Little substance

Rahul Gandhi’s travels across the country are considered political lifelines for the Congress trying to regain its lost elan and place in the polity. In the one-man mass contact programme spanning over three years he has travelled light, talking hope and resurrection, and has to his credit seen the party reviving in pockets where it had been considered lost. He takes it as his main responsibility and so reaches out to the youth and seeks to build a constituency that will support the party in the days to come. But there is a contradiction in the mobilisation and the restructuring plan that he has for the Youth Congress that he presides over. The organisational democracy that he wants to imbue in the party stops at his door steps. Elections at lower levels are good but will the spirit work its way up to decide who heads the party? In the entrenched personality-centred and sycophantic culture of the Congress that is an impossibility. The number of state party units which requested Sonia Gandhi in the last few days to nominate their presidents proves the point again.

Rahul Gandhi is not just the party’s political storm-trooper but is its prime ministerial candidate in the near future. Howevermuch he denies, out of politeness, propriety or tact, that he has any aspiration to be the prime minister, the idea is written deep in the minds of all Congressmen and acknowledged by others. But the world still does not know what he stands for and how he would deal with the many issues of politics, governance and economy that a complex country is facing and will throw up in future. All the words, gestures and postures that marked his engagement with the country have failed to define his positions and indicate the contours of his policies on any major issue. In spite of all the visibility he is still an unknown. He has been evasive on most issues, as when he was asked about his views on reforming the education system, or more recently on Kashmir. Questions are shifted to other quarters or blunted by vague and general responses, leaving trails of doubt.

Charisma without content and popularity without a policy cannot strengthen democracy. Through all his political peregrinations and for all his public pronouncements, there is an idea deficit in the man who may be the prime minister. The man is the message, and the medium. That cannot help the party and the country.

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