Rahul Gandhi, the Indian National Congress’s vice-president is said to be next president of India’s oldest surviving political party. The self-admitted political dynast is touted to become the 132 year old party’s premier next month. Gandhi said he is “absolutely ready” to be at the helm and be the Primer Ministerial candidate who will take on Modi in 2019 elections. His U.S. tour comes at a crucial time- 20 months before the general elections and a month before the internal party elections he favors. The overseas wing of the INC has organized Gandhi’s tour to catalyze a turnaround in his image that is allegedly projected by the BJP. With the general elections in sight, it is likely that the expenditure on PR by major political parties will rise.
While the Prime Minister continues to enjoy majority acceptance in India and overseas, there has been a shift in the stance of his younger generation, however minimal. Yet, the lack of a strong leadership within the Congress leaves the voters no choice. By appointing Pranab Mukherjee as the President of India in 2012, the Congress lost the most able candidate for challenging the BJP. One can only hope that Rahul Gandhi makes exponential progress in the coming months to ensure that the world’s biggest democracy simultaneously has a strong government and an opposition, regardless of the ruling party at the Centre.
I would encourage our readers to listen to Mr. Gandhi’s speech and the discussion that followed at the University of Berkley on the 9th of September, 2017 at the bottom of this article.
Major takeaways and opinion of the event:
Rahul Gandhi set a Modi vis-à-vis BJP attacking theme from the word go. While he tried to connect with the audience on an emotional level by paying respect to the people lost in the 9/11 attacks and mentioning that he wasn’t the first Gandhi to deliver a lecture at Berkley, he ensured that he didn’t go soft on the Government of India. He accused the government to have borrowed 2004-2014 Congress’s political architecture. Gandhi also said that India needs to empower its MPs and discuss all decisions in the Parliament.
It is true that the government did adopt the GST that was originally introduced by the Manmohan Singh government, but the fact of the matter is that Congress failed to pass the bill. Finding common ground on the GST in the parliament was in fact a major victory for the Modi government. While I found Mr. Gandhi’s speech better prepared than in the past, he did not make the most compelling of arguments. When Indira Gandhi devalued the INR in 1966, the Congress leadership wasn’t consulted, let alone the Parliament. The harsh truth is that certain decisions need to be announced at the right moment without prior publicity. A declaration of success or failure of these can be concretely determined only in due time.
Gandhi showed maturity in acknowledging the short falls of his party from 2012-2014. It is not often that one gets to witness admissions from politicians, especially in India. While it provided BJP with fodder for criticism, it also announced to the younger generation that Congress of 2018 is different from the Congress of 2012. He said there is a need to provide the growing India with a vision in order to ensure an 8 percent growth rate till 2030 and to eradicate poverty. The young politician gave the government where he believed credit was due by commending the Make in India and Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, but believes that the most initiatives have failed to achieve their maximum potential.
While sections of the society might recognize with Gandhi’s speech at varying levels, the soon to be chief of the INC continues to lack the ease of conversation that Modi possesses. He made critical mistakes in the Q & A session that followed his speech. While the biggest blunder was an increased seat in the Lok Sabha, Gandhi also said that India is being isolated internationally. He said that India had lost Nepal as a friend in contrast to the sentiments evoked by the Himalayan neighbour’s Prime Minister on a recent visit to New Delhi. Japan backed India’s stance on Doklam and the peaceful resolution achieved was a diplomatic victory for India. The Association of South East Asian Countries called for a greater Indian role in the South China sea in July 2017.
Efforts by the Congress to become a stronger political party are essential for a brighter future of India. One can only hope that Shashi Tharoor doesn’t just provide moral support, as in Berkley, but helps platforms such as the All India Professionals Congress grow. A sturdier Congress is imperative for a Indian politics.
You can listen to the full speech here-