Commentary

Rahul Gandhi’s time starts now

Rahul Gandhi. Photo: AP
Mr Rahul Gandhi, Vice-President of India’s Congress party and scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, with his mother and party President Sonia Gandhi at a party meeting in Jaipur this month. Photo: AP
Published: 3:59 AM, January 30, 2013
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If you were looking for political theatre, the recent Congress party meeting in the north Indian city of Jaipur had plenty of it. The highlight of the meeting was the appointment of Mr Rahul Gandhi as Vice-President, or the official number 2, of the party.

What is most disturbing, however, are Mr Gandhi’s long absences from the public arena and silence on the burning issues in India ... Even when he has reacted, it has been too little, too late.

This also signalled the intent of the Congress to project Mr Gandhi as its election mascot in the next general election scheduled for 2014. Both decisions were expected.

Mr Gandhi was for all purposes the second in command in the party to his mother Sonia Gandhi. Besides, it was always taken for granted in the Congress that he would be projected as the party’s candidate for Prime Minister — a chair occupied by Mr Gandhi’s great-grandfather, grandmother and father — in the coming election.

The unanimous endorsement of Mr Gandhi as Vice-President after it was proposed by a party GeneralSecretary hence was a mere formality.

It was the acceptance speech by Mr Gandhi, however, that made news.

One portion of it was very personal, recalling the bond, which has now spanned several generations, between the Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress as well as intimate details about his growing-up years that were scarred by the assassinations of his grandmother and father. This struck an emotional chord with party members, with many of them, including hardened veterans, in tears.

The other bits of the speech were meant to resonate with the larger constituency of Indian voters. This is where he talked about the need to change the governmental and political “system” in India which he labelled as closed and unaccountable. He also raised the issue of the anger of a “young and impatient India” which is demanding change.

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