Spotlight on Congress conclave
SO Rahul Gandhi has been coronated. With Sonia Gandhi noticeably in poor health, the monarch-to-be will now have to takeover virtually all power as party chief. The chintan shibir actually seemed to have done little chintan except to see that Rahul accepts the party’s Vice-Presidentship which, in reality, makes him the party supreme.
As Deccan Herald (January 21) noted, “all that one saw and heard through much of the meeting was sycophancy and sloganeering, calling for Rahul’s elevation.” Short of any leadership, for the sycophants, Rahul’s acceptance of his newly created position was manna from heaven and the sigh of relief could be heard miles away.
The Herald said “Rahul’s nomination may boost the sagging morale of Congressmen, but whether it can enthuse India’s voters is another matter.” It was very sceptical. The Times of India (January 21) noted that so far Rahul has “pretty much been a cipher” and that “this attitude of remote patriarchal (or matriarchal) benevolence in a patronage-based society is however wearing thin as India evolves rapidly.” The paper said “Rahul’s elevation ought to be welcomed” and the party must re-invent itself considering that a party’s “formal structure should reflect its informal dynamics”. “Further delay” said the paper, “would have fed into perceptions of the Gandhi scion’s diffidence to lead.”
The New Indian Express (January 21) told Rahul that now he has taken up the job “expectations from him are high and his future will depend on how he performs.” It advised him “to succeed he has to get rid of sycophants and ensure that leadership develops from grass roots” and suggested that “his first task should be to change the way the Congress functions and make it a truly democratic organisation.”
The Hindu (January 21) said that Rahul has inherited his job “at the worst possible juncture with challenges coming at full speed from multiple directions”, “From corruption to social unrest to diminishing electoral returns in the states, not to mention the dire strait of the economy, the Congress is up against impossible odds” but nonetheless Rahul must be complimented on choosing to walk the difficult path at a difficult time,” the paper added.
Writing in Business Line (January 21) BS Raghavan said one point that goes greatly in Rahul’s favour is that he has not misused his position so far and “the enthusiasm he inspires among the leaders, members and workers under the Congress banner is genuine and unmistakable”. On the subject of dynasticism, Raghavan said that “it is all very well for carping critics to question it as a legitimate credential”, but “it cannot be denied that it has certainly hasn’t the vital and positive element of experience from close quarters of problem-solving, confilict-managing and people-handling by the topmost leader.”
The paper itself (January 22) damned “the blatant exhibition of dynastic power and sycophancy” but said that perhaps it will “provide a morale-booster to a party heading a government beleaguered by allegations of corruption, ineptitude,” etc. However, it said “one cannot really see Rahul in his new role, being able, beyond a point, to reverse his party’s declining fortunes” because “without growth returning, the government cannot hope to come back.” “Unlike five years back there is simply no money for expansive schemes”, the paper added.
Hindustan Times (January 21) spoke warmly of Rahul Gandhi’s speech saying “for a man of few words, Mr Gandhi was almost eloquent with his forceful agenda for change.” Empowerment, said the paper “is an idea whose time has come because the people will accept nothing less.” It recalled that “the renunciation of power and the corrupting influence of power were recurring themes in his speech” and said that if all that Mr Gandhi said “means that the Grand Old Party can re-invent and re-energise itself, its opponenets certainly have something to worry about.” The paper didn’t refer to him as ‘Rahul’ and one presumes that the media has at last accepted the fact that he is not just a teenager likely to be overburdened with power even before he had any experience but is now an adult, to be respected as such.
Asian Age (January 21) felt that considering that even when he was part general secretary, his fellow general secretaries all but reported to him, “in real terms the Congress scion’s day-to-day work is unlikely to change by raising him.” “When the chintan baitak has been arranged to mull over policies and deficiencies in the organisation, all that has been over-shadowed by Mr Gandhi’s new appointment”, the paper complained. About the only thing “positive for the Congress and the country” said the paper, is that Mr Gandhi has shown that he knows “that power has not been used to give people their due”.
About the best editorial is the one in The Telegraph (January 21) which said that “the Congress popularity is in the decline and the opening remarks of Sonia Gandhi suggest that at the “level of ideas and programmes, the vision deficit persists”. “Part of the Congress’s problems grows from the fact that it is once reformist but twice shy”, said the paper.
Continuing, it said that there is no attempt made to convince the people of India that economic reforms will also bring them welfare. “There is no recognition within the Congress that it must change the way it thinks. To just think in Jaipur is not enough said the paper in conclusion. Interestingly, the issue of dynasticism hardly was raised by anybody, probably in the belief that Rahul will be the last of the dynasty and after him the Nehru-Gandhi era will end. Many say that when Rahul Gandhi’s acceptance made public, the sigh of relief in the Congress camp could be heard miles away. One suspects that the people of India really – and in their hearts – accept dynasticism and the perpetuation of royalty as legitimate, seeing security in continuity. Jawaharlal Nehru was a widower. Will Rahul continue to remain a bachelor? Does the public have the right to know the contours of a politician’s private life? In any event he now for all purposes heads the Congress and only time will tell his relevance in the history of India.