Why Rahul Gandhi is embracing soft Hindutva
The Gandhi scion's mandir visit indicates a shift away from minority appeasement.
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There’s nothing politically invigorating or even remotely democratic in the eventual passing of the Congress baton to Rahul Gandhi, the sixth scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. The nation is currently more riveted with concerns of Deepika Padukone’s nose being chopped off, as the anticipated release of Padmavati gains more news time than Rahul’s elevation.
This is because feudal politics no more resonates with aspirational India as much as the excitement at the rise of an experienced mass leader who has risen from the ranks. Much as "we the servile" refer to the ascension of Rahul as "coronation", as a democracy we sound foolish in that felicitation. Because it is merely a transfer of power from mother to son after Sonia Gandhi held the longest sway over the GOP for 19 years.
Rahul’s presidency is only a change in official credentials, having been the de facto party head since 2007 by leading the AICC Youth Congress, and always held powers to enact strategic changes in governance when UPA II reigned supreme, implement party reforms, or script a winning and progressive counter-narrative to combat the ruling NDA since nearly four years of Congresses free-fall.
However, what is new in the political landscape is that firstly, should Rahul succeed in channelising mass economic discontent into votes, he could be PM someday, which his mother Sonia could never be. Instead, by relinquishing direct power in 2004 through her sacrificial "tyaag", she elevated herself to super-prime minister in possessing authority without responsibility, because of the call of her “inner conscience”.
That was the stated reason for renunciation Indians admire so much because of mythological undertones, though she is fully aware it was her foreign origins that stymied her from achieving her fullest destiny. Despite the existential challenges before the 130 year GOP, and the waning appeal of the Gandhi's in delivering votes, the family still serves as the glue that binds the flock. And after the capitulation, perhaps the only way is up, given the mixed mood of a nation that is disenchanted with Modi’s delivery, yet unswerving in their affirmation of his personal integrity.
Secondly, what is new is that as Rahul turns more frontal in his assault as provocateur needling uncomfortable questions, he acts as the proverbial ant that irritates the elephant, leaving little room for NDA’s complacency. Because Gandhi’s activism on behalf of traders and MSME’s has forced many U-turns by the government in presenting a mini-budget of sorts by diluting GST slabs and simplifying compliance in an attempt to placate; as also questioning Parliament delay in order to avoid prickly issues before the Gujarat elections, pinning down government to convene the session.
Thirdly, a win in battleground Gujarat has two different perceptions for Modi and Rahul in the slugfest to a presidential contest in the state. A win for Rahul would be BJP getting close to 100 seats in Modi’s home turf. And a win for BJP would be attaining anything higher than its 2012 tally of 121 seats to achieve a trend-reversal to revive the Modi momentum, and thereafter sustain it all the way up till 2019.
Rahul’s second test comes with next set of elections in the bi-polar contests of the Hindi heartland states of MP, Rajisthan, Chattisgarh which are ripe for anti-incumbency, and where Congress is pitted in direct combat with BJP.
While there is a perceptible change in Congresses strategy with the symbolism of Rahul’s mandir visits indicating a shift to "soft Hindutva" and away from minority appeasement guised as secularism, it is inadequate to convince the majority community who comprise 80 per cent of the electorate that Congress will ever represent their interests wholeheartedly. The 2014 elections was direct contest between the Gandhi’s vs Modi on the issue of corruption, and the space for Modi’s rise was created by Congress.
But as the deficit between promise and delivery widens, Modi could well be yielding ground, despite his personal popularity ratings riding high. As of now, our political imagination is limited in identifying a leader beyond Modi or the two mainstream parties.
With an improvement in GDP figures inching to 6.3 per cent, it vindicates BJP’s economic reforms and will be a huge talking-point in Modi’s rallies, however if by 2019 job creation remains sub-optimal, economic restiveness will bind opposition, as bread and butter issues are far more unifying than caste or religious factors, making it Modi vs the rest.
And that coalition could well be presided by Sonia, but not necessarily with Rahul as the consensual face for PM. Rahul has many miles to go before he can walk into Modi’s shoes, but there is an unmistakable spring in his step and the pace of his ascent is directly proportionate to the pace at which Modi falters.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)