Curious case of the Gandhis'
India is heading for a General Election again in 2014.
While the actual dates are yet to be announced, it has already entered a feverish pitch with the Ruling Congress and the main opposition Party, BJP leaving no efforts to chance but slugging it out overtime all over the country.
Their Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is the main campaigner who is already setting up record for the huge numbers he is drawing and for the ferocity of his speech-making. Gone are the mild mannered ways of an Atal Behari Vajpayee coaxing voters with his eloquence or the emotional pitch that suited the Rath-Yatrs specialist L.K. Advani. Modi is a no -nonsense, fire and brimstone who has a gift of gab and is more in dialogue with the masses than a dull somber voice making speech as if reading a Government of India Gazette.
Pitted against him is Ruling Party’s heir Rahul Gandhi who looks a slow-starter but can raise the pitch in his own way. Rahul has so far kept a deliberate, studied low -key profile which suits his personal style.
A study of Rahul’s style shows he shuns power and responsibility when it was there for the asking. He has attacked the ‘Lal batti’ culture which includes some of his own colleagues and came hard on his own Prime-Minister’s Ordinance which almost threatened to tilt the apple-cart. So he can take positions of extremes when push comes to shove.
He has shown many a time he is not interested in power and has repeatedly stayed away from it. He is more like Hamlet, a reluctant prince and may be as indecisive as the Shakespearean hero.
He understands one thing though. Very clearly. It is only the Nehru-Gandhi family, alone and alone that can win an election for the Congress.
In the initial years after independence, Congress didn’t have any opposition to speak of, and ran away with it every 5 years with ease.
From the time Indira Gandhi came on, opposition started, first from within. When she could take collective might of Kamraj Nadar, S.K. Patil, Atulya Ghosh, Sanjeeva Reddy etc within her own Party and come out triumphant to start her own Party, rather wrested the Congress Party as her own, there was no looking back. She could take on any opposition and come victorious that included combined opposition and even Nixon-Kissinger combine and outfox them and created Bangladesh.
When she came back after the fiasco of Emergency she won back power for Congress all by alone. She took on stalwarts like Jayaprakash Narayan, George Fernandes, Raj Narain etc and trounced them singlehanded. She visited the riot-scarred Belchi in Bihar on an elephant in 1978 and won back power singlehanded. She campaigned like a whirlwind all over the country day and night, making 6 to 7 speeches sometimes in different districts and different States.
The style that Indira Gandhi set, called Indira Wave, has worked for Congress till date. Whereas Opposition Parties had stalwarts there was only one star that worked for Congress, its hardworking Boss, Mrs. Gandhi.
Crowds otherwise that would be wafer thin when local leaders addressed, would turn massive when Indira came to address. You could never think a Sitaram Keasri winning an Election as Congress President outside his own State, much less when had to address gatherings in Kerala or Nagaland.
Same formula has worked for Congress all through.
Sonia Gandhi followed the same path after acquiring Indira Gandhi’s ruthlessness in the process.
In 2004 Last General elections Sonia and Rahul took on the ‘India Shining’ campaign head-on which has stalwarts like Vajpayee, Advani, Yeshwant Sinha, Mahajan, Arun Jaitley, Uma Bharathi etal single handed and landed crushing defeat on the combined opposition.
They realized they have to win their election on their name, steam charisma, hard work whatever. Once they won they chose people to form the Government. That is where Manmohan Singhs Chidambarams, Antonys, Kamal Naths who will bring their expertise in their chosen field and along with it ,fierce loyalty. Time tested Loyalty. Those who became Ministers also knew left for themselves they wouldn’t have even saved their deposits but for the Gandhi family!
Whether he likes power or not, whether he wants to be a Prime Minister or not, Rahul Gandhi realizes that he has to win the Election for his Party more or less alone or probably with help from his mother who is keeping indifferent health and from his sister Priyanka.
Whether it is good for democracy or not is a different matter, but that is how it has worked for the Grand old Party, Congress Party so far!