Rahul Gandhi’s coronation as the next boss of the Indian National Congress is not another legacy pass over. Nor should it be viewed as continuation of dynastic politics. His appointment as the party president has energised the Congress. So much so that the party believes it can regain its mojo.
Charisma and stature apart, the electoral gains for the Congress have been more sudden than expected after Rahul’s elevation. Setback to the incumbent BJP at Gujarat is seen as spearheaded by Rahul’s intense campaigning and a pointer to his growing appeal and acceptability. BJP could just manage whisker thin win in Gujarat as the Congress decimated its popular vote banks in rural belts, riding on anti-incumbency and traders’ ire on GST. The ‘Rahul’ effect was also felt at the recent Rajasthan by-polls where the Congress swept the three seats.
On the national political turf, Rahul is leading a calibrated protest against the Modi government on Rafale deal. The Congress scion’s ascension is changing the Opposition’s discourse. Under Rahul, the Congress is repeatedly attacking the government, alleging that there is no transparency in the defence deal and it can take the proportion of a big scam. The NDA government is clearly feeling the jitters within and outside the Parliament as a resurrected Congress led by Rahul is difficult to contain.
The perception of people and the political fraternity towards Rahul is changing. And, it is changing for the better for Rahul and his party. Rahul was often the butt end of ridicule. His speeches were derisively mocked at. He was seen as a callow politician who was no match to the seasoned and canny Narendra Modi. Even Modi poked fun at him and humiliated him. On social media, especially Twitter, Rahul was trolled at.
The tables have turned now. And, in favour of Rahul. Every utterance by him, however inconsequential is met with great applause. His recent tour to US got huge endorsement from the academia and journalists. Back home, whenever Rahul goes for an address, he is a huge crowd puller. He has matured a lot as a political orator. The more recent ‘Jan Sampark Yatra’ launched in Delhi on last Wednesday was a runaway success. Its a novel way to connect with the commoners. And, Rahul has strategically planned to raise frequency of such informal hobnobbing with the ‘Aam Aadmi’.
A feeling is gaining wide currency that Rahul is getting wider acceptability beyond his party. His improved oratory, sly sense of humour and sharp quips on the Modi government are the talk of political circles. Thanks to Rahul’s well crafted takes, the Modi government is now facing increasing pressure to fulfil its poll promises and reclaim the mandate it got ahead of the 2014 polls. For Congress, the shadow of corruption is passé. Their new leader is seen as above board. The image makeover means a lot for the Congress which was humbled at the last Lok Sabha elections.
A squeaky clean image for the Congress leadership could be a tilting factor for the party at the next elections. The reversal of fortunes for Congress is also peppered with some disenchantment with the ruling BJP, especially on GST, demonetisation and slowing job growth. Rahul can harvest these failures to spin his party out of despair. He is already breathed life into the party’s organisational structure. His new team with the assorted blend of experience and youth is giving the ruling dispensation a tough time. Slowly, but surely, the Congress is shuffling back into the game of power politics with Rahul at the helm.