Rise of Rahul Gandhi: Propaganda or Reality

Nawal K. Pandey


Lately there is a great deal of talk about Rahul being the Prime Minister. Some even suggest that he should have accepted the Cabinet position as the prelude to becoming the Prime Minister
Who are the people who make such assertions? Are they real friends of Rahul Gandhi or self serving individuals? Chances are that they have no bearing on what Rahul does yet they keep up with rumors. The voices that spread rumors belong to sycophant politicians. Surprisingly, these politicians also belong to the Cabinet headed by Dr. Man Mohan Singh. In the present dispensation, it would be unreasonable to make the case of Rahul as the P.M. when the political composition of Mr. Rahul Gandhi is yet to form. Just because Mr. Rahul Gandhi was born with silver spoon, and has a great family name does not automatically qualify him to be the P.M.  

However, let not his opponents underestimate Rahul‘s smartness.  He knows that, in a democracy, it is not enough to be born privileged to be a leader. The leadership has its own requirements particularly when you wish to lead the country. Maybe, he is trying to debunk the legend of dynastic rule by going to masses and establish his own identity to neutralize the mind set of his opponents who allege that his claim to fame is artificial and privileged. Can he demonstrate that his claim of leadership is bestowed to him by the people, and not imposed by an imperial design?  Maybe, by rejecting the cabinet position, he has made the point that he would rather have public approbation to be the leader than being the son of the Chairperson of the UPA. Perhaps, his leadership would be more appealing if he acquired it on merit rather than on family name. This is Nehru’s style of leadership and departure from it would be less befitting to his descendants.
Rahul is a young man endowed with tremendous possibilities to succeed in politics. He may be an elite but he understands the reality of political life. He knows that to be the Prime Minister unlike the Prince requires the support of masses. The general perception is that Rahall is the PM in the waiting if his party wins the general election. Looking from that point of view, if he has that kind of potential, accepting the rank of a Minister would have been self-deprecating for him. However, had he not been what he is, probably his inclusion in the cabinet would have given him some boost. Given who he is the decision to refrain from joining the cabinet was the most mature decision of his life. It is better for him to have the semblance of a king maker than one of courtiers.  

On the other hand, what is the rush? Rahul has just embarked on making himself known to the people of India to establish "kinship and comradeship with the thousands who surround him". Since he 'compels interest and attention", people want to know "what lies behind the mask of his, what desires, what will power, what insatiate longing". Can he vociferously defend the causes of social and economic justice? What will he do to bridge the gap between the haves and have-knots? Will he be the harbinger of hope and agent of change?  

The pursuit of politics has no determinate factor but politicians in the making take lessons from history. Who would be better guides for them than their own ancestors would? In case of Rahul, history is witness that his ancestors first captured the imagination of the people before they ascended to power. Moti Lal, Jawahar Lal and Indira Gandhi had one thing in common. They knew how to "penetrate and understand" the masses. They traveled the country by plane, car, bicycle, bullock cart and boat to ingratiate the sleeping masses and went to ' "the peasant and the worker, to the Zamindar and the capitalist, to the Muslim, the Sikha, the Parsi, the Christian, and the Jew - to all those who make up the great variety of Indian life". To win the hearts and minds of people, they did what was necessary.

 However, Rahul is a person of different generation, the generation that lives in peace and prosperity. That generation needs more, demands more, and depends on the government to do more for them than they could do for themselves. There is a clear division in the country; and the division is based on needs. Both want something.  The poor and the plebeians want more to sustain their livelihood. The middle class and the rich want more to have more and prosper more. Although needs of the people are not mutually inclusive, it warrants serious consideration.
Such human conditions are ripe for charismatic leaders. The art of interaction makes more impression than what the promises are. The charisma charms the masses not the economic package or the promise to bring heaven to earth.  Mahatma transformed an intellectual and middle class movement into mass movement of independence by virtue of his dialogue with the people. Of course, those were the halcyon days of India. Still, to be an effervescent politician requires more than becoming a cabinet minister. Likewise, to be the leader of a country like India requires mass support. It is apparent that Rahul is doing the right thing to impress the masses. Joining the cabinet would have been distraction as well as deviation from that task. What is more important, to be the cabinet Minister for few months or to preside over the government after few months for next five years? Reasonable people would come to only conclusion that the next few months are not only important for Rahul, they are important for the survival of the Congress as well. His fate and the fate of his party are intertwined and the success of one will determine the success of other. The next election will determine whether the legacy of Pt. Nehru and Indira will come alive or not. 

