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Pankaj Vohra, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 17, 2009
The outcome of the 15th Lok Sabha is, among other things, a verdict on the two coteries within the Congress and the BJP. The Congress victory is despite the coterie and the BJP defeat because of it. There can be various ways of interpreting the political developments but the one, which is most acceptable is that major political parties will now have a clear option of giving greater weightage to the House of the people instead of totally depending on the Council of States (Rajya Sabha).

In other words, people’s representatives will have a greater say than those indirectly elected. Dr Manmohan Singh will be an exception from among the leaders who belong to the Rajya Sabha since the Congress party garnered middle class votes by projecting him as the Prime Ministerial candidate.

In that sense even if he does not belong to the Lok Sabha, he has the full backing of the Congress representatives of that house.

In the past 15 years, Indian politics had been virtually hijacked by Rajya Sabha members from both parties. But things are bound to change now and all credit must go to Rahul Gandhi. He has fortified the Congress benches with not only higher numbers but also more people of substance. If his mother, Sonia Gandhi, saved the Congress from disaster by entering active politics nearly 11 years ago, Rahul has enthused the young voter as well as the ordinary Congress worker with his courage and honesty.

There may be many claimants for the good showing of the Congress. But the credit goes to Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi. And of the three, it is Rahul who stands out. He is now en route to becoming a future leader of his party and the country.

Throughout the campaign, he conducted himself with dignity. Both he and his sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra gave ample evidence of their pedigree by the way they handled contentious issues. Both of them are every inch the Nehru-Gandhis we have all known. They have the finer qualities of their parents, grandmother and great grandfather.

Since Priyanka is yet to enter electoral politics, it is Rahul who is now going to be the leader in the real sense. In evolving as a confident and mature representative of the people, he has been fortunate to have his mother by his side. But in this election he has demonstrated that he has a mind of his own.

His top priority is to energise the party that was beginning to wilt due to rising factionalism and the political machinations of a coterie that has tried to have its way in everything.

Rahul’s centre-stage debut is likely to change all that. He comes across as a sincere young man who speaks from his heart with total honesty and integrity. Even if his actions are construed as ill-timed or premature, he has been able to convince people that he wants to work for them.

He has started building his own team of volunteers. But this does not mean that he is going to discard other loyalists. It is obvious that he will do certain things in his own way. If old timers are willing to believe in him, they will be welcome to stay aboard.  Time and again, Rahul has shown that he has class and great respect for his elders.

He will not allow lesser minions to hijack his party at the expense of talent. His dream will be to take the Congress towards the figure of over 400, which it achieved under his father in 1984.

The coterie around L.K. Advani is going to be under tremendous pressure to give way to ideologically committed party functionaries. The result is a clear warning to the BJP that it was headed towards total liquidation unless some immediate remedial steps were taken.

The RSS, therefore, is likely to step in to clean the party of elements whose vested interest had become more important than that of the Sangh’s commitment and ideology. The RSS under Mohan Bhagwat knows that unless the party is overhauled, the entire Sangh will lose its credibility.

The 2009 verdict is an indictment of Advani and his coterie and also rejection of his views on Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It is a wake- up call that power should return to Lok Sabha members and the party freed of the coterie.

The first indication of this would be if the RSS has its way and gets its nominees elected as leaders of opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The coterie may want the status quo to remain. But the RSS has to choose from one of  two options—past or future for the BJP.

Now it is again power to the people. Between us.