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Rahul Gandhi: Rookie to leader

Often dismissed as ‘immature’ by the BJP, Rahul Gandhi helped the Congress improve its tally in Uttar Pradesh to 21 in the 15th Lok Sabha. The party had won just nine seats in 2004, reports Manish Tiwari.

india Updated: May 17, 2009 04:01 IST
Manish Tiwari

The Congress’ resurgence in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh is not the only big story emerging from Verdict 2009.

The maturing of Rahul Gandhi (39) as a politician and an organisation man has come out loud and clear.

As his decision to go it alone in UP and Bihar paid rich dividends, one thing was clear: Gandhi has come of age.

Often dismissed as ‘immature’ by the BJP, he helped the Congress improve its tally in Uttar Pradesh to 21 in the 15th Lok Sabha. The party had won just nine seats in 2004.

Apart from reading the political reality accurately, the young leaders Gandhi handpicked won comfortably in Orissa, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

A few of the candidates Gandhi chose had not even contested an assembly election before this.

Many of them proved critics wrong and emerged victorious even against their strong rivals.

Manicka Tagore (34) defeated MDMK leader and 'champion' of the Tamil Eelam cause, Vaiko (65) in Virudunagar (Tamil Nadu).

Vijay Inder Singla (36), another Gandhi nominee, defeated SAD Secretary General and former Union Minister S. S. Dhindsa (73) in Sangrur (Punjab), while former Punjab CM late Beant Singh's grandson Ravneet Singh Bittu (33) beat Akali candidate Dr. D. S. Cheema (47) in Anandpur Sahib.

Ashok Tanwar (33), Indian Youth Congress president, also won comfortably in Sirsa (Haryana).

Before Saturday, Gandhi was perceived as a political greenhorn. Cynics had, in fact, questioned his decision to overhaul the party organisation, an aspect he emphasised upon even more than winning elections.

Critics also held him responsible for the drubbing the Congress received in the 2007 UP assembly polls.

His efforts to revive the Congress by inducting new blood infused life into the party at the organisational level.

This time, Gandhi was much more involved in campaigning. As against just 15 appearances at rallies in 2004, he addressed 106 rallies spread across 230 constituencies. Congress president Sonia Gandhi addressed just 68 and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh 20 rallies.

The clamour from within the party to induct Gandhi into the government has been growing. Asked about it, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh told reporters in Delhi on Saturday: "I have always tried to persuade Rahul Gandhi to join my cabinet in the past, and it's still my wish to persuade him."

Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh told Hindustan Times: "When 60 per cent of the nation's population is below 35, the future lies in younger leadership. Rahul is decisive and forthright and that's the kind of leadership we want."

Many in the Congress agree with Amarinder when he says: "Rahul has not only grown in stature but is also emerging a leader in his own right."