By Sushil Kutty
In the rush of Chandrayaan-3 coated with the latent fear whether Vikram-Lander will do a Vikram-Vetaal and never complete its mission, the Opposition experiment, INDIA, appeared to have gotten clean out of mind with the INDIA constituents doing what each of them is adept at. So, Rahul Gandhi with wanderlust strong as ever, went to Ladakh and did more people-contact, which had been his wont since the Bharat Jodo Yatra took India by storm.
Rahul Gandhi cannot seem to get enough of the outdoors and be part of the madding crowd, jostling, mingling and losing himself in the reveries of millions upon millions. The question is have the millions come to trust Rahul Gandhi? Do they see more than competent leadership qualities in the Gandhi scion? The salt and pepper beard does tell a tale but to the discerning, Rahul Gandhi appears to be still taking lessons from a close clique of mentors, separate groups at home and abroad.
So if in India, there’s Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and Congress communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh, the ones who take charge of Rahul Gandhi on the international stage includes Sam Pitroda and certain others with marked liaison skills. The point being made is Rahul Gandhi comes out being lead instead of leading. The only grace is while abroad, he does appear to be on his own, speaking “his mind”.
At home though he often turns to senior Congress leaders flanking him to answer media questions. The Gandhi family scion is still protected and the Congress could do well for itself if Rahul Gandhi is given his head to use more often. There are fewer Rahul Gandhi faux pas and fewer Rahul Gandhi pauses nowadays. Otherwise, the pauses stretch for yawning awkward moments.
For the past few days Rahul Gandhi has been making waves in Ladakh riding his motorbike to Pangong Lake and questioning the Modi government’s handling of Chinese PLA incursions, asking why Prime Minister Narendra Modi clams up when questions about China are asked. For those who haven’t noticed, Rahul Gandhi has become an expert on China and a headache for the Modi regime.
In fact, if there is one Opposition leader who gets under EAM S. Jaishankar’s skin, it is Rahul Gandhi. The other day, Jaishankar was irritated and hot under the collar when asked about India losing “grazing land” in Ladakh to Chinese PLA incursions. “O, he’s a serial offender,” the External Affairs Minister snapped, very un-Jaishankarly.
The question is asked, is Rahul Gandhi campaigning for INDIA or is he on a lark – enjoying the outings? Do voters look at Rahul Gandhi as a serious leader, somebody who can lead INDIA to power in 2024? In the euphoria of achieving the elusive unity, most Congress favouring analysts and political observers are beginning to give Rahul Gandhi an aura of invincibility. In fact, the temptation to believe in Rahul Gandhi is getting stronger and stronger.
Perhaps a psychologist will be able to explain. Rahul Gandhi has come through several hoops in recent days including the Modi defamation drama played out in several filmic courts. The INDIA breakthrough came as part of a package deal for the Opposition. They say Kalyug is on its way out and very soon Satyayug will open its account. The Congress has already opened its account and Alliance INDIA is proof of the pudding.
INDIA is actually only one event old though people count Patna also that of INDIA. The Mumbai