Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Reluctant politician: Congress scion Rahul Gandhi and his failure to take centre-stage in politics after travelling in Mumbai local train four years ago

Rahul travelled in local train in Mumbai despite Sena warning but thereafter... 

After the Congress' defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, it is natural that the party leaders, especially, the roles of Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, would come under criticism.

But more than the Congress' poor performance, it is the reluctant leadership of Rahul Gandhi, which is truly astonishing.

A look at Rahul's career graph as a politician, one gets perplexed that how he seems to have lost his way, all of a sudden.

FLASHBACK: Barely four years ago, Rahul Gandhi had struck a chord with a large number of people, when in the midst of the 'local Vs outsider' controversy in Maharashtra, he made a surprising appearance in Mumbai.

The Shiv Sena had warned him against coming to the the city, after his 'Mumbai for all Indians' remark. Though he was shown black flags, Rahul reached the city and travelled in the local train. Not just Biharis, people from Uttar Pradesh (UP) too were being beaten up in cities in Maharashtra. Rahul Gandhi took a stand.

Like an ordinary citizen, he travelled in the train, without the strong security. In fact, he had gone to an ATM, withdrawn the money, and then bought the ticket for himself. Though there were strong voices even then, about his being 'young', 'inexperienced' and 'playing politics' and the one whose sole qualification was to be 'born in the Nehru-Gandhi family', his act suggested that he understood politics.

Showed signs of leadership, political maturity once

In fact, not just North Indians, youngsters in Mumbai also lauded him. Girls had flocked to see him and there was a euphoria. Even his critics said that without speaking or replying to Shiv Sena/MNS leaders' statements, his visit was bold and he had successfully made a statement.

This was after UPA had won the election in 2009. Rahul Gandhi had talked passionately about Kalawati in the Parliament. BJP leaders weren't too impressed. He was visiting the houses of Dalits too. Clearly, BSP wasn't impressed. However, it was all having an effect.

In fact, Rahul Gandhi appeared emerging as a mature politician, who seemed to have a conviction, and who wanted to talk about the ordinary Indian citizen. Surprisingly, just when he was coming of age, and the public was beginning to like him, he lost the connect.

Losing connect with the citizens, avoiding media

We didn't see similar boldness in the next couple of years. In 2011, Sonia Gandhi fell ill and rushed to America for treatment. But we didn't see Rahul Gandhi take up the centre-stage or speak his mind. Even as there were scams after scams, what we saw was Congress' spokespersons, but not Rahul.

Either it was the Delhi gang rape or the Anna Hazare's movement, Rahul Gandhi didn't show up in public. There was no out of the box initiative or street-smartness.The 'Mumbai local train episode' was history. What we heard about Rahul Gandhi was that he had his coterie and that he was busy revamping the party.

It was commonly repeated that he wanted leaders to be more accountable, and hence there was stress on inter-party democracy [elections for post of office-bearers etc]. True, but what about the leader himself? Not just the public, he also avoided the media. Why?

No more taking up causes or steps for corrective measures

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was never known to be an orator, the failure of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul to speak on important issues, was felt everywhere.

No wonder, jokes about dynasty scion who was party leader just because of virtue of his birth, flooded social media. People in India aren't averse to dynasty rule, as it happens in regional politics too, but one has to do something after getting the post.

There was not a single attempt to redress any of the grievances of the Muslims. However, all the BJP's demands were accepted hurriedly [including Afzal's hanging], so that there was 'no backlash'. Dalits were also forgotten. There wasn't anything positive for the farmers in Vidarbha or the poor in Bundelkhand.

Rahul Gandhi wasn't behaving as a politician at all. You can't keep on getting votes all your life for UPA's flag-ship schemes that were launched a decade ago. Neither inclusive schemes, nor exclusive appeals for castes or groups were visible now. 

It is a big mystery how and why Rahul Gandhi acted in this strange way. Tearing apart the ordinance on convicted politicians, as late, as in 2013, wasn't enough. And once again after this show of anger and attitude, it was back to square one. Silence.

Reclusive: Neither on the ground, nor in the social media

Rahul was reclusive and reluctant. After having enough experience in politics, he should have learnt to act on his gut feeling and acted as a responsible politician. But he appeared lost and out of scene when he was expected to speak his mind.

While BJP leaders were active on Facebook and Twitter, Congress had few politicians who understood social media, except Shashi Tharoor. Narendra Modi got millions of followers on Twitter but Rahul had no account on the website.

Even after the party's loss, we haven't heard him enough. He is not likely to take the role of the party leader in Lok Sabha too. That is all too strange, after all, he got everything on his platter. Why he did it? Why he does it? No one knows it, except Rahul Gandhi.

READ the earlier post, 'Letter To Congress leadership from an Indian Muslim'. CLICK
READ, another post on 'Congress failure to highlights UPA's achievements and its poor campaign vis-a-vis BJP publicity blitz'. CLICK

[PHOTO courtesy NDTV. Link to NDTV report. 'Rahul snubs sena, takes Mumbai local', here]