Saiyed Danish wonders if the Rahul factor has gone up in smoke inside the Congress party?
“Ten years ago, I was an ardent supporter of Rahul Gandhi and picked fights with friends over him but now I find it hard to connect myself with his speeches. I find it embarrassing to tell my friends that I support him,” says Waseem Mansoori, 29, a Delhi-based private sector employee.
Flashback to the good old times of 2004. Then Rahul Gandhi, aided by the unprecedented return of the Congress party to power, was perched high on the national scene of Indian politics to receive a rousing welcome by an optimistic 60 percent youth population of the country, his strongest constituency. But now, Waseem finds solace in a growing army of a generation completely disenchanted with the Congress party.
A candid conversation with Congressmen and even traditional sympathizers gives some interesting insight into a world of party leaders who don’t support Rahul ji’s claim of getting 200 plus seats and in the coming general elections and into the psyche of demoralized cadres quick to deny the magic of Rahul factor.
“All these years we thought that Rahul was some kind of a magic potion but he has proved us wrong. Now it seems that the longer he stays in the party the better it is for the rival Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). He does not understand that laptop se raajneeti nahi hoti (politics can’t be practiced from a laptop). I don’t think there was ever a Rahul wave,” whispers the personal aide of an aging cabinet minister in the UPA 2 government at his Kushak Road residence.
“Even the prospect of 60 to 70 seats in the elections appears difficult to imagine. There is no excitement among the workers,” says a low-profile veteran Congress leader in Rai Bareli who has the distinguished record of advising Priyanka Vadra.
He does not want to reveal his name in print but explains why Rahul Gandhi lost his youthful fans to Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi.
“There is a psychological reason why Rahul is not able to get a hold of Indian politics. His utterly idealistic understanding of politics remains his biggest obstacle to gauge the local, complex dynamics of our polity. Secondly, his security detail always stops him from connecting with the masses, an advantage which both Indiraji and Rajivji had. Life has not been easy for him. You’re talking about a person who has grown up seeing two of his family members assassinated be cause of their easy access to the public.”
Within the party, there is also a simmering demand of bringing Priyanka Vadra to the fore. In other words to replace Rahul. Many grassroots workers in the party believe that it was due to their demand that Priyanka preside over the January 7 Congress high command meet as a signal to play a bigger role in party politics.
“Rahul Gandhi does not encourage cadres. You go to him with a list of achievements and he will point out the mistakes. The workers on the ground need constant moral support. Priyankaji is just the opposite. She takes note of the hard work of the cadre and tells us to keep our chin up,” confides a Congress leader from Gorakhpur.