By Amulya Ganguli
Gandhi’s entry into big-time politics from having been a part-time caretaker of
the two family boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli of the Nehru-Gandhis has set
the cat among the pigeons.
in the BJP who thought that Rahul hasn’t yet matured sufficiently to offer a
serious challenge to Narendra Modi will now have to think again about the twin
assault of Rahul’s aggression and Priyanka’s charm offensive.
the face of this varied attack, the tune of the prime minister’s single-string
instrument harping on dynastic politics and about “nothing” having happened in
the 70 years prior to his own ascent may begin to sound somewhat monotonous.
it will amount to overstating the case to assert that “achhe din” are here for
the Congress, as the Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut has said. For one, the effect of
Priyanka’s fabled resemblance to Indira Gandhi may be felt more in the
countryside, although the fact that people across the board are susceptible to
good looks is evident from the attempt of a BJP minister in Bihar to play down
her “beauty” by saying that it does not get votes.
another, her economic views are unknown – as are Rahul’s – if only because
neither has cared to articulate them clearly. This is their – and the
Congress’s – Achilles heel for, if their silence indicates taking a U-turn on
Manmohan Singh’s economic reforms and signal a return to Nehruvian socialism,
it will mean losing a large segment of the middle class vote who have placed
their hope on growth, as promised by Modi even if it is yet to take place.
two of Rahul Gandhi’s observations are taken into account, they will show that
he is not a votary of the reforms. One was his assurance to the Niyamgiri
tribals in Odisha that he will be their “foot soldier” in Delhi to block any
attempt by the industrialists to take over their forests for the sake of mines.
And the other was his suit-boot ki sarkar jibe at Modi to denote the latter’s
closeness to the corporate sector.
of the Congress president’s statements depict the private sector as the ogre,
indicating the possibility of a return to Nehru’s and Indira Gandhi’s
communist-style public sector-driven economy where the market has only a
also no secret that Sonia Gandhi’s left-leaning National Advisory Council (NAC)
was disenchanted with Manmohan Singh’s emphasis on growth, as one of the NAC
members, Aruna Roy, regretted. The outcome was a policy of populism based on
doles and subsidies although it did not help the Congress in 2014.
will be unfortunate if Priyanka follows her mother’s and brother’s economic
ideas, for a return to the licence-permit-control raj of the 1960s and ’70s is
not what India needs today. Yet, the fact that the Congress instinctively harks
back to those days when it was engaged in implementing the party’s 1955 resolution
of building a “socialistic pattern of society” is evident from the party’s
absence from the list of state governments which call for foreign investment.
with bated breath, therefore, that both hoi polloi and the elite will await
Priyanka’s initial observations on her return to India. Is she a dedicated
“socialist” like her mother or has she realized that the dogma has died with
the demise of the Soviet Union and that the market is now seen as the driving
force of a country’s economy even in China and Vietnam?
Congress’s focus at the moment is on highlighting the Modi government’s many
failures on the employment and agrarian fronts apart from its assaults on
various institutions – whether academic or bureaucratic/professional like the CBI
and the Reserve Bank – not to mention the curbing of liberties relating to
of the scale of these failures on the government’s part, the Congress has been
able to make considerable political headway as its electoral successes show. A
recent opinion poll suggests that even the National Democratic Alliance will
not get a majority in the Lok Sabha, let alone the BJP.
the ephemeral nature of acquiring political traction only on the basis of the
opponent’s lapses is obvious. Even as the voters accept the underlining of the
government’s multiple inadequacies, what will matter ultimately is whether the
challenger is able to present a credible narrative of his or her own on the
economy and on the overall political landscape with an emphasis on freedom and
decency in daily life.
is the “X” factor in this context at present, for she hasn’t yet entered the
battlefield and taken up the cudgels against the adversary. How she will fare
is the million-dollar question for, while large attendances are assured as the
crowds are drawn by the still prevailing aura of the Nehru-Gandhis (who have a
rishta – relationship – with the people as the Shiv Sena has said), it is the
outlining of her vision which is of prime importance. Her well-wishers will
hope that she will not falter. (IPA