If the Indian voter is so intelligent, how do you explain the following:

    1. Repeatedly voting one family back to power with a handful of exceptions in 60+ years
    2. Failed governance and promises in 60+ years:
    2a. criminalization of politics,
    2b. mere sloganeering of Gareebi Hatao
    2c. no respect and only lip service for the common man
    2d. no respect for local languages, culture and traditions
    2e. no empowerment or protection of basic freedoms in 60+ yrs
    2f. Increasing communal, class, caste and now digital divide to create massive votebanks and ensure retention of power (by design or deafult)
    2g. Increasing inflation year after year.
    2h. Criminal elements have taken over businesses. Land mafia harasses and grabs lands mercilessly without fear of rule of law.

    The list is endless. The biggest problem is lack of leadership. Leadership of thought as well as action. Look at the lousy leaders we elect to Parliament every year. They are nothing short of a disgrace. The educated folks (middle and upper classes) mostly stay away from elections of any form. We take pride in being apolitical because we are told that politics is the last resort of the scoundrel. And we let these scoundrels run our country and our lives. We have politics of elections. It all begins and ends with elections. Once elections are over, there is no accountability from anyone, be it delivering on promises or bringing them to book for corruption. We wallow in staus quo. Never do anything to address it or improve it. Because we feel it is beyond our power to change anything. You ask people and they say, “Poora system kharab hain”. Where is the intelligence in all of this? What intelligent voter are you talking about?

  7. September 1, 2010 at 11:41 am

    You must find better cliches!

    I have answered all these ‘issues’ in the links that this post contains. Especially check out the bold links.

    These were given a 2ndlook 2 years ago!

  8. A fan of your blog
    September 1, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I have read your posts, especially The Indian Voter does it – again and also read your exchanges with Galeo Rhinus. Sorry, I do not see the argument of what the Indian voter has done again that shows intelligence. Given the choices the Indian voter has, which are of his/her own doing (which every political pundit seems to miss very conveniently), the people are elected to Parliament are nothing short of crooks. Only so much can be written about their daylight robberies in a public forum, but I have been privy (I am sure you are too) to a lot of the “deals” these leaders that our “intelligent” voters elected to Parliament and public service is the last thing on their minds. Whatever progress India has made is despite the political and voter class and not because of it. The potential was always there, it took one man to remove all the stops to unleash that potential. And that was not because of the political will but of pure financial and economic compulsion.

    If you want to talk of a master stroke, then it comes from Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, who, in tremendous wisdom, gave the mantle to Dr Singh. Please note that Dr Singh has never won an election in his life. He is the man who can largely be the economic juggernaut called modern India. That credit does not go to the voter. At least when Congress came to power in UPA I, Dr Singh was not projected as a prime minister candidate. Also, Dr Singh was trained as an economist in the UK. So how is that for irony? Also note that most of the members of Dr Singh’s team for the economy are non-politicians and have been handpicked by him based on their background and experience. Again no points to the Indian voter for that either.

    I am no fan of Congress and I believe they have bungled up the country right from the moment the Mahatma hijacked the Congress Party and made it into a personal fiefdom, marginalizing all diverse ideologies and dissenting voices.

    Also, I did not see anything addressing dynastic mindset of Indians. May be I missed it.

  9. A fan of your blog
    September 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    This opinion piece summarizes my take on dynastic and feudal mindset of us Indians quite well:

    http://news.rediff.com/column/2010/sep/02/why-sonias-fourth-term-is-not-a-happy-occasion.htm

  10. September 5, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Also, I did not see anything addressing dynastic mindset of Indians. May be I missed it.

    You certainly did. Instead of opinions look at facts.

    1. Between 1970 to 2010, in a space of 40 years

    2. The Nehru-Gandhi family has been able to get a significant vote share twice – in 1971 and 1980.

    3. The 1971 election campaign by the opposition was viciously personal – Indira Hatao campaign. Indira Gandhi’s campaign was pure genius – garibi hatao. Who can argue with that agenda? Who would any intelligent voter select? Who had a chance of winning?

    4. The next election victory of Indira Gandhi in 1980 – on the back of squabbling by Janata Party – especially the Lohia-Socialist factions.

    5. Rajiv Gandhi’s election victory (1984) was an aberration – a result of Indira Gandhi’s assassination.Even if you include Rajiv Gandhi’s election victory of 1984, that was the last time that they won an election.

    6. In the current context, the Congress polled less than 10 crore votes. So much for your ‘dynastic’ politics in India.

    Since, you are taking a comparative tone, anyway, which democracy would you rate as the better one or the best? Your pick of the Top 3 democracies in the world!

  11. A fan of your blog
    September 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I do not know how anyone in their right mind can argue that Indian politics is not mired in dynastic politics. For someone who is so proud of India and all things Indian, how does an anglophile and anglicized family get so much traction with you? Beats me.

    Why does the oldest party in India need a Gandhi at its helm to hold it together and win elections, even when that Gandhi happens to be a reluctant and inexperienced participant? Why does this party look like a bunch of vicious school boys when they are not being led by a Gandhi? What qualifications (educational, experience or anything other than their last name) do these Gandhi’s have that makes them the default leaders? What does number of votes polled by the party have to do with leadership?

    About comparison of democracies, we already had that debate earlier and not interested in round two.

  12. September 6, 2010 at 7:26 am

    AFOYB – For any productive discussion, I would suggest the following: –

    1. Less opinion, more facts.

    2. Less judgement, more analysis.

    3. These blogs and posts are not a forum for rehashing ‘accepted’ wisdom, recycling worn-out cliches, re-phrasing received opinions.

    These are available in plenty. Like the Dynastic Rule In India by Nehru-Gandhi Family narrative.

    If you want to explore an alternate viewpoint, it is here. For

    - rehashing ‘accepted’ wisdom

    - recycling worn-out cliches

    - re-phrasing received opinions

    I am sure you have your reading list.

      PS

    I am not even trying to convince anyone. And dont appreciate anyone trying to convince me. These issues are complex – and need facts, analysis and re-interpretation. Let us stay with that.

  13. A fan of your blog
    September 7, 2010 at 2:46 am

    I am not sure what facts you need for these topics. I tried to engage with you on this topic as well as on population. I believe its dangerous to perpetuate half baked opinions as truths on some topics. I presented data as well as rationale using commonly accepted wisdom and theories.

    Sometimes, commonly accepted wisdom is good enough. Other times, a 2nd look is beneficial. I respect your positions. Let’s leave it at that.

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