Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rahul Gandhi is no leader

This piece was written for Centre Right India. Also posting it below -

It is impossible to miss the name Rahul Gandhi if you are reading, talking, discussing India . His appointment within the Congress party was not by employing any democratic means, but simply because the Congress president, his mother, chose him. This in the world’s largest democracy and in a party that never tires talking of democratic principles. And now, he is being presented as our future Prime Minister sans any debate. With the Congress chief deciding this, the nation’s talking heads have busied themselves endorsing and selling him as our ‘destiny deliverer’. We are destined to have Rahul Gandhi lord over us and we simply must accept this.

Only in our nation could someone be hoisted over us without merit. We were born that way. Our first Prime Minster was appointed ahead of Sardar Patel who enjoyed the most confidence within the Congress party. From then on the trend has continued and sustained to our current Prime Minister. And all indications are it will in the future. Because our national media will not take the time to examine Rahul Gandhi, we are left to ourselves to size him up. Let us begin with his background.


Rahul Gandhi comes from the most high profile political family yet his personal background is not very well known. He is entitled to his privacy of course, but a potential national leader will attract some scrutiny. His educational background is mired in controversy. So too are his claims on election affidavits. It seems strange that our future leader cannot seem to get his story on education right or is unwilling to set the record straight putting all doubts to rest. Very little is known of his professional life before joining politics.

Political career

Rahul Gandhi was elected to Lok Sabha from Amethi in May 2004. He has not held any political office yet and has mainly concentrated on party building activities, especially the youth wing. His pet project, bringing democracy to Congress, is not yet a success. Internal elections in youth Congress and his youth leader appointees have not exactly been controversy free. He took up party building responsibility in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. While he enjoyed moderate success in UP, he is still far from breaking Bahujan Samaj Party’s hold on the state. His Bihar attempts were a disaster as evidenced in recent elections and his visits to other states, especially Gujarat, have had little impact on his party’s fortunes there.

After having spent over 6 years in domestic politics, travelling overseas, interacting with foreign leaders and having the best political minds within the party to support and mentor him, there is very little Rahul Gandhi espouses or articulates. His sporadic attempts at making political sounds have resulted in more controversies and have done very little to add or give direction to political debates. Rather they come across as manipulative and aimed at exploiting short gains. Leaders he has hand picked have failed to deliver.

For someone who purports to be concerned of the nation’s wellbeing, he is remarkably detached from parliamentary proceedings. He only goes there about half the time and for the limited time he spends there, he almost never participates in debates.

Discovery of India

A couple of years ago, Rahul Gandhi embarked on his very own ‘discovery of India ’ to understand the country better and gain political maturity. When he was touring, not a day went by when a doting national news media did not report his encounters with the unwashed masses, especially during the last general elections. Visiting dalit houses, tea stalls, road side vendors, his jumping the security cordon and shaking hands with the crowds featured fondly in national news space. This discovery phase now seems to have ended. It is only natural for us to expect Rahul Gandhi to list his learnings, summarize them for us, articulate them for the nation. But nothing of the sort has happened yet, which leaves us to wonder if he has learned anything at all. One might cite his speech in the parliament during the Indo-US nuclear deal debate. But that too was a half baked, disappointing attempt. The debt ridden Kalavati he spoke about is still waiting for better days and had to travel to Delhi to remind Rahul Gandhi of his unkept promises.


In an interview to NDTV, Arun Jaitley was asked for his advice to Rahul Gandhi. In his answer Jaitley said, Rahul Gandhi should make constructive political interventions and participate in debates more. Politics could not be “an endless series of photo opportunities”. That was very well put and summarizes Rahul Gandhi’s political life so far. No astute observer will miss this coincidence. Glance through our national media and you will see nothing but favourable coverage of Rahul Gandhi. Critical reports of him are hard to come by. Prominent television news editors have been at the forefront of this. Rahul Gandhi is found missing every time the nation faces crisis but will emerge to exploit any and every convenient photo opportunity.

In the 40 years of his life so far, Rahul Gandhi has not exhibited any leadership traits. Over 6 years of his political stint have only yielded in often banal and sometimes controversial utterances. He has not added to or defined any political debate and still cannot speak extemporaneously. Despite the stage managed, carefully choreographed tours, when faced with unscripted events he has had to beat a hasty retreat on more than one occasion. He is reluctant to face harsh, inconvenient questions without any safety net. There is very little he espouses or articulates. His ‘youth icon’ or the ‘destiny deliverer’ facade is built on the strength of fuzzy op-eds and fuelled by exploiting photo opportunities.

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