Is Rahul Gandhi India’s Prime Minister In 2024? – OpEd

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I’m not sure if the victory in the state elections in Karnataka is solely because of the Indian National Congress providing a breathing alternative to the electorate. To a fair extent, yes. We need to however, also bear in mind that the Kannadigas are a self-respecting people who take pride in their language and culture, cutting across the social and political divide.

The unthinkable corruption and attempts to polarize the Kannadigas to win the elections by the BJP was nothing short of humiliating the soul of a people. There is no doubt that the INC’s Bharat Jodo Yatra with Rahul Gandhi at the forefront played a significant role in their party’s victory in the recent elections. But the Kannadigas made it evident that they were not willing to take the BJP’s attempts to treat them like sheep that can be manipulated and abused, lying down. 

However, when I see this whole “high command” business with the Congress party, its deep-seated feudal, dynastic politics, where Chief Ministers are selected in Delhi, rather than based on the work they have done for the state, I keep asking myself if these people are an alternative to the BJP! The ‘frying pan’ might be better than the ‘fire,’ but, is that what the masses want, or deserve? To be on a frying pan for the next five years and be thankful that it’s not the fire! This is something that the INC or its most prominent face, Rahul Gandhi, needs to be thinking about. You cannot turn party workers into Chief Ministers based on their private loyalties to the Gandhi family. If you do that, forget about ever being in the seat of power for the next twenty years. 

Rahul Gandhi, to me, always seemed like the kid brother we all love to play with and bully once in a way. In a country like India you can’t be a kid brother and expect to be the Prime Minister. You need to be an older brother or a father-figure. PM Narendra Modi, to his credit, has shrewdly been able project himself as one such ‘father’ working ‘selflessly’ for the nation. I don’t want to waste space by talking about what Modi’s ‘fatherhood’ has been all about. The results in the Karnataka elections speak for what the voters think of Modi’s fatherhood. 

But, Rahul Gandhi needs to alter his image. An image of decisiveness, focus and strength is imperative when it comes to power. It’s hard to imagine a more internally dysfunctional, overcentralized political party than the INC. Sonia Gandhi and her immediate family members cannot be deciding everything related to the future of the party. It’s high time that they understood that people are not willing to take it. If Rahul Gandhi has aspirations of being the Prime Minister of India, he has to understand that he cannot be playing God just because he belongs to a certain family. This is the reason why the BJP is crumbling, because the party has become synonymous with Narendra Modi. Political parties, by definition, ought to be independent of individuals and families. The moment the Modi ‘magic’ failed, the party lost the elections. This is what might happen to them in 2024 as well.  

Additionally, someone should explain to Rahul Gandhi certain basics in no uncertain terms. I’m surprised when he makes statements such as “My name is not Savarkar, it is Gandhi and Gandhi never offers apology”. This is in response to the disqualification from the Lok Sabha after being convicted by a Surat court for the remark he made in 2019, “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname.” I think the remark was childish and Rahul Gandhi’s response that his name was not ‘Savarkar’ equally childish, if not more. I also see nothing wrong in apologizing for making a stupid statement. You may be a ‘Gandhi’, but you certainly are not Mahatma Gandhi! Everyone whose last name is ‘Gandhi’ is not a Mahatma. Stop being pretentious! By the way, the general store guy that I go to, his last name is Gandhi too. Makes no difference. Let me rephrase Rahul Gandhi’s remark: “How come all the people who have Gandhi as the common surname are not Mahatmas?” 

In March of this year Rahul Gandhi was at the University of Cambridge as a Visiting Fellow of the Cambridge Judge Business School (Cambridge JBS), where he delivered a lecture on the subject of ‘listening.’ Listening is indeed a complex subject and there is a lot to say, especially coming from a political party that has made it a job never to listen to the Indian masses when they speak. In the UK Tour, Rahul Gandhi made a lot of statements that I found puzzling. This is the kid brother in Rahul Gandhi that I find the most annoying. The UK is the country that ruled India for nearly two hundred years. The British foreign policy is no different from the American foreign policy in the third world. Their government is opposed to our long and short-term interests. It’s not like Rahul Gandhi is talking to the representatives of the British working classes, which would still be fine. He’s talking to students of an elite institution like the University of Cambridge. What difference does this talk make to India’s common people? 

