“He wants the current Congress party to implode and then create a new party from the smoking ashes of India’s GOP,” an ex Congress leader told Gulf News. Despite, having publicly left the party, he still speaks of Rahul Gandhi in a hushed whisper.
The ex leader, who is still very active in public life, has written numerous ditties on WhatsApp about Gandhi and his handicaps in public life.
Not surprisingly, Gandhi, the former chief of the Congress party, now attracts much disdain from India’s ruling BJP, who publicly say he is fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi’s wish that the Congress party dissolve itself after fighting for Indian independence.
In all frankness, Rahul Gandhi remains a puzzle to his own party leaders. Despite spending more than two decades in public life, the Gandhi scion is a bit of an enigma to the voters.
The Gandhi family, it must be noted, still have a pan India brand and a first name recognition for the trio - Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi - from the Indian public.
In a country as large as India that is a huge starting success. How many regional leaders across the political spectrum can be recognised and addressed by their first name alone?
The Gandhi name is recognised in a way like Tata, Birla, Bata and these days Ambani. And, most voters call them by their first name with a proprietorial air.
But, that’s all it is - a first name recognition. The voters still flock to their public meetings to suss out the Gandhi family, which is quasi political royalty but do they vote anymore for the Congress party because of the Gandhi family? For the current members of the fifth generation dynasty, the answer would be a qualified 'no'.
And, Gandhi, who currently runs the party while his mother Sonia Gandhi is the interim chief, seems to like experimenting with ideas, leaders and his own political brand.
The one thing consistent about Gandhi is that he likes to travel out to India on very frequent vacations, staying away for weeks. Recently from Nepal he returned after attending a friend’s wedding to head for the United Kingdom to address a Cambridge University programme. Post that he had a lengthy downtime and only returned to India last weekend.
The frequent breaks, which are played up by the BJP as an example of his dilettante privilege and to burnish the “Pappu” image that they have created for him on an industrial scale with jokes, memes and WhatsApp forwards, appears to have affected voters and even Congress party leaders.
Recently, Prithviraj Chavan, former chief minister of Maharashtra said that he had not met Rahul Gandhi in four years.
The voters still flock to their public meetings to suss out the Gandhi family, which is quasi political royalty but do they vote anymore for the Congress party because of the Gandhi family? For the current members of the fifth generation dynasty, the answer would be a qualified 'no'.
Gandhi appears to disdain the media and keeps attacking it for being in thrall to the BJP. He inexplicably does not use the mainstream media to get his agenda across to people. All that he does is name-call the government these days. Even those who vote for the Congress crave a positive agenda of how exactly will a political leader improve their lot.
Gandhi is yet to take a political decision that has been beneficial to the Congress in the long run. He moves from cause to cause.
In the recently held Congress Chintan Shivar (party conclave), Gandhi made two points. One that he was not afraid and would spend his entire life fighting the Sangh parivar ideology and two that he had never taken a penny from “Bharat Mata”.
Sonia and Rahul Gandhi face a slew of cases registered by India's Enforcement Directorate. In the National Herald case, the agency has summoned both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for questioning this month.
Gandhi regularly says that he regards political power as “poison”, yet has not shied away from exercising it without accountability for years now - ever since he resigned as Congress chief after the defeat in the 2019 general elections.
These contradictions in Gandhi have now started exasperating his own party and the opposition. Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, who does not get along with Rahul, has publicly said that he is always away abroad and hence cannot be counted to give the opposition a unified leadership.
With virtually daily defections of the top leadership of the Congress (Sunil Jhakkar, Hardik Patel, Kapil Sibal, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, R P N Singh, Sushmita Deb and Himanta Sarma Biswa among some names), the Congress party has been in a protracted bleed.
Gandhi has never tried to stop any leader from exiting the Congress and clearly and publicly seems unbothered by the exits. Which is why the theory that he is committed to destroying the Congress as it stands today to create a new political instrument has been floated again and again.
The upcoming Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections will again expose the Congress as an electoral loser by all expert accounts.
So will things change? It might accelerate the exit of the remaining leadership of the party. India’s general elections are just two years away but, Gandhi has all the time in the world to re-make the Congress party in his own style.