Monday, December 09, 2013

Rahul Gandhi needs to go

The Congress rout in the states of Rajasthan, Delhi ,Madhya Pradesh and its inability to win in Chhattisgarh, despite having everything in its favour, can be dealt in two ways by the party. The easier and the most likely to be followed method is to blame it on the regional leaders, regional issues and the regional voters.  
The second way of looking at things, which is unlikely to happen, is to admit that the fault lies at the top, within the boundaries of Delhi Darbar from where the party functions and directs the state leaders.
Leaders like Charan Das Mahant, Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh and Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijay Singh in Madhya Pradesh, as was accepted from the loyal soldiers, have accepted that the party lost because of them.  Any insinuation to party vice president Rahul Gandhi being anyway involved in the defeat was nipped at the bud.
But is this the case? Shouldn't the accountability be fixed on Rahul, for the decimation that the Congress suffered in these states? If not him,  then who?

In both Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the tickets to Congress candidates were distributed as per his wish list. A term, “Rahul formula”, gained prominence when the candidates were being shortlisted for ticket distribution. As per that formula, probable candidates were interviewed, asked to fill in a questionnaire and his trusted aide Kaniska Singh was asked to help in weeding out the ‘incapable’ candidates who were not strong enough.  The picture that emerged was that a methodical way was used by Rahul to give tickets.
But what was the end result? In Madhya Pradesh the party fared worse than it had in 2008.
Astonishingly, the first Congress list of Madhya Pradesh candidates was declared as late as the first week of November. Later, a senior leader said that it was because of the involvement of Delhi Darbar that the tickets distribution was delayed, giving little time for the candidates to take on a party, which has been in power for the last 10 years. Conversely, barring a few seats, the BJP had already decided on the probable candidates much before than their official announcement.
State Chhief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had realized that there was a huge anti-incumbency against some of his MLAs, and to counter this, he denied tickets to close to 44 sitting MLAs. The Congress or rather Rahul Gandhi failed at this front too, with the party deciding to continue with most of their sitting MLAs.
In Madhya Pradesh, the appointment of Scindia as the head of the campaign committee was announced in September, just two months before the polling date.
Did Rahul expect that just two months of campaigning by Scindia would be enough to take on the 5 years tenure of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was out of Bhopal for most part of these 5 years, travelling and reaching out to the voters in other parts of the state?
Was it logical to accept that the voters of the state will prefer someone like Scindia, who prefers to stay in Delhi and seldom ventures out of Gwalior even if he comes to MP, to someone like Chouhan who is omnipresent at the doors of the voters with his folded hands and a smiling face.
Who was the CM candidate of BJP? It was only Shivraj, neither Narendra Tomar nor Prabhat Jha or Kailash Vijaywargia. Who was the CM candidate of Congress?  Starting from Scindia, the others who were standing in the line included Kamalnath, Suresh Pachouri, Ajay Rahul Singh and Kantilal Bhuria.
Never once Rahul could gather the courage or showed his political wisdom by announcing that who would lead the state if the party comes to power. This indecision, the unwillingness to act, which has now become a lethal part of Rahul’s repertoire, hurt the party badly in the state. And please remember that the position enjoyed by Rahul Gandhi in his party is something that cannot be put down in words. He is Congress.
Looking at the larger picture, one will realize that rather than the failure of the state leadership, in both Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, it was the failure of one individual, who sits in Delhi and controls everything.
The change that Rahul has been talking of, since one can remember, needs to come from the top. Someone, maybe Sonia Gandhi’s political aide Ahmed Patel, needs to tell her that Rahul needs to be replaced if the party is to be resurrected and stopped from going down into the deep abyss that it is looking at right now.  
Now, after so many years of being politically active, Rahul stands nowhere. He is neither a youth icon nor the torchbearer of the experienced. He had has time, a long one, but despite that he was not able to prove himself among the voters. Emotional speech and resurrecting the painful family past may attract ears but they do not translate into fingers who will press the Congress button. For all these years Rahul has shied away from taking responsibilities for the debacle which the Congress suffered under him. He can continue to do so.
In the past, the two large states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had rejected Rahul and the recent rout in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan has repeated that message that now a new face is needed. Not just for the sake of Congress but for the benefit of the democracy.
The Congress needs to accept that Rahul Gandhi is just not the answer. The halo around him, that he might be the answer, has long disappeared. Modi wave or no Modi wave, the Congress is in a bad shape and something drastic needs to be done to keep it in contention and relevant for 2014 and beyond.

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