Can Rahul Gandhi Change The Electoral Fortunes Of The Congress Party In 2019?
Rahul Gandhi expected to take over the mantle of Congress president soon from his mother Sonia Gandhi.
The acid test for the Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi following his elevation as the president of the Congress party by December or earlier is turning around its electoral fortunes. Can the 47-year-old leader galvanise the "Old Lady of Bori Bunder" which is in a shambles.
Having ruled the country for more than five decades and been in the forefront of the struggle for Independence, the Congress has inexplicably steadily lost its sheen with the masses.
On the other hand Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the vanguard of the BJP bashing on regardless in winning major assembly elections including Uttar Pradesh with a stunning three-fourths majority. A cursory look at the India map shows large parts of the country swathed in the saffron colour. The BJP's two failures initially were Delhi and Bihar, a battleground state in the Hindi heartland.
However, the BJP is back in power in Patna having worked out a coalition arrangement with chief minister Nitish Kumar of the JD (U) bidding adieu to the "mahagatbandhan" and parting ways with Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD. After losing the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with its lowest ever tally of 44 seats, the Congress failed to garner even one-tenth of the seats in the 543-member lok Sabha facing the ignominy of not being entitled to becoming the leader of the opposition.
Nevertheless, the Congress remains the largest party in the opposition. At the same time Modi's efforts in striving for a "Congress mukt Bharat" is nowhere near fruition.
With the organisational elections in the Congress party expected to be completed by October 31, the schedule for the election of party President is being finalised. The state units of the Congress forming part of the electoral college have begun adopting resolutions favouring Rahul Gandhi as the party president.
The heir apparent had steered clear of becoming a minister in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress led UPA government preferring managing the party organisation for an extended period before his long awaited elevation as its numero uno. His mother Sonia Gandhi has been the longest serving Congress president for nearly 19 years.
The Congress has been squeezed out politically with its government in only five states compared to the 14 ruled by the BJP. It may be recalled that former Congress chief Sitaram Kesri was ousted by the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision making body in the 132-year-old party and replaced by Sonia Gandhi.
The abject decline of the Congress over the last three-and-a-half years and more has been sharp having failed to blunt the challenge posed by Modi.
The party's bane is not having mass leaders in the states because of the overbearing attitude of the Congress High Command over the years.
The question is whether Rahul Gandhi as the new Congress president has it in him to infuse confidence among the rank and file of the party leading to a desperate turnaround in the next general elections two years hence in 2019. Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Modi's home state of Gujarat are round the corner. It is apparent Modi cannot afford to lose Gujarat which will be a major setback.
Rahul Gandhi will have to activate the party organisation which is no mean task as becoming Congress president is not going to bring about a instant transformation. The party needs radical, innovative changes for infusing confidence among the people at large.
Even as the detractors of Rahul Gandhi at the AICC headquarters in the national capital believe making him Congress president will be disastrous, others exude confidence that he will emerge as a formidable leader.
Senior party leaders maintain "the widespread opinion in the party is that Rahul Gandhi should be made the president at the earliest. This will afford him direly needed space and time to prepare for the next general elections".
This might well be the last chance for Rahul Gandhi who has been targeted for attack by the BJP leaders. The Congress desperately needs to enlarge its space which has become highly constricted over the last 42 months since the Modi government assumed power in May 2014.
Can Rahul Gandhi prove the shenanigans of doom wrong and live up to the challenge staring him in the face! There is no denying the task is a formidable one. Also, can he get a Congress led opposition ready in time for the big battle with the BJP in 2019.