Maybe I am reading it wrong but Rahul Gandhi could well have sent the old hands in the Congress into a tizzy with what he enunciated in his speech at the Chintan Shivir in Jaipur. For the better part of 40 minutes, the young leader revealed his thinking about the functioning of his party, the need for reinvention, the impatience of the people, the faulty, all-exclusive governance, and more. He articulated the frustrations and despair of ordinary people in simple, straightforward language and expressed the sentiments we all have about faulty governance in politics and the administration, the insular structuring of policies, disengagement from the public, and more.
True to form and character, the faces of the national media, with their premeditated positions, did not have the intellectual wherewithal to hear and listen and then report. They missed all the many nuanced critiques and finer indicators of a possible future in their hysterical rhetoric. The same media are fast becoming irrelevant as television anchors take on the persona of slap-stick comedians doing an act we watch primarily to rid ourselves of the stress of daily living. But this ongoing rant, on the small screen, does not matter. In the end, Rahul Gandhi has to show his paces and begin to change the narrative. Once that trajectory starts, these same ladies and gentlemen will be singing a new anthem.
The Bharatiya Janata Party thought it was being smart when it referred to ‘the speech’ as being akin to that of an Opposition leader. They were not very wrong. The newly appointed vice president of the Congress has exposed, in a compassionate manner, all the negative realities that have plagued the delivery mechanisms of this party, destroying its foundations and diluting its strengths by operating ‘top down’, to put it simplistically. Will the men and women who have held the reins till now, all those unelected political and general secretaries who ruled by diktat, be eased out of their gaddis?
All self-respecting senior leaders, who have had their moments in the sun, should graciously tender their resignations to enable the new vice president to reinvent his team. Will they behave with that kind of dignity? Or will they indulge in treacherous politicking and all that goes with that game to hang on to their posts? Will they try to lead a revolt within the party? Either way, cleansing or splitting, it will be a positive way forward. The Congress requires a new avatar if it is to restore its power and position. Rahul Gandhi was right — it is a party that can embrace the liberal diversity of India because that was the fundamental premise of its coming together that needs to be nurtured again.
The body language of some of the ‘elders’ was distinctly uncomfortable after Rahul Gandhi’s intervention. Those who have won their elections and are either chief ministers or in the Lok Sabha, appeared confident and pleased but the unelected or the Rajya Sabha leaders and those nominated to positions of power or living on sinecures were clearly uneasy about the new language spoken by their new vice president. This first inkling of a change of attitude is very encouraging. Now we need some action.
Having hit the bottom, the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, has a real opportunity to change the trajectory, embrace the one constituency that the party had neglected — the burgeoning middle class — with strong indicators in the budget that address its concerns within the larger scheme, that will enforce the right to education and food, and make radical correctives in governance. UPA III could be a reality if the course, once chalked out, is put into action without betrayals from within. Rahul Gandhi can take the bull by its horns.