Let’s Stop Picking on Rahul Gandhi

The butt of countless jokes, Rahul Gandhi has become the new Santa Banta.

Though no fan of his, I think it’s grossly unfair to pick on him this way. Rahul Gandhi had no choice about the family he was born into. So no point holding that against him.

Rahul Gandhi’s absence has been universally criticised, but let us not grudge him his break. (Photo: Reuters)

Yet he never abused his inheritance. He could have become a Cabinet Minister or even the Prime Minister between 2004 and 2014, but he chose not to. He has never been accused of unbecoming conduct or of taking undue advantage of his position in all these years.

In a country where even minions of MPs and MLAs throw their weight all over the place, does this not count for something?

People might argue that India has had enough of the Gandhis. That we do not need a monarchy with dynastic succession. While that is true, in Indian politics even elected leaders are defeated with consummate ease by voters. For instance, Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh or Omar Abdullah in Kashmir.

Even in dynasty politics, leaders like Akhilesh Yadav and Omar Andullah are defated with ease. (Photo: PTI)
Even in dynasty politics, leaders like Akhilesh Yadav and Omar Andullah are defated with ease. (Photo: PTI)

Despite being anointed by their political party they go to the polls and often lose. That’s our democracy for better or for worse.

It’s the same with the Congress and the Gandhi family. We do not mind when primogeniture happens in the Shiv Sena or DMK, but feel bad when it involves the Congress.

I think this is because the Indian National Congress has a history of stalwarts like Maulana Azad, Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru leading the party.

Even though Indira Gandhi, in a sense, inherited the mantle from her father, no one can deny that she was a strong Prime Minister. The late Rajiv Gandhi may have come in through the back door but he won a resounding victory and when he lost, was thrown out mercilessly.

I can quote more examples. We need to accept that the Gandhi leadership, despite any reservation about its quality is the unifying factor in the Congress. Without it the Congress is just an agglomeration of old loyalists and backroom men, being jostled by young loyalists and backroom boys.

I don’t think the Congress is ready to ditch the Gandhi name yet. Some churn is likely to take place though.

Mamata Banerjee was written off in 2006, but she has made a convincing comeback. (Photo: Reuters)
Mamata Banerjee was written off in 2006, but she has made a convincing comeback. (Photo: Reuters)

So let us not grudge Rahul Gandhi his Myanmar break. All of us are entitled to one. By all accounts, he went to a Vipassna meditation camp, which is not a picnic. I attended one and it is one of the toughest, life-changing experiences that anyone can go through. I am hopeful that he has come back rejuvenated and will now take on the BJP and the Central Government.

We are a democracy and have been since 1947. We need a strong opposition to ensure checks and balances. I think Gandhi will be that. Our political history is replete with examples of people who have made a comeback. Mamata Banerjee was written off in 2006 and look at where she is today. Similarly, Jayalalithaa. Even Kejriwal was written off as recently as 2014.

In politics, one can never say never. It was not long ago that BJP’s parliamentary tally was in the single digits. Today it enjoys a majority on its own.

We aren’t Singapore, that we can be ruled by one man for many years. We are a diverse nation of 1.3 billion people with diverse and conflicting interests.

A strong Opposition under a strong leader is a must and in the current political scenario, Congress is the only party that can play this role.

My sense is that Rahul Gandhi’s day in the sun will come soon. And let’s hope, that when it does, he has the mettle to prove himself.

Not for his sake, or for his mother’s, but for the sake of our country. And for that day, let’s give him a chance today.