Rahul Gandhi Rattles BJP in PM’s Home State Of Gujarat.
BJP’s concerted attack against Rahul Gandhi catapults him as main opposition leader. With assembly elections in six states next year, Congress is in power only in Karnataka.
As the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Rahul Gandhi could not have ducked any longer becoming president of the Indian National Congress, the oldest political party in the country. Its significance cannot be lost as the baton of being the ‘numero uno’ of the Congress gets passed from mother Sonia Gandhi to son on the eve of the assembly elections in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The importance of this particular poll cannot be undermined as the BJP has been in power in Gujarat continuously for 22 years. The fight this time between the Lotus party and the Congress appears to be a close one though Modi’s magic coming to the fore in electoral battles as evidenced in the past cannot be ruled out.
Rahul has to steel himself for the daunting task ahead. He barely has 18 months remaining for the next general elections in the first half of 2019. Prior to that there are assembly elections in half a dozen states next year. The Congress is in power only in Karnataka. In the other states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh and Haryana — the saffron brigade has clinically sent the Congress packing.
Despite serious doubts about Rahul’s ability to turn around the fortunes of the Congress particularly as its organisation is in a shambles, there is a big question mark about Rahul’s ability in pulling the chestnuts out of the fire and re-establishing the pre-eminence of Congress in the country’s politics.
The ruling BJP led NDA at the centre is facing growing criticism on a wide range of issues encompassing spiralling prices, surging unemployment coupled with the hurried and poor implementation of the much talked about GST from the first of July. The problem caused by last November’s demonetisation and the distress caused to farmers has also caught the Modi government on the wrong foot.
Even though the country’s map is awash with the saffron colour as never before, Modi being the main campaigner for the Lotus party has proved to be debilitating for the Congress since he stormed to power at the Centre in May 2014.
For Rahul, the do or die battle is revitalising the Congress party. It is widely believed that no one but for a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family can hold the Old Lady of Bori Bunder’s potentially fractious elements together.
Intense infighting in the party and depressed Congressmen leaving the party to join the BJP has been disconcerting as evidenced by its impressive victories particularly in the Hindi heartland. The Lotus party regaining power in the most critical state of Uttar Pradesh with a mind boggling three-fourth majority was stunning.
One of the major handicap confronting the Congress is being shorn of mass leaders in the states. This is on account of the high handedness and peremptory style of functioning of the Congress High Command.
In the last few months since Rahul’s interface with teachers and students in Berkeley in the United States, there has been a marked and refreshing change in his approach. He is more amenable in having an interface and listening to the people along with becoming more active on the social media. At the same time there has been periodic chorus seeking his elevation as President of the 130-year-old party.
There is anti-incumbency against the BJP in Gujarat having been in power on the trot for more than two decades. The angst against Modi who was also the chief minister of Gujarat for more than two terms is discernible.
That the Lotus party has a challenge on its hands is not in doubt. Its leaders in Gujarat insist achieving the target of 150 seats fixed by BJP president Amit Shah in the 182-member assembly is being highly over ambitious. They believe it will be a saving grace if they retain power and manage anywhere from 100 to 110 seats.
Losing power in Gujarat is bound to be a big loss of face for Modi having the portends of casting its shadow in the next general elections two years later. Rahul’s elevation as Congress President next month is more of a formality. This does not mean that the seniors will be sidelined or sent packing.
Rahul will have to think out of the box as its rank and file is feeling demoralised. He has more than his hands full in galvanising and rebuilding the party organisation. A senior politician disappointed with Rahul’s style of functioning emphasised that “politics is a 24X7 job in this country”.
He will have to be politically sound in taking on the formidable Modi-Amit Shah duo. This requires vision and connecting with workers right from the block level infusing a sense of pride and confidence in them.
Lately, there has been a marked change in Rahul’s political approach. Getting elected as the President of the Indian National Congress is the easy part. The difficult part is getting accepted as a serious, interactive and committed leader.
In the 2014 general elections the Congress finishing with its lowest ever tally of 44 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha was a shocker. The party failed to secure even one-tenth of the seats in the House of the People to become eligible as the Leader of the Opposition. On the other hand the BJP secured a majority on its own for the first time in the Lok Sabha.
BJP’s concerted onslaught against Rahul has contributing in propelling him as the main opposition leader in the country. There is no doubt the Congress requires a radical overhaul. It is a tricky affair requiring patience, tenacity and purposefulness for winning the electorate’s affection. It is for him to get his act together in galvanising the Congress along with forging an opposition front giving Modi and the BJP led NDA a run for its money. After all, the Congress has overcome challenges in the past.