This Article is From Jun 04, 2014

Rahul Turns His Back On Nehru

(Harish Khare is a senior journalist, commentator and a research scholar)

The amiable but rather uninspiring Mallikarjun Kharge will be the Leader of the Congress Party in the Lok Sabha. The sub-text reads: Rahul Gandhi is unwilling to step up to the plate and lead the depleted and demoralised Congress ranks. But, then, no one should be surprised. This reluctance to lead from the front is very much of a piece of what the young Gandhi has had to offer so far, an absentee but entitled leadership. (Mallikarjun Kharge, Not Rahul Gandhi, to Lead Congress in Lok Sabha)

In any other democratic set-up, the kind of massive drubbing that the voters have administered to the Congress would have had consequences, even blood on the cobblestones. But the Congress chooses to remain indulgent and respectful to Sonia Gandhi, and, by extension, to her son. And, the son is bent upon proving that he is not worthy of that indulgence. (Congress Suspends Kerala Leader Who Called Rahul Gandhi 'Joker')

To shy away from leadership in the parliamentary arena is politically untenable. Simply inexcusable, especially for someone who feels that his DNA nudges him to India's leadership. After all, Jawaharlal Nehru consolidated his prime ministerial leadership, in the early years, by dominating Parliament.Indira Gandhi, after the initial fumbling years, too understood the central need to perform and hold sway in the Lok Sabha. Rajiv Gandhi was not a great parliamentarian, but he never ran away from the scene. In recent years, Manmohan Singh's prime ministerial innings became inherently debilitated because he chose to outsource "Parliament" to Pranab Mukherjee.

Parliament is, in fact, our finest democratic forum. Numbers do not always matter much; recall how Rajiv Gandhi had at his disposal more than 400 Lok Sabha members, yet within a few years the Congress Prime Minister had his back pinned to the wall by an unrelenting and vigilant Opposition.

Had he opted to be the Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi would have easily and naturally renewed his leadership claims. Admitted, for ten years he has shown no appetite for parliamentary give and take. Yet, in a democracy there is always time for redemption. There is always the next battle to be fought and won. By undertaking the obligation to lead the Congress in Parliament, Rahul Gandhi would per force have sparked a new chemistry with his own party men, inducing a sense of comradeship and togetherness. He would have grown out of his current attitude of sullen isolation. Yet, inexplicably, he absolves himself of this role and the responsibilities that go with it. (Rajasthan Congress MLA Bhanwar Lal Sharma Suspended for Criticising Rahul Gandhi)

Parliament is a great learning place too. In its chambers and lobbies a leader has numerous opportunities to acquire the nerves, a temperament and to hone the gift for coming to grips with complex issues. It provides a remarkably level playing field. Any diligent member, especially if he happens to be the leader of a major political party, can outshine, outfox and outperform any prime minister, whatever be the ruling party's numbers.

Rahul Gandhi has now advertised a singular lack of interest in the basic democratic conventions and conversations --to expose and demand explanations from a haughty government. By walking away from a parliamentary leadership role, he has turned his back on Jawaharlal Nehru's greatest legacy-parliamentary democracy. Sad indeed, and this too will take a toll on the Republic's democratic vitality.

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