I am opposed to the contempt that the PM Narendra Modi himself and the BJP in general have for intellectuals, unless they are with them. But this is the contempt that the educated classes in India have always had for the illiterate masses. Modi may not be able to deliver a lecture at the University of Cambridge, but he is able to speak in a language that those ignored masses of India understand. It’s time that Rahul Gandhi understood that it makes no sense for him to go and complain about India’s ruling party in the West. They’re the supporters and beneficiaries of this government. To be fair to the BJP, the INC has always toed the Corporate-US-friendly line when it came to big business. The INC was never pro-poor or pro-working class. Now, because they are in the opposition, they suddenly remembered that the masses exist. 

Instead of wasting his time in Cambridge, Rahul Gandhi should be talking to the farmers, workers, auto rickshaw drivers, street vendors, garbage collectors, unemployed youth, old people across the spectrum, domestic help, nurses and primary school teachers in India. These are the people that no politician wants to talk or listen to except before an election. But, they matter. India’s future is in their hands. Not in the hands of the students in Cambridge. Or students in any other Indian university for that matter. 

In the same context, Rahul Gandhi’s statements against the RSS too are uncalled for. The comparison of the RSS with the Muslim Brotherhood is absurd to say the least. Does Rahul Gandhi know the difference between a monotheistic religion such as Islam and essentially a social order that Hinduism stands for? Such inaccurate statements do not serve any purpose and the domain itself should be left to journalists and academics rather than politicians. 

The real issue for a politician in a democratic country is the rule of law. Some people cannot be more equal than others. Period. When a crime is committed, whether it is a Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh they should be punished based on the nature of the crime and not because of their religion. Anyone has a right to be a member of the RSS and subscribe to Hindutva as a guiding principle in his or her private life. That does not make him or her a fascist. The same applies to Muslims, Christians and believers of every other religion and denomination. When one’s beliefs obstruct the day-to-day life of another person and the legal and political system does not protect the other person, then we are heading for a crisis. It’s the institutional biases and systemic injustices that Rahul Gandhi should be focusing on as a politician. How do we ensure that legal and political systems work independently without fear or favor? Can we have a state that is not dominated by members of any one language, region, religion, ideology or caste to the point where they could victimize others?  

PM Modi and the BJP can be thankful to Rahul Gandhi for the two terms of power that they were able to enjoy, despite the horrendous record of corruption and abuse of power. It is not that the Indian masses agree with them or find their dubious agenda attractive. It is just that the people saw no viable alternative in view. There is not even the slightest doubt that people are desperate for an alternative to the BJP. Literally, the BJP has created all the conditions for a corrupt and violent society. The more that the masses are crushed under the boots of power, the more we can be sure that we’re heading for civil unrest. That’s the scary part. 

If the INC under Rahul Gandhi’s guidance wishes to defeat the BJP, they should be aware of three things:

i)                Let the masses decide who they want their leaders to be both at the state levels as well as at the center.

ii)              Social and economic justice should be the guiding principle when it comes to running the system.

iii)            Institutions should be allowed to function without interference from politicians. 

Ordinary Indians do not expect too much from the state. The majority of them would be content if they had a job which gave them dignity, clean air and food, healthcare and freedom from harassment and intimidation. Instead, political parties and governments continue the colonial legacy of treating people like servants. The result is the slavish mentality of most Indians which is disgraceful to say the least. No wonder we have the kinds of leaders that we do. The way we treat each other is exactly the way the British treated the Indians when they ruled us. The opposition parties that wish to dislodge the BJP, especially the INC with Rahul Gandhi at the helm of affairs, must understand that common Indians are not willing to settle for anything less than being part of a nation-state in which they are equals, irrespective of their social and economic background. And if their social and economic background is coming in the way of such equality, those issues should be addressed and dealt with on an emergency basis. 

I do not think that the Karnataka elections are an indication of what could possibly happen in the national elections in 2024. I am certain that if the national elections were to be held today, the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi would win, perhaps, without the same kind of a majority as in the previous two elections. If Rahul Gandhi really wishes to project himself as an alternative to someone of Modi’s incredible political acumen and ability to control the pulse of the masses, he has a lot of homework to do. 

Prakash Kona

Prakash Kona is an independent scholar from Hyderabad, India.

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