Opinion: Rahul Gandhi Has To Take The Job - Or Get Out Of The Way

Jitin Prasada leaving the Congress is good riddance. As good as Jyotiraditya Scindia's exit. They are princelings, born in modern royal political families with fame and privileges offered to them on a platter. Their positions and stature within the Congress were not because of their own talent but because of their fathers'. They take their status for granted; when faced with struggle, then they feel like fish out of water. To fight is not their dharma, to survive is their karma (endeavour), and for that they look for easy alternatives. The Congress now is in dire straits; it needs people from the grassroots who can fight to the finish, who don't owe their existence to their lineage, who are not recognised by their surnames and who are not called Maharaj-Ji by their peers and friends. The Congress lost its ground due to such 'rootless wonders'.

I have no quarrel with the Prasadas and the Scindias of the world. It is undoubtedly a boon to have a great surname, but it's a curse if there is a man like Modi at the helm, who has made it to the top with his personal brilliance, and who knows how to highlight these princelings as the weak spot in the Congress. After becoming Prime Minister, Modi has methodically seen to it that "dynasty" becomes a condemned word, an abuse. "Hum toh kaamdaar hain, woh naamdaar hain (We are the proletariat, they are the royalty)," he says. The target is the Nehru-Gandhi family, but it attacks the concept of dynasty. It attacks the feudal set-up of the Indian political system in which a privileged few are allowed to flourish.

The BJP proudly claims that people like Modi and others, climb to the top not because they belong to a particular family but because the BJP is a democratic party, where talent is the only currency. This makes the BJP an aspirational party, where a small worker with a very humble background can aspire to be the party President, Chief Minister, or even the Prime Minister. The Congress and other regional parties, barring the Left, look different. It's not that 'commoners' have not risen in these parties, but their structure does not seem conducive to the pursuit of individual aspirations.

The Congress, since the demise of Mahatma Gandhi, has not managed to extricate itself from the overwhelming influence of the Nehru-Gandhi family. After Nehru, the Congress opted for Lal Bahadur Shastri but even then, Nehru's daughter was breathing down his neck and ultimately, the mantle to run the government fell on her lap. During her lifetime, she did not allow others to run the show, and after her tragic death, despite many stalwarts in the party, Rajiv Gandhi was chosen to be Prime Minister. Non-family members like Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh took charge because they had the blessings of the Nehru-Gandhi family. When Narasimha Rao decided to play solo, annoyance from the family was quick and he was removed by Sitaram Kesari, who was also ingloriously replaced by Sonia Gandhi herself. Manmohan Singh survived for ten years, but the secret of his success lay in his non-assertion which did not annoy the family. But that was the time when the BJP was growing, and Modi was not the party supremo.

Modi is not Atal or Advani; he has scant regard or respect for the Gandhis. He is also aware that for the BJP to rule, like the Congress did till the Ayodhya Movement, the Congress must be decimated, and for that, the political disappearance of the family is a necessity. Therefore, he employs all kinds of tricks, right or wrong, to discredit the Nehru-Gandhi brand. They are called anti-nationals, pro-Pakistani, not-rooted-in-India, corrupt and enemies of the Hindu community; criminal cases are thrust on them; the attempt is to portray Rahul as a Pappu, a dynast who is 'incompetent' to the core.

The problem with Rahul Gandhi is that he thinks he is giving Modi a spirited fight on each and every issue, and that the Congress, sooner rather than later, will be the default choice. He forgets that India has changed, the default setting has been replaced by a new political algorithm. Capturing the mind space of the voter is not a weekend game but is 24x7 live streaming. Dynasts like Jitin Prasada and Scindia are happier in their cozy comfort. The surround sound of their hangers-on satisfies their false egos. Ideological commitment for them is more like candy floss, the flavour of which can be changed with the changing times and winning elections is like earning a blue tick from Twitter.

In contrast, Modi and the RSS are marathon men who want to win every 100-meter race; just being a verified account is not their destination, controlling the entire platform is their mission. To fight such formidable opponents, Rahul does not need Prasada and Scindia but gladiators. Personally, Rahul has to unlearn, he has to erase his memory. He must behave not like an entitled dynast but be ready for the long haul. He has to forget that he is the great grandson of Nehru and grandson of Indira Gandhi. Nehru and Indira Gandhi were born in a different India. In today's world, dominated by Modi and Shah, to be idealist is a bane, to win by hook or crook is the name of the game. Secondly, and very importantly he has to decide if he wants to lead the party. He has already committed the blunder of his life by resigning from the post of the party president after the humiliating defeat in 2019 parliamentary elections. Since then the party has been rudderless without a full-time captain. If this continues, the party won't survive long. The age of part-time politics is over. Twitter is a good game but to win the battle, Rahul Gandhi must hit the streets, be ready to be beaten, bandaged and hospitalised. He must be two steps ahead of his opponents. He has to create a perception that he is a fighter. Thirdly, if he does not want to lead, he should make it obvious in as many words. He should step aside, and the party should choose a new leader. And whoever is chosen should be given full authority, and if such a person is chosen from outside the family, then the Gandhis should desist from back-seat driving. No disrespect to Manmohan Singh, but if Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi had run the UPA government, the Congress would not have done so badly in 2014. Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister, but the country was leaderless. The BJP successfully created a perception that the Gandhis reaped the fruits of power without being accountable. This perception not only damaged the image of the family but also pricked the conscience of the nation. The BJP successfully sold the idea that a country of India's vastness and diversity needed a strong leader who couldn't be controlled by any extra-constitutional authority. Modi, in the last seven years, despite all the trappings of the RSS, has shown the world he is the leader and not even the RSS can dictate terms to him.

Rahul should take a cue from Modi. He should decide what he wants; if he wants to lead then he should take the plunge whole-heartedly, and if he is not interested, then he make room for others. Reluctant warriors might win a few battles, but they seldom win wars.

(Ashutosh is Author and Editor, satyahindi.com) 

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