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Last Updated : Jul 16, 2020 10:18 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Politics | What the crisis in Congress tells us about Rahul Gandhi and his leadership

Whether it is Rahul Gandhi’s Hamletian indecisiveness or his loneliness as King Lear, it is clear that the Congress needs a decisive and strong leader at its national level to rescue the party from this Kafkaesque nightmare

The only constant in life is change — and if you’re in the Congress, political crises as well. With more leaders disillusioned and exiting the grand old party, the Congress seems to be waking up from one nightmare only to realise that it is caught in the midst of another.

The political battle currently underway in Rajasthan is the latest in a series: a few months ago in Madhya Pradesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia dumped the Congress to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. In 2019, former Congress state chief for Haryana Ashok Tanwar quit the party before the October polls citing irregularities in ticket distribution. A month before Tanwar quit, former Jharkhand Congress chief Ajoy Kumar quit the party.

What links Scindia and Pilot is that both are young dynasts and leaders whose political careers were put on the fast track for growth by the Congress. Both were also close to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. In many ways there were the ‘mascots’ of Rahul Gandhi’s vision to empower young leaders within the party.


That’s why when both Scindia and Pilot, among other young leaders, find themselves outside the Congress parade, the role of Rahul Gandhi in this drama needs to be examined.

Analysts have hinted that it is not by accident, but that there is a design to these events. It is to clear the way for Rahul Gandhi to resume the presidency of the party when and if he chooses to do so. If that is indeed the modus operandi of the Congress’ ‘old guard’ or AICC, it is a pyrrhic victory because what’s the use of becoming king after sacrificing trusted generals in the process!

If true, here the ‘old guard’ appears to be the scheming maternal uncle who, to give Duryodhana a clear shot at the throne, moves against other dynasts who threaten Rahul Gandhi’s leadership claim.

Congress leaders and party spokespersons have talked about Pilot’s ‘ambitions’ getting the better of him, and that he needs to be patient. This warped logic disguised as an ‘advise’ makes it appear that being ambitious is a mistake. If Ashok Gehlot’s ambition to become a Chief Minister for the third time is justified, why are Pilot’s ambitions not kosher? As for patience, it might be a virtue, but not when the party has badly lost two consecutive elections, when its numbers in Parliament are deplorable, when with every passing day it is losing connect with a young India, and, definitely not when patience here would mean giving power to a senior leadership that reinforces one’s belief in the demand for a retirement age in politics.

Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has also advised Pilot to be patient, and “not be too emotional”. Interestingly, Himanta Biswas Sarma, who is a minister in the BJP-led government in Assam, left the Congress in 2014 after having differences with Gogoi.

Scindia’s exit in March and Pilot’s removal on July 14 should make it all the more difficult for Rahul Gandhi to morally assume leadership of the Congress. If young leaders who have proven their political worth by winning elections for the party are labelled as ‘ambitious’ for wanting to become chief ministers, what justification will be offered when (and if) Rahul Gandhi is appointed Congress President?

In August, it will be a year since Sonia Gandhi was appointed interim chief of the party, and the Congress will have to select a chief. Will Rahul Gandhi step up to the occasion and take a decision? Or will the uncertainty that has been looming over the grand old party continue?

Mani Shankar Aiyar, former Union minister and Congress leader, in an article has said that there is “something of King Lear about Rahul Gandhi”. There’s also something of Prince Hamlet about the Gandhi-Nehru scion. Sixteen years after he entered politics, he still comes across as a hesitant or reluctant politician, who, perhaps given the opportunity, would stay away from the heat and dust of Indian hustings. Also, like Prince Hamlet, he takes impulsive decisions, as was seen in the 2013 “tear-the-nonsense-ordinance” episode.

Whether it is Rahul Gandhi’s Hamletian indecisiveness or his loneliness as King Lear, it is clear that the Congress needs a decisive and strong leader at its national level to rescue the party from this Kafkaesque nightmare.

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First Published on Jul 16, 2020 10:18 am