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Rahul has arrived
Convenient timing of the scion’s anointment is no guarantee of its ultimate vindication
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The Congress party has finally placed Rahul Gandhi on the pedestal from where he is just one step away from being formally anointed as number two in the organisation, behind his mother Sonia Gandhi, and eventually as the party’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The announcement made in this connection in New Delhi actually formalises what was already there in reality. However, the debacle suffered by the Congress, under Rahul’s direct command, in the assembly elections in six states, notably in Uttar Pradesh, had considerably dimmed his public image and dented his projection. It took a few months for the party to pause and recover from the setback and re-package its future leader just in time for the crucial round a little more than a year away.

Rahul Gandhi will head over-200 strong team of Congressmen from across the country entrusted to prepare for the 2014 parliamentary elections. Obviously, the selection of candidates would be its most critical task and much would depend on that. Rahul’s known trusted loyalists have been handpicked to form a nucleus at the top. Ahmed Patel, Digvijaya Singh, Jai Ram Ramesh and Janardan Diwedi figure in that list. Sonia’s trusted man AK Antony has been retained as the second-in-command to Rahul. The loyalty factor has played a decisive role in the selection of men and their roles.

Those familiar with the Congress party’s keen sense of timing of its major decisions and announcements would have noticed that the AICC announcement on Thursday coincided with unsavoury happenings within the rival camp of the BJP with its president Nitin Gadkari troubled by allegations of corruption and Narendra Modi’s vaulting ambition creating chaos within the Sangh Parivar. Rahul Gandhi’s formal projection by the Congress would thus have more positives and less negatives to contend with in its immediate aftermath.

Ill effects of the debacle in the recent assembly polls, in which Rahul-led Congress had suffered the humiliation of losing even the home turf of Nehru-Gandhi family (Amethi and Rei Barelli), have nearly disappeared. The victor of that round (in UP) Mulayam Singh Yadav is by now on the right side of the Congress and so, ironically, is his ardent political foe Mayawati.

All these calculations undoubtedly make the formal positioning of Rahul look like a well thought out and well timed move. However, that is only the beginning. The road ahead is fraught with all sorts of hazards. Performance record of the UPA2 government has become a liability. Dr Manmohan Singh-led team has been struggling to keep itself afloat in the tricky game of numbers. The party and the government have taken a huge risk by opting for highly unpopular decisions like FDI in consumer sector the opposition to which has been snowballing with each passing day. The issue of corruption has tarnished the face of the UPA2 as well as dented the personal profile of the prime minister. Dr Singh’s leadership has become more vulnerable to opposition attack. His image was an asset to the Congress in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Whether and to what extent the projection of Rahul Gandhi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate in 2014 polls would help his party regain the lost ground is anybody’s guess.

As it is, the national scene looks to be fragmented and murky much more than ever before. Regional contenders have become stronger over the past four years and combination of these forces in terms of alignment with the two principal contenders at the national level, Congress and the BJP, are in flux. It is today impossible to determine the bearing of political forces in order to estimate the likely strength of two combinations vying for power. It is too early to reckon how and to what extent Rahul’s formal projection by the Congress would impact the national political scene although there is nothing unexpected in it. Nevertheless one thing is clear: The Congress is changing gear and moving from one generation to another. This change by itself has considerable significance for the future course of national politics, irrespective of how it translates itself into number at the end of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
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News Updated at : Saturday, November 17, 2012
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