Ironically, Rahul does not have only the responsibility to transform the Congress from being the party of disenchanted party workers to the party of ordinary people, he has the responsibility to shun the obdurate politicians and attract new party faces. His ability to reach out to old bases like farmers, plebeians and minorities would be more advantageous than aligning with corrupt politicians. Probably he knows that caste system is a big factor in Indian politics. However, how to integrate the efficacy of caste system without promoting casteism is the challenge for Rahul. Can he overlook the importance caste system?  Each caste has some stake and each demands some attention. Before independence and during the life of Pt. Nehru, caste system was not as cohesive a force. People voted on the name of candidates because most of them were freedom fighters and no body questioned their sincerity. Since Indira Gandhi, caste system has yielded a different meaning. It has maligned the politics and poisoned our society. People do vote for the qualified candidate but most often, the victory is determined by the en mass voting of the caste of the candidate. Unfortunately, our laws divide castes into many sub castes; and each sub caste has its own ax to grind. Failure to recognize caste as an equation of Indian politics could fail any politician. Then there is Religion. It has its own significance. It dominates the mindset of religious groups. For example, Muslim vote belonged to Congress. However, when they realized that they were neglected, they broke ranks and deserted the Congress. Now their faith has become the dominant factor, not the quality of candidates. The stricture of Fatwa is as polarizing as the caste voting. Both create dissent and both divide the populace. An organization like the Congress has the capacity to get broad based support without alienating any segment of the society. Therefore, to achieve success at the ballot box, realignment of old bases is as important as the discovery of populism.  

As for the youth of the country, no body knows what ticks them. However, empirical study reveals that charismatic leaders often exert their influence by articulating their vision; and if the Youth admire the leader, they follow him blindly. However, in this case, the charismatic leader is generally a young leader with charm and grace who speaks their language. The charismatic leader talks mostly in abstract about the change and dreams but when he talks about future and hopes; he takes upon the establishment. The Youth play a great role in transforming the society. They are the margin all politicians need to strengthen their political base but who gets their favor depends on who mesmerizes them.

As far as opposition parties are concerned, they have as much right to propagate their views as the Congress. The sanctity of opposition must be respected without surrendering to them. It would be imprudent to ignore their strength. The BJP and its allies pose a serious threat to the Congress as well as imminent threats from regional party like BSP. How to neutralize the attack of the opposition depends on the value of the Charismatic leader. Evidently, other political parties have gained grounds and the base of the Congress has eroded.  Granted that the Congress is still a ubiquitous party but it has lost its universal appeal. For five years after Rajeev’s demise, the Congress was a sitting duck until Sonia Gandhi decided to take rake the lead; and if it were not for her, the Congress would have died. Although she has brought life to the party, years that preceded her were too chaotic and too destructive. Mr. Narsingha Rao had the hands off approach and late Mr.Sita Ram Kesari was a joke as the president of the party. The consequence was debacle. The party had no charm, no leader and no direction. What was surprising was that the stalwarts of the party like Sarad Pawar and Arjun Singh either left the party or stood on the sideline to watch its destruction. What saved the Congress was the sudden emergence of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi as the president of the party. She infused life in the party; and revived what everybody called a dead horse. The party has still not recuperated from the old malaise but the central power in the hands of the Congress has made her healthier. To admire the brilliance of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi would be perceived as cozying up to her but time comes when we must give credit to deserving people. She will be remembered as the Messiah lwho saved the Congress from the brink of extinction. Such a history of the congress should be the lesson to the Young leader.
On the risk of being redundant, may I say that Rahul has the sincerity to influence the masses and capacity to unite them for a stronger congress and better India?  Let us hope that he re-engineers his party without falling for propaganda and giving up excellence.








I have nothing against Mr. Gandhi personally. But the manner in which he is being foisted upon the so called "Largest democracy in the world" as a future Prime Minister is simply disgraceful. In a country where merit is the first casualty of caste based quota/raj system, where almost 50% population is illeterate, where freedom of expression as guaranteed by constitution is translated into banning books (Satanic Verses), forcing writers out of the country (Taslima Nasareen), bycotting films, destroying paintings and exiling greatest living Indian artist (M.F. Hussain), it is tempting to accept that the spin and publicity will help Mr. Gandhi to assume Prime Ministership one day.
But do Indians remember that the nation s still paying price of his great grandfather's failed China policy ? His grandmother's rape of democracy and wholesale corruption, his father's indifference to Sikh massacre following Mrs. Gandhi's assisination, And the fiasco of IPKF in Sri Lanka ? Agreed he is untainted. But so was his father. And no matter what, he will have to carry the baggage of his dynasty. What sort of people Indians are who will welcome him as their Prime Minister ? Aren't there Indians, meritorious, more desering and with vision to come forward and lead the nation towards glory ? Isn't there someone who can increase Rs.20 which 80% Indians earn a day ? Increase literacy, improve health care, provide safe drinking water, reduce infant mortality rate, open more centres of education and abolish quota system so that every Indian get equal opportunity? Create a country where merit is all that matters ?
There is a world beyond the boundries of India which, if Mr. Gandhi willtrod if he becomes Prime Minister. Make no mistake, when he meets his counterparts, they will always treat him as a dynastic/hereditary Prime Minister of India and they will just smile with contempt at Indians.
Dr. A. Kumar
Norfolk, England