Rahul Gandhi with supporters
Rahul Gandhi at his Wayanad constituency in Kerala, India Image Credit: PTI

Anywhere in the world, when the leader of a country fails to provide better governance, critics take him or her to the task.

However, in India, when something goes wrong, not only the ruling Hindu nationalist regime and its supportive media attack a leader of the opposition, even the liberal critics of the government also join the chorus.

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That opposition leader is Rahul Gandhi and he does not hold any formal position except being a Member of Parliament, from the Congress Party.

The regular attack on Rahul Gandhi by a group of political commentators has become much shriller after a letter of 23 Indian National Congress (INC) leaders to the party’s interim President Sonia Gandhi asking for organisational changes within the party.

He is known for his empathy, ability to listen to others, and his desire to stand in support of poor and oppressed sections of the Indian society. Any person believing in liberal secular values anywhere in the world would like to support a leader like Rahul

- Prof Ashok Swain

After Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as Congress Party President in 2019 summer, there is no doubt that the grand old party of India is facing a leadership crisis.

However, when Rahul Gandhi resigned from presidentship, taking moral responsibility for his party’s defeat in the general election, it was expected from the other leaders to find a new President.

Wishful contenders within the party

They have failed to do so because they are at least politically astute to understand that none of them will be accepted as the leader by other wishful contenders within the party and more importantly by Congress workers around the country.

So, they point the finger at Rahul Gandhi for not appointing someone as the President if he was not willing to take up the task himself again.

They accuse Rahul Gandhi of their failure to find a replacement for Rahul Gandhi to be the President of the party. However, the real intention was to create a group within the party to protect their interest as they fear being marginalised by some of their younger colleagues.

They suffer from insecurity as they lack any base of their own and their political career completely dependent upon power play within the party.

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Though, this ‘letter’ controversy has become a dud within the party after the Congress Working Committee meeting on 25 August 2020, that has not stopped most of India’s compromised media and even many so-called liberal political commentators to keep blaming Rahul Gandhi.

Indian media these days mostly follow the direction given to them by the party in power, so while the country is facing a massive pandemic and serious economic crisis, it has been busy reporting a suicide death in Bollywood and so-called revolt against Rahul Gandhi in the Congress Party.

Media criticism of Rahul

While the media criticism of Rahul Gandhi is regime-sponsored, there are some liberal commentators under the guise of public intellectuals who are not leaving any chance to deride him.

Many of these commentators were part of anti-corruption ‘Anna’ movement in 2011, which was an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) managed operation to pull down the secular coalition and bring a Hindu nationalist government to power in Delhi.

Before the 2014 general election, they had done everything to slander Manmohan Singh government knowing very well what would be the alternative.

Their acts of omissions and commissions were responsible to some extent to legitimise the process of India sacrificing its secular character in the name of getting corruption-free development.

Though these commentators have been criticising Hindu majoritarian politics of the present regime after it came to power, they at the same time, have been also surprisingly engaged in deprecating Rahul Gandhi, probably the only important national leader in India who has been steadfast in his open opposition to the regime’s divisive majoritarian politics.

These ‘liberal’ commentators criticise Prime Minister Narendra Modi but at the same time advocate and even glorify some state chief ministers as his possible secular alternatives, even though these regional leaders are directly and indirectly cooperating with the BJP from time to time.

They had also a couple of favourites within the Congress Party, one of them has already defected to the BJP and the other one was almost going to do that some weeks back but failed to get enough support for his plan to succeed.

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Rahul Gandhi pays tribute to his late father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on his 76th birth anniversary, as it rains in New Delhi, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020 Image Credit: PTI

While almost all the opposition leaders are silent or supportive of the regime, Rahul Gandhi has not missed any chance to take the Hindu nationalist government to the task for its provocative politics in Kashmir and its silence on China’s intrusion into Indian territory.

Rahul Gandhi has been consistent in highlighting the regime’s failure not only on economic and job-creation fronts but also in pointing out its lack of sincerity in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rahul Gandhi has never failed to highlight the threats posed by Hindu majoritarianism to the country’s security and integrity. If there is any leader in the opposition side, whose criticism unsettles India’s ruling regime, it is Rahul Gandhi.

While the comments of other opposition leaders are conveniently ignored, when Rahul Gandhi speaks against the government at least four to five senior ministers come out to respond to him.

No one in India has been consistently acting as an opposition to the present regime for the last six years as Rahul Gandhi has been.

Rahul Gandhi is highly educated and well-read. Anyone who has interacted with him knows about his intellectual grasp and his understanding of India’s challenges.

He is known for his empathy, ability to listen to others, and his desire to stand in support of poor and oppressed sections of the Indian society. Any person believing in liberal secular values anywhere in the world would like to support a leader like Rahul.

Why do then these ‘liberal’ commentators in India tend to believe the WhatsApp forwards from the regime’s social media cell more than their intellectual faculty to judge Rahul Gandhi and his commitment to India’s pluralism and individual liberty?

Thus, one wonders if these commentators are really liberals and aspire India to remain as an inclusive democratic country? Or, they are ‘smart’ to mask their Hindu upper-caste arrogance and imprudently supporting India’s evolution towards being a Hindu Rashtra under the present regime?

Ashok Swain is a Professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, Sweden