Rahul Gandhi, the 47-year-old vice-president of the Indian National Congress will soon become the sixth Nehru-Gandhi to hold the position of the president of the grand old party, with 132 years of strong political history behind it. Motilal Nehru during pre-independece years, followed by Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi - all three former prime ministers, as well as Sonia Gandhi have held the post that Rahul will soon be elevated to, since he has filed his nomination papers for the same today, December 4, 2017.
Rahul has been Congress vice-president for five years, and this has coincided with some of the worst defeats that the party faced in state Assembly as well as the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. However, there have been frequent resurgence of the leader, and now, with a reinvigorated online and offline avatar, Rahul seems poised to take over, having filed his nomination papers at 24 Akbar Road, the Congress headquarters in the national capital.
Is Rahul getting elected "uncontested"? While there has been no official filing of nomination for the post of the Congress president, young party leader and a vocal spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla has challenged the process saying the process is rigged in Rahul's favour. Poonawalla, despite being a distant relative of Rahul Gandhi, has openly come out and said this is dynasty at work.
On the other hand, veteran Congress leaders like former PM Manmohan Singh, Shashi Tharoor, P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, among others, as well as a number of Opposition leaders, have all welcomed the filing of nomination as inevitable. Most have couched their official approval in Rahul's popularity among the INC cadres, and various state and regional units of the Congress, as well as the younger leaders, have been tweeting with the hashtag #IndiaWithRahulGandhi to mark the occasion.
The day hasn't gone without what seems at first glance an apparent "gaffe" on the part of Congress veteran Mani Shankar Aiyar, who has, in a statement - abridged to suit a narrative ideology - to a Hindi news channel, allegedly "compared Rahul's elevation to Mughal successions, from father Shah Jahan to son Aurangzeb". While the BJP, including PM Narendra Modi, is making political hay while the sun of Dr Aiyar's seemingly uncharitable comments shine (who can forget the infamous chaiwala remark before the 2014 general elections that is still being milked by the BJP?), it must be noted that the clip circulated by BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya ends abruptly.
However, the full clip of Aiyar's statement nullifies any such allegation which Malviya is trying to insinuate, echoed by none other PM Modi himself. While Aiyar invites Poonawalla to file his own nomination if he so wishes, that portion is, expectedly, missing from the viral clip that's doing rounds on social media.
On the other hand we need to ask even if Aiyar is contrasting Rahul with the feudal Mughal monarchy, are the fulcrums of democracy really at work within Congress? Though it's important to remember that a leader being elected to head a party unopposed can be as much about popularity and mass connect, of which Rahul Gandhi has indeed given us a glimpse, the murmurs of discontent cannot be brushed away as well.
It's crucial that the issue of dynasty isn't brushed under the carpet when it comes to Congress electing its next party president, who in all probability will be Rahul Gandhi. However, it's equally important to remember that there's as much dynasty at work even within the BJP, with many sons and daughters of established politicians now getting an easy entry into party politics, with notable exceptions of PM Modi himself, as well as BJP national president Amit Shah.
Though it's also significant that the BJP is using divisive techniques of communal polarisation with Hindutva at the helm. This was most recently evident with the BJP leadership questioning Rahul Gandhi's religion, asking if he's a Hindu or not, as if that would anyway have a bearing on his ability to lead the Congress party, or indeed stitch up an Oppositional coalition.
As the economy barely recovers from the twin shocks of demonetisation and unwieldy GST, the double whammy of religious supremacy coupled with bad economics has given India major jolts on important fronts. Let's not forget that Congress-led UPA steered India through the 2008 global economic meltdown, as former US president Barack Obama reminded us again, when he mentioned Manmohan Singh's contribution to the country.
Whether it's coronation or election, as Congress president, Rahul Gandhi will be responsible for both the party's successes, and the failures. The electoral battle in Gujarat is the biggest hurdle facing the Congress leader now, and the results of which will be pinned solely on his shoulders. The easier ride within Congress, thanks to his surname, will be nothing when compared to the Herculean task of leading Congress and the anti-Modi coalition in 2019.
Whether it's farce or comedy, today's "election" is not even a dress rehearsal for what lies ahead. Hope Rahul Gandhi is finally prepared, shedding his "reluctant politician" skin.