There is no surprise. It was well known that the Congress party is hopelessly dependent on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. The elevation of Rahul Gandhi to the post of Congress president was as expected. But Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar has given another dimension to it. He has likened Rahul's succession to that in the Mughal dynasty. He says the king's son would always be the king.
Whatever the party says, it is nothing but a dynastic show. Jawaharlal Nehru groomed his daughter Indira Gandhi to the position. At the Congress Working Committee, the then party president U N Dhebar proposed Indira's name, but Home minister G B Pant said she should not be bothered as she did not enjoy good health. Nehru objected to Pant's remark and said Indira was in far better health than he and Pant were. Indira was elected the party president.
Sonia Gandhi did not even argue otherwise. She straightaway put her son Rahul Gandhi in the chair. There was a rumour that she would name her daughter Priyanka Vadra, because Rahul Gandhi was not selling anyway. But then, the Italians, like Indians, prefer son to the daughter for inheritance.
To justify Rahul Gandhi's elevation, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said it was the beginning of a new era. Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said the issue of Rahul's elevation had to be decided by Sonia Gandhi and the Congress Working Committee. Even otherwise, he said, the grassroots Congress workers wanted the elevation to happen. "Yes, this is the common feeling among grassroots workers." But one could read Digvijay Singh's disappointment.
In fact, the party will now run from 10, Janpath, as it did from Teen Murti or Safdarjung residences of Nehru and Indira during their time. Even otherwise, it was Sonia Gandhi who was reigning, when Manmohan Singh was installed as prime minister. I was a witness to the drama at the central hall of parliament when members of the party wept that Sonia Gandhi should be the prime minister. But she kept quiet, because Sonia had her son in mind. And if she were to become prime minister at that time, it would have looked like a stage-managed drama.
Even Manmohan Singh had on occasion said he would be happy to vacate the chair for Rahul Gandhi as and when he was ready to take over. Though it took a long while, particularly with Sonia Gandhi in indifferent health, Rahul's taking over the party was inevitable.
Rahul Gandhi has already reasserted secularism as his party's plank. The BJP may not own up Hindutva in public, but it is all too clear that the party will fight the next election in 2019 on the slogan of Hindutva. Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes no secret of the fact that he visits Nagpur, the RSS headquarters, and seeks guidance from its head Mohan Bhagwat. His slogan of sab ka saath, sab ka vikas has proved to be a mere slogan.
One can see that Muslims do not count in his scheme of things. And it is a pity that they themselves have withdrawn. The landslide victory in the UP assembly polls is proof of how the BJP captured power in the state. It was clear that the party wanted the people to know that it was not in any way dependent on the Muslim electorate.
This is bound to be underlined yet again in Gujarat, where polls are underway. And Modi has made it clear that the one who wins Gujarat will win India in the next general election. The whirlwind campaign by Modi is already raising the question whether he is staking too much in Gujarat. It could be because the Patidars have joined hands with the Congress to fight against the BJP, with the youth, who want a change, supporting them.
So far, the record of Rahul Gandhi has not been impressive from any point of view. He has fought many elections, including UP, where he aligned with Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party. But this did not help and the Congress lost miserably, reduced to the fourth position. Now, he has to prove his popularity in the coming Gujarat election. If he fails, it would come to be known that he cannot win on his own.
It is surprising that Rahul Gandhi has defended the dynasty factor. He says that all parties are dependent on it, citing the examples of Punjab, UP, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. But what he forgets is that in all these states, the parties have been coming to power alternatively. Can he or, for that matter, the Congress win a majority to form the government at the Centre? He will have to work hard if he wants the Congress to return to power. But at present, at least, he doesn't seem to have the pulling power. But the scene can change.
We have witnessed Indira Gandhi, who was called ghoonghi gudia (mute doll), becoming prime minister and, within a short period of time, taking on the entire opposition. Even her son, Rajiv Gandhi, who was foisted upon the nation by then President Gyani Zail Singh, was accepted. There is no reason why Rahul Gandhi should not come to be acknowledged.
But it will depend on how he is able to pull along and help the party win elections. At this time, it looks difficult because secularism has been pushed into the background. A 'soft' Hindutva has spread all over the country. It is a pity that a country which fought for freedom on the plank of pluralism has not been able to follow the ethos of the Independence struggle.