“To be or not to be,” that has been the question for Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Finally, he has arrived and emerged from the shadows of his mother Sonia Gandhi, who remained president of the grand old party for a record 19 years and won two Lok Sabha elections. Till recently, no one even in the Congress party took him so seriously whenever he took up a significant political cause. Reason, he could do the disappearing act and vanish from the scene like the phoenix riddle. To Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he was no more than a “shehzada” while to others he appeared no better than a silver-spooned reluctant prince.
Nobel laureate T.S. Eliot wrote: “for good or ill, let the wheel turn as the wheel has been still”. The wheel, it seems, has turned for Rahul Gandhi who was most visible in Gujarat. His clever alliance with the troika of Jignesh Mevani, Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor brought the elections alive. It was time for him to ascend the ladder. People in the India of 2017 no longer seem as loaded against the Congress as they were in 2014. Winning and losing are part of the political game. It is the will and stamina that matters and it is here that Gandhi scored brownie points. The prince is no longer reluctant to lead.
The challenge before Rahul is to overhaul the party machinery in time for the 2019 elections. This requires fresh ideas, creative alliances and a recouping of the goodwill lost in the fading years of UPA rule. Gandhi is now emerging as a key challenger to Prime Minister Modi. He is emerging as a fulcrum to engage smaller parties to jointly take on Modi. A proof of his strategy was visible in Bihar when the ‘mahagathbandhan’ edged past the ruling party in the country’s third-most populous state. In recent months, Gandhi’s public appearances have made people sit up and take notice as everything about him has changed for the better. The transformation was first noticed on his tour to the United States, where during his campus interactions he came across as a sober, intelligent politician who could communicate his thoughts effectively. However, he has been a revelation in the Gujarat campaign trail and has made a splash. He has picked up a few tricks of the political trade: one-liners. His ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’
for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the ‘vikas gando thayo che (development has gone crazy)’ jibes were trending on the internet. RaGa has a mountain to climb. Most essential tasks for him would be to inspire and re-build the party, to reach out to small towns
and villages and to create an army of workers. A tall order indeed!