The complete write up as one article
He began with his coronation as the reluctant prince of
Indian politics though the country was always curious about the lesser known
scion of India’s most elite political family.
With the coronation, he did certain things and we started
knowing and talking about him and the likelihood that he was on the way to
become a seasoned politician and the future prime minister started looking more
In addition to and away from the ranting and panting of the
airwaves and other news vehicles, he did stir the imagination in a country
obsessed with role models and heirlooms. He looked sincere, disturbed on the
misery called ‘Bharat’ and was angry on the pace of the 'needed' change.
He was labeled as the angry young man of Indian politics,
designated to be the next prime minister if the grand old party of India won
On March 6, 2012, he looked and sounded different, mellowed
down, realistic, polite and sincere again, away from the rhetoric that he had
been practicing for quiet some time now.
Rahul Gandhi, the ‘angered’ princeling of the Indian
political panorama was a soft-speaking person on the
day of counting of votes for the five state assembly elections and the
reason behind this change (transformation will be a premature term here!) was
the drubbing the Indian National Congress (INC)had in these assembly polls.
What the Congress party was expecting before the day of the counting was a
decimated hope by the afternoon of March 6, 2012.
The Congress party had expected to win back Punjab,
Uttarakhand and Manipur while gaining major foothold in Uttar Pradesh. Goa was
always a dicey proposition given the electoral history of the state. Instead,
it remained second in Punjab; could not win back Uttarakhand to have a smooth
sail and might not be able to form the government there; was decimated in Goa
and humiliated in Uttar Pradesh. Winning back Manipur has never been a
significant factor in the national politics (another irony for 'Bharat'!).
There are hell lot of factors apart from the ‘Rahul Gandhi’
one responsible for this rout but why Rahul Gandhi is emerging as the singular
point of attack has to do with the poor insight and the pathetic campaign
management of the Congress party managers as well as the inconsistent political
sincerity of Mr. Rahul Gandhi.
EXPERIMENTAL GENESIS BECOMING THE NEMESIS
First it was Bihar and now it is Uttar Pradesh. To make the
road to the prime minister's office easily accessible to Rahul Gandhi, the
Congress party started projecting him as the leading figure and future of the
party. The exercise began with these two states.
The managers of the grand old party of India saw these two
biggest states of India as the laboratory for Rahul Gandhi’s experiments on the
road to the political supremacy of the Congress party. They forgot the simple
fact that there was nothing like a ‘controlled test condition’ in this
laboratory. They foolishly ignored the fact that these two states, in more than
one way, decide the way the Indian polity moves because of their sheer
electoral size and number of parliamentary seats. Together, these two states
constitute almost 20 per cent of the Lok Sabha seats and any failure here was
going to have long-standing repercussions.
But there was this coordinated, controlled clamour to
project Rahul Gandhi as the prime minister of India material by 2014 when the
next General Elections are due.
So there he was. Every time. He campaigned heavily. He
Bihar was as big a humiliation as Uttar Pradesh is now for
the Congress party and for Mr. Rahul Gandhi.
Indian National Congress is almost non-existent in these two
nerve centers of the Indian polity. Instead of building a base of regional and
local cadres to create a strong organizational structure in these two states,
the Congress party banked on the charisma of the ‘Rahul Gandhi’ factor.
A regional leader is always the direct interface to the
local vote bank that Rahul Gandhi is not. In fact, he is yet to prove his worth
as the national level political figure. He emerged efficiently on the national
political scene but started getting defocused even before bolstering his
position there. He was there in flashes but lacked consistency.
And from that premature slot, he started slogging on unknown
pitches, first in Bihar and now in Uttar Pradesh.
And it all added to his nemesis.
WHAT WAS THE INFLICTION POINT?
In 2009 General Election, the Congress party performed well
in Uttar Pradesh winning 21 seats with 18 per cent votes. It was second only to
the Samajwadi Party that had won 23 seats with 23 per cent vote share. It was
indeed a significant gain for the party in India's most populous state where it
was already written off. Even then Rahul Gandhi had campaigned hard.
And he was attributed as the ‘sole factor’ behind this
meteoric resurgence of the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh.
Yes, Rahul Gandhi deserved some of the accolade but making
him absolutely taller a factor was like being not able to read the writing on
the wall when it was so clearly legible.
The first and the foremost pointer was the basic difference
between the Lok Sabha and state assembly elections. A Lok Sabha election is
fought mainly on national issues and the UPA government was riding high on the
fine performance of UPA’s first term in the office as well as the populist
Budgetary provisions like the windfall farmers debt waiver.
It was coupled with the rising anti-incumbency against the
Maywati led BSP government in Uttar Pradesh. While the Samajwadi Party felt the
pulse of the voter, the Congress party and the BSP failed to read it.
(I am not talking about another dying political force in the
state, the BJP, unless, like the Congress Party and Mr. Rahul Gandhi, it too,
doesn't take drastic change measures. It is beyond the scope of the subject
matter of the write-up here.)
The incumbent state government continued its pathetic show
and the central and the state leadership of the Congress party got busy in
idolizing Rahul Gandhi as the next big thing in the Indian polity.
