By Sandhya Jain
Rahul Gandhi'sde facto anointment at the Hyderabad plenary session of the Congress, under the watchful eyes of his mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, sent political and media acolytes into the throes of a self-induced hysteria and hyperbole. Even though the truth is that the scandal involving the surreptitious de-freezing of Ottavio Quattrocchi'sLondon bank accounts, which contained Rs. 21 crore of Bofors payoff money, forced Sonia Gandhi to postpone bringing Rahul Gandhi into the Congress Working Committee, senior party leaders and media mandarins behaved as if his ?reluctance? to assume a formal position in the party was the last word in self-abnegation.
One has only to recall his informal interview with Tehelka last year, where he bragged that he could have become prime minister at the age of 25, to realise that his humility is borne out of necessity. The parallel that comes to mind is of Sonia Gandhi who falsely claimed the support of 272 MPs to President K.R. Narayanan finally staking her claim before President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, only to be told she could not be sworn in, and cloaking her humiliation in dramatic renunciation.
Rahul'ssupposedly off-beat speech reflects the yawning chasm between Congress? top leadership and the people of India, which is the reason for the party'sdwindling fortunes in state after state. The demeaning drama that preceded Rahul'sspeech failed to disguise the reality that the Congress? future leader is a youth without vision, without passion for India, and without any knowledge about Indian society and its grand civilisational ethos. He is in politics because his family background ensures him a seat in Parliament.
To his credit, Rahul is canny enough to realise that he cannot shoulder the burden of the party'sexpectations alone, since he does not empathise with the Indian people, and hence he cannot emerge as a significant vote-catcher, on the lines of Indira Gandhi. This is equally true of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and that is why Congress performs poorly in states where it lacks credible local leaders. That is why Rahul has called for rebuilding the party leadership in states where Congress is weak, which encompasses most of north India.
Rahul Gandhi is wise not to blame communal and religion-based parties for the decline of the Congress, as this will only alienate the sections of society that vote for these parties and whom Congress is trying to woo. Besides, as Congress in the guise of the UPA is only pursuing communal and religion-based politics, which is excessively biased towards the minorities, the party should introspect why it still fails to impress voters. Thus, while Rahul may be right that Congress has the largest number of young leaders, the sad fact is that most of these so-called leaders are merely, like him, the scions of political families, who have ?inherited? the family seat. They are Babalog, not innovative and energetic youth who will take the country forward in any area.
Indeed, their disconnect with the people of India was powerfully underlined by Rahul when he made his appeal to the youth leaders: ?Let us move into a battlefield, the heart of India. Let us go to the villages, and the towns and the cities. Let us go to universities and schools. Let us move away from the corridors of power. Let us cement the links with our people. Let us listen to wisdom of our great people. Let us understand their concerns and their aspirations. Let us become leaders by listening and by learning and by working rather than through post and positions.? Biased media bards have gone into raptures over this speech, yet this is precisely, to my mind, the segment that best betrays the complete alienation of Congress? city-bred MPs with India that breathes outside the large megapolises. Rahul has let the cat out of the bag? Congress has no grassroots youth leaders at all!
As for the Congress ideology, I wish we could know what it is, other than minority appeasement and fostering of divisive tendencies in the larger Hindu community. The late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi wrote a piffling verse in memory of Bahadur Shah Zafar when he visited Rangoon, but his horrible gaffe came when he allowed a scriptwriter from Mumbai to make him mouth the infamous nani yaad dila denge for Pakistani President Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.
Rahul'sscriptwriter has asked him to tell his slavish audience that his religion was the Indian flag. This is simply dishonest. Given the Congress penchant, especially under the UPA regime, to exploit religion for electoral purposes; given the Roman Catholic background of his mother Sonia and the fact that his sister has married into a Christian family; and his own foreigner girlfriend having a Catholic background, Rahul should not have dissimulated about his religion after himself raising the issue.
But having raised the issue, he owes the nation the truth. He has to tell us whether or not he roots himself in the ancient dharma of India, respects its civilisational ethos and feels duty bound to uphold and protect it, or whether he feels that missionaries have the right to freely enter the country, demean its native traditions, and undertake conversions by any means. Since many western countries consider conversions an instrument of foreign policy and have huge budgets reserved for evangelical activities, which impinge upon India'snational sovereignty in sensitive regions like the north-east. The Congress party'sheir apparent should have used to first opportunity to clarify his position on conversion to foreign faiths, funded and monitored by foreign governments.