At a time when political pundits are trying to read the tea leaves on the future of the various parties in the fray as the UP elections are underway, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been remarkably candid on the way forward for the Congress. He has unambiguously endorsed the key role that Rahul Gandhi will play in the days to come. While the Congress is not likely to do well in the polls, the party leadership clearly feels that it needs fresh faces and new ideas to regain lost ground. Many may argue that by propelling Rahul to the helm of affairs, the grand old party is falling back on dynastic politics. But let’s face it, Rahul has rejuvenated the party which has been doddering in the Hindi heartland, albeit a little too late. However, having been cast as the youthful hope for the future, some of his remarks suggest a worrying disconnect with his target audience.
Granted that the Nehru-Gandhi family has played a pivotal role in the destiny of India both before and after Independence. This does not bear any reiteration. So, it was surprising that Rahul chose to speak of his family’s role in the independence struggle, the break-up of Pakistan and earlier the Babri masjid issue. In the same breath, he spoke of leading the country into the 21st century. This is what he should have focused on most. The youth of the country are disillusioned with the earlier brand of retrogressive politics. They want to know what political parties can offer to fulfil their aspirations.
What they will want to hear from someone like Rahul is not about the bitter legacy of the past but what lies ahead. Rahul could have chosen better examples to demonstrate how his illustrious family keeps its word. He could, for example, have spoken of his father’s seminal contribution to the IT revolution, the fruits of which have propelled India to a position of pre-eminence in the field. He could have spoken of his mother’s contribution to bringing development issues to the centre-stage of politics. But with his remarks on the past, he has given the Opposition a handle to attack him and the Congress. We can only hope that these are teething troubles and that the vision Rahul and his ilk have for the party will be in keeping with the modern India that his grandfather spoke so eloquently about.