Sunday, 11 October 2015

THE POLITICAL PARIAH

Rahul Gandhi - Facebook
He came, he saw, he spoke but did he conquer? While he might still have been able to charm the audience while addressing a rally in Western Champaran in mid-September, the absence of regional heavyweights including incumbent CM Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav proves that the Congress Vice President is still to rub off the tag of being a 'pariah' (outsider) in political circles. The grand old party tried to brush this issue under the carpet by stating that the Amethi MP was in the poll bound state not for campaigning but to participate in the INC's celebration of Ambedkar's 125th birth anniversary. Though the younger Gandhi did his best, accusing the Modi government of failing to fulfill most of its electoral promises, the absence of the big names from the grand alliance on the dais took the sheen out of the rally even before it began. Although the JD-U supremo Nitish Kumar did receive RaGa at the Patna airport, he excused himself from being seen with the Gandhi scion citing ticket distribution, which as per the detractors was just a ploy. Meanwhile, Lalu preferred to stay away too; his younger son Tejaswi represented the RJD at the rally. From the ruling party, it was Rajya Sabha and senior leader K C Tyagi who accompanied Rahul Gandhi at the September 19th rally.

It is well-known that the Congress VP and the former Bihar CM Lalu Yadav have a little bit of history between them; many will remember that it was Rahul who famously tore the Ordinance introduced by the previous Manmohan Singh led UPA II regime allowing convicted legislators to continue in their post. With the Congress' move to protect its former ally going down the drain, the Lalu-Rahul relations were spoiled forever. Of course, this should not have been a surprise at all for either the Congress or its leader. However, what would have hurt for sure is the absence of Nitish Kumar. We very well know that the Amethi MP is a big admirer of the JD-U chief. Even while the latter was an integral part of the NDA, RaGa had asked him to shun the 'communal' BJP and join the UPA. It is also believed that he was in favor of an alliance with Kumar for the 2014 General Elections but it was his mother who prevailed and the INC joined hands with the RJD. With the negative publicity surrounding Gandhi yet to die down, Kumar seems to be playing safe and rightly so; besides, unlike the Congress leader who has virtually nothing to lose in Bihar, for the CM, the upcoming polls is for sure is going to be a 'do or die' scenario.

I wrote a blog post a few months ago (Link) citing what the Amethi MP needs to do in my opinion to 're-brand' himself so that he is taken seriously, both by the electorate and by people within political circles. I must say, that in the last few months, the Congress VP has done really well; he is seen more often in the Parliament nowadays. He is seen taking a more hard line, criticizing the Modi government at every given opportunity. In fact, if party sources are to be believed, the washout of the monsoon session of the Lower House was largely his idea. Most importantly, he is seen taking a stand on issues that matter to the people at large. Be it net neutrality, OROP or the Land Bill, he is seen in the midst of the action of late which is certainly a plus. However the snub by senior regional leaders indicates that there seems to be a lot more that RaGa needs to do.

The last point that I made in that post - collaboration with other non-NDA leaders is something where there is a lot more for Rahul to work upon. I thought that the Bihar elections where the Congress is fighting in alliance with the JD-U and the RJD would be a superb opportunity for the younger Gandhi to strike a working relationship with other non-BJP parties. If the reports coming out of the state are anything to go by, that certainly does not seem to be the case. As of now, Nitish and Lalu have kept a safe distance from junior Gandhi. Perhaps, for things to change and such 'embarrassments' to be avoided in the future, the Amethi MP and his party need to end their drought and start winning some polls. Certainly, Bihar where the INC is a part of a grand coalition, could be the state from where the RaGa bandwagon starts rolling. In that case, apart from deciding the fate of Nitish & Co, Bihar 2015 could be the launch pad for the revival of the Congress and its crown prince Rahul Gandhi.