Rahul Gandhi has much to prove as Congress chief: The Statesman

Rahul Gandhi speaks during the Congress Working Committee meeting at the Congress party headquarters in New Delhi on Nov 20, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial on Nov 6, the paper says a tall order awaits the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, as he formally takes charge.

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - For all the contrived drama - 89 nomination papers bearing a single name, seeking the blessings of party elders, insistence on "due process" etc - Rahul Gandhi's impending shedding of his "vice" (Vice President of the Congress party) is really not "news".

The election, selection or nomination of the sixth member of the clan to head the Congress party was a mere formality for he had been deemed the crown prince these past few years.

Nor does the "dynasty" factor have too much traction, it is standard practice: the Scindia family has a foot in each camp, in Odisha the torch passed from father to son, in Uttar Pradesh there was some turbulence when Akhilesh Yadav replaced Mulayam Singh, the process is underway with Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav's tribe in Bihar.

The short point being that inner-party democracy is not a strong point in Indian politics.

Even the election of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) president is by pre-arranged consensus - as per Nagpur's diktat the critics would point out.

In normal course the choice of a party president is an in-house affair, what makes Rahul's rather different is the reaction from across the BJP board with Mr Narendra Modi leading the charge.

If Rahul was as inconsequential a push-over as the BJP projects, why such a shindy over his "elevation"?

The BJP's tirade adds weight to the theory that Rahul's electioneering and apparent popularity in Gujarat has rattled the saffron party: and even if he does not "win Gandhinagar" he is galvanising the Congress to make a fight of it in 2019 when the practice of governance by sloganeering will be up for public audit.

The depths to which some BJP leaders have sunk to slam Rahul and "the family" does betray an inferiority complex.

Now that he has accepted the baton from "mummy", Rahul will have a lot to prove.

Shedding the image of a reluctant politician is one task, displaying the maturity expected of a "national" leader will require abandoning some puerile practices, and leading the fight from the front benches of the Lok Sabha would be among other expectations.

There is also speculation over who will comprise his core team, will sycophantic loyalists be eased out? And what about chipping away at the image (no doubt magnified by the BJP) that the Congress is overly slanted toward the minorities ~ he seems to have begun addressing that "problem" in Gujarat.

The track record, alas for Rahul, is far from encouraging. He will have to work harder to revive the once-formidable "Congress organisation". And allow leaders to "grow" in the states and the Centre.

All this is a tall order for a person born with the proverbial silver spoon in the mouth. Yet "inheritance" can be an asset - Rahul came in for much praise in the party on Monday, will he step up to the plate?

The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

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