Monday September 12, 2022

Rahul Gandhi’s bid to keep Congress relevant

Rahul Gandhi’s bid to keep Congress relevant

Reports suggest that the Gandhi family favours Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot as the party president.

Along with the Modi regime’s alleged failures, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s hate politics figures as a major theme of the speeches Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who is currently on a 150-day march across the entire length of India, covering a distance of more than 3,500 kil0metres on foot.

The march began last week at Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, at the southern tip of the subcontinent. It will end in Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of India.

The name “Bharat Jodo Yatra” given to the march suggests that its objective is to unite the nation which Hindutva forces have divided on the basis of religion.

A criticism secular forces can legitimately raise against later generations of the Nehru-Gandhi family is that they did not combat Hindu communalism as vigorously as Jawaharlal Nehru did. In fact, they invited the criticism that, instead of confronting Hindutva forces, they chose to appease them by toeing a soft Hindutva line.

Before the march began, the Nehru-Gandhi family made it known that none of its members — Sonia Gandhi, son Rahul and daughter Priyanka — will be a candidate for the post of Congress President in the organisational elections which are under way. In doing so, it conceded the demand of a group of dissident leaders that someone from outside the family must become the Congress President.

This does not mean the family will lose its pre-eminent position in the party. While it has not publicly endorsed any candidate, there are reports that it favours the election of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot as the party president.

He is one of the leaders accompanying Rahul Gandhi in his cross-country march.

Some leaders eying the post of Congress President seem to imagine that the post will automatically make one the party’s prime ministerial candidate. It is too early for any Congress leader to develop prime ministerial ambitions. At the moment, the primary task before the leaders is to strengthen the party and recapture its past glory. This calls for joint efforts by both the Nehu-Gandhi family and the dissident elements.

If Rahul Gandhi is able to create new enthusiasm in party workers across the more than 12 states through which the march to re-unite the nation will pass, it will certainly go a long way in making the Congress, which is now in a bad shape, relevant once again. In the process, Rahul Gandhi, whose leadership qualities have been called into question in the recent past, may have rendered himself also relevant.

The BJP has been quick to realise this. Rahul Gandhi and his fellow -matchers are still in the far south, a region which has been inhospitable to the Hindutva camp. They still have to go a long way to reach the Hindi belt where the BJP has established its sway.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chief lieutenant and Home Minister, Amit Shah launched a personal attack on Rahul Gandhi while speaking at a public meeting im Jodhpur, Rajasthan.

He saud Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, both in the Hindi region, are the only two states now under Congress governments. “If BJP forms the government in these two states after the next Assembly elections, then Congress will be left with nothing,” he added.

Shah then went on to claim that Rahul Gandhi was wearing a foreign T-shirt worth more than Rs 41,000 during the march.

The BJP tweeted screenshot of a British firm’s catalogue showing a price tag of Rs 41,257.

The T-shirt tweet may be seen as a delayed tit-for-tat response to Rahul Gandhi’s criticisn of Narendra Modi a few years ago for accepting a suit worth Rs 1 million gifted by a businessman. Gandhi later branded the Modi regime “”a suit-boot government” Neither Amit Shah nor the BJP responded to Rahul Gandhi’s charge of hate politics. The Congress party responded to the T-shirt controversy with an appeal to the Prime Minister to come to the real issues and not hoodwink the people.

Ahead on Rahul Gandhi’s long route are BJP strongholds, which have served as laboratories of hate politics. The rest of India will watch with keen interest to know how Hindutva elements there respond to Rahul Gandhi’s campaign.

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