Rahul Gandhi's elevation as Congress president ahead of Gujarat polls is risky

Rajeev Sharma
Rajeev SharmaNov 21, 2017 | 12:17

Rahul Gandhi's elevation as Congress president ahead of Gujarat polls is risky

The Congress party's bold decision of anointing Rahul Gandhi as president of the grand old party ahead of the crucial Gujarat Assembly elections and putting him in the venerable league of Congress stalwarts such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi is a big gamble.

The party, which is obviously being led by vice-president Rahul even currently, has thrown down the gauntlet to arch-rival and political heavyweight Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demonstrated that it is going for all or nothing.


If the Congress wins Gujarat, Rahul's political stature would rival the sole political giant of contemporary India - Narendra Modi. But if the Congress loses, it would be a disaster for him.

The two scenarios come to mind in the form of quotable quotes. Both are distinct possibilities. One: Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Two: Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.


It takes some courage to become the general of a repeatedly failing army at a time when the most crucial battle is about to be fought and when you are not sure of victory. Congress scion, Rahul Gandhi, has just shown this courage by throwing his hat in the ring days ahead of the crucial Gujarat Assembly polls in a two-phase voting on December 9 and 14.

For all practical purposes, the anointment of the new Congress president would have been completed when counting of votes for the internal Congress party elections takes place on December 19, significantly a day after the announcement of poll results in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

However, Rahul Gandhi is likely to become the unquestioned Congress chief much before that, in fact, days before the votes in the Gujarat Assembly polls are cast. For all practical purposes, Rahul will be the Congress chief from December 5 onwards just when the nomination process for aspiring Congress presidents gets over because no other presidential nomination is likely to be filed.


His mother and the current Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had seen the same process. During her 19-year tenure as the chief of the grand old party, she never faced any rival candidate whenever the party conducted internal elections.

Rahul Gandhi would decidedly be getting into the boots of his mother who took over the reins of the Congress when it was down in the dumps and won for her party two general elections, not to talk of a number of assembly elections. Sonia Gandhi effectively steered her party to the national political mainstream when it had been relegated to the fringe and acquired the tag of a super PM in three Congress governments - of PV Narasimha Rao and then the 10-year rule of the Manmohan Singh government.

Rahul is faced with the enormous challenge of matching the enviable track record of his mother which she achieved despite her Italian roots. Rahul doesn't have to face uncomfortable questions about his foreign roots. Yet it's a much bigger and more daunting task for the 47-year-old. That's largely because he is up against a man called Narendra Modi, who was and continues to be light years ahead of him in terms of public perception and the fact that the personal charisma of Modi has neither eroded nor waned one bit even after his three-and-a-half-years long prime ministerial stint.



By making him the Congress chief effectively before the first vote is cast in Gujarat, which has not seen a Congress government for the past 22 consecutive years, the Congress party has decided to take Modi head on. Contrary to Brand Sonia, Brand Rahul has got zilch for the Congress despite the fact that he has been an elected representative of the Lok Sabha for over a decade.

When the BJP lost Bihar in 2015 and the Congress registered a healthy recovery and when Congress leader Amarinder Singh won Punjab earlier this year, Rahul didn't take credit for the victories as these Assembly wins were seen as achievements of state-level leaders. However, Gujarat promises to be much different and bigger. His very political career is at stake the way it had never been before.

While Rahul has been taking on Brand Modi in the past three-and-a-half years, his strike rate has been abysmal. Despite this poor track record he is set to become the Congress president. The stakes will be much higher for Rahul. Yet another Congress defeat in Gujarat will debilitate his own political position within the party while the same fate doesn't await PM Modi.

The news about Rahul's elevation as the number one leader of the grand old party just ahead of Gujarat elections won't impact Modi's political stature as adversely as it would affect the Gandhi scion in case of a loss. And yet Rahul has decided to go down that path.

On December 18, when results of the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will be declared, it will be at best be a setback for Modi if the BJP were to lose. But it will be an existential crisis for Rahul if the Congress were to lose.

Rahul's admirers would have their faces covered in mud if the Congress were to lose Gujarat yet again. If Congress were to win the polls in Gujarat, it may well mark the arrival of a new pan-Indian leader. But if the contrary were to happen, it would take the fizz out of Rahul's electoral campaign for the 2019 general elections which would be bad news for the entire Opposition.

Last updated: November 22, 2017 | 10:51
Please log in
I agree with DailyO's privacy policy