- Gandhi had made up his mind before the results of general election 2019 that he would quit helming the party if the BJP won
- Gandhi argued that he was not giving up, he was simply moving on and that he would continue to oppose the ideology of the RSS
Rahul Gandhi, 49, the former Congress president has been consistent about two things in his life: his fierce devotion to his family and his consistent opposition to Narendra Modi.
Gandhi took the rare step, in the cesspool that passes for Indian politics, when he took full responsibility for the Congress’ defeat and quit as the president of the party.
Gandhi had made up his mind before the results of general election 2019 that he would quit helming the party if the BJP won.
And on May 25 he said exactly that to his shell-shocked party and family. This time around Gandhi stuck to his guns despite mother Sonia and sister Priyanka Gandhi pleading with him not to give up.
Gandhi argued that he was not giving up. He was simply moving on and that he would continue to oppose the ideology of the RSS, which was the antithesis to the idea of a secular and plural India.
In my opinion, Gandhi finally got some rock solid credibility when he refused to give in to all the pressure and went public with his four-and-a-half page resignation letter.
This was his way of telling his family and party that he was done. The Congress party had seemingly gone in to an embarrassing coma post Gandhi’s decision. Senior leaders were running around like headless chickens pretending that all was well with the party.
Randeep Surjewala, communication chief, went on national television to say: “Gandhi was party chief, and would continue to be party chief”.
Gandhi simply had enough of the sycophancy and also being everyone’s favourite fall guy. The fact that he immediately changed his twitter bio to just Member of Parliament also spoke volumes.
Says a senior leader who knows Gandhi well: “Once Rahul makes up his mind, it’s not possible to change it. He worked his heart out in the elections and feels hugely let down that the other leaders did not make the same effort. Particularly on taking on Modi. He was fighting alone.
"He had hoped that a process of introspection would start after he quit and leaders he had singled out as caring only for their sons such as Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath, and Chidambaram would take the hint. Senior Congress leaders have crocodile hide when it comes to power and chairs and they did not budge.”
Gandhi expressed his hurt in his resignation letter saying he felt that he was fighting alone and that he had to set an example for others to also take responsibility.
Congress leaders preferred to ignore the giant hint. In fact, Ashok Gehlot, who lost every single seat in Rajasthan, said publicly Gandhi’s letter “would be an inspiration to everyone in the Congress”, and yet he was not inspired enough to resign.
Sources close to Gandhi said he was extremely hurt by the callous indifference of the top leaders he had singled out who refused to quit. The loss of his traditional seat in Amethi was a huge blow.
Says a young Congress leader: “I may sound crude, but these people (senior leaders) have now started gnawing on the bones after eating all the meat that the Gandhi family provided.”
Gandhi was always a bit of a mystery to the party leaders. Gandhi is terribly well meaning, but he is certainly a reluctant politician.
His insistence on regular breaks, long workouts and his fascination for vipassna puzzled the regular politician who lives and breathes politics 24/7.
Gandhi surrounded himself with non-political aides, who literally had no idea of the Byzantine ways of Indian politics. The huge disconnect with these impatient self-important office of RG types and senior party leaders could not be bridged.
A series of missteps and interventions by Sonia Gandhi also ensured that Rahul could not entirely call the shots. One of these missteps was Priyanka Gandhi’s terribly ill-timed and underwhelming formal entry in to politics.
This will be the first time that the Congress will have the entire Gandhi family in active politics and whoever is the new president will have to factor in this gargantuan elephant in the room.
How the Gandhis find new roles in the party and how they treat the new president will be the real test.
If the new president is a mere place holder and the real power centres continue to be the “family”, then the Congress will continue to be out of step with impatient India.
Modi and Amit Shah, while fostering many new dynasties in the BJP, have ensured with copious help from the BJP’s IT cell, the destruction of Rahul Gandhi’s public image in particular.
And, they made the fifth generation dynast a misfit in today’s politics.
Maybe Modi knows the real threat that the Gandhi family still poses to the BJP, which is why he is relentless in running Rahul Gandhi down.
It certainly is not the end of the road for Gandhi. All obituaries will be premature. Much will depend on the Modi government. The “curse of the second term” is a well-known phenomenon in American politics where even the most popular presidents get reduced to lame ducks the second time they get the Oval Office.
Will Modi face it? And will his most consistent adversary Gandhi be able to capitalise on it? Stranger things have happened.