They both got complacent. While the BSP thought it would
sail smoothly again on the Mayawati charisma, its intact Dalit vote bank and
the caste engineering (Mayawati couldn’t see it was rapidly withering away);
the Congress party thought it had got the panacea of its Uttar Pradesh problem
in Rahul Gandhi.
The escapism of the boneless Congress leadership in Uttar
Pradesh found a perfect match in the ignorant central leadership of the grand
old party. The 2009 election results
pushed the state Congress leaders in the state of ‘supreme bliss’ instead of
getting in the alert mode to deepen the gains by doing some solid hinterland
politics. It also blocked the 2012 Uttar Pradesh vision of the Congress
managers sitting in the comfort of the Lutyens' Delhi.
But then, has the Congress party not been so accustomed of
looking down on the Federal structure of the Indian Union when it comes to the
political representation of India as a whole?
Only the Samajwadi Party saw it as an opportunity to
strengthen its party cadre in the state and build on a rising anti-BSP wave. In
the follow-up they did tactical things like wooing Muslims and presenting a
sincere political face away from the trademark Samajwadi Party gundaism by
projecting faces like Akhilesh Yadav talking system clean-up and the populist
vote bank policies in the language of the ordinary Uttar Pradesh walla.
During the same crucial phase, Mayawati kept on
immortalizing herself by carving her identity in stones.
During the same crucial phase, Rahul Gandhi started
conducting his experiments in the laboratory called Uttar Pradesh but sans the
lessons learnt from the Bihar experiment.
Like this time in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi had campaigned
hard during the 2010 Bihar assembly election. Like this time in Uttar Pradesh,
he was the most sought after campaigner by the airwaves in the 2010 Bihar
And Congress was almost annihilated when the results were
announced getting just four assembly seats in the 243-member strong Bihar
That slap in the face was the turning point when the
Congress party could have learnt what went wrong and if there were other
significant factors behind the spectacular performance of the party in Uttar
Pradesh in 2009 General Elections.
But that didn’t happen. A comfortable run at the centre kept
on greasing the complacency mode. They could not see it was not pro-Rahul
Gandhi mandate in 2009 but was basically anti-Mayawati.
They could not realize it even after the Bihar drubbing that
was mainly due to the non-existent organizational structure of the Congress
party in the state. Instead, they deduced it was pro-Nitish Kumar and not
Yes, we can say that when it comes to the ‘Rahul Gandhi’
factor. Rahul Gandhi’s political career is not even a decade old. In 2004, he
announced he would contest the 2004 General Election from Amethi. That was the
day and this is the day after almost eight years. This small period is really
not enough for someone like Rahul Gandhi (he was really never in touch with the
political pulse of the country before announcing his entry) to prove worthiness
and suitability to hold the highest ‘functional’ office in the country.
Though Rahul has worked hard, has travelled a lot, he still
has not been able to develop that connect with the masses, first in Bihar and
now in Uttar Pradesh, these two experiments show us.
He started very well and looked sincere when he spoke
through his representative seriousness reflected in issues and names like ‘Kalawati’. He roamed across, went to Dalit
huts, ate with them, got adventurous, did biking to skirt the administration to
reach to his audience. He did so much but not sufficient enough and so, as of
now, he looks to have got so less.
The blame always rests with the grand old party of India and
its ardent family followers but Mr. Rahul Gandhi is also responsible for it in
a major way.
IT WAS PR BUT WHERE WAS THE NEXT STEP?
Much has been written on the team that works for Rahul
Gandhi, the team of expert communicators and managers. They worked genuinely
indeed during the launch years. They gave Rahul a different identity; a
politician with a difference who talked sense and looked impartial. Rahul’s
speeches used to have an emotional quotient delivered in ‘angered’ tone and it
But Rahul and his team could not gauge the basics of the
next stage of his political career. It had to be more of Rahul Gandhi and less
of PR. It had to be a Rahul Gandhi having his own world view extending and
strengthening his image of the politician with a difference.
Rahul had created a hope in millions of being a positively
‘different’ political leader but when he started acting like an ordinary
politician during the Parliament debates or during his election campaigns
criticizing opponents overlooking the facts, it went against his initially
Also, he adopted double standards on many issues. He
campaigned for farmers of Bhatta Parsual in Uttar Pradesh but was deliberately
late in reaching to the agitating Pune farmers as his party was the ruling
coalition partner in Maharashtra. Imprints of such acts are killing any PR guru
would tell you.
And this is not the standalone case. Volumes have been
written on the misery of Rahul’s Kalawati even if she was the central theme of
one of the most significant political speeches of Rahul’s career.
It is the high time that Mr. Rahul Gandhi starts reading the
writing on the wall. He needs to do real politicking now. PR may help but it
must not be the PR centrally. He needs to act sincere consistently. He needs to
work on building the dilapidated organizational structure of the Congress party
in core states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar first. And he needs to know how to
criticize your opponents gracefully.
Getting angry on misery of ‘Bharat’ is good but, at the same
time, adopting double standards on plenty of issues dilutes the gain making
that emotional quotient look like a fake one.
He needs to see that Bhatta Parsual voted against him. He
needs to read the why of this without fail.
His words and mood on March 6, 2012 sounded like this. Let’s
hope his sincerity will act more consistently now.
His political longevity depends on how soon he goes back to
building his image of the politician with a difference.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - http://severallyalone.blogspot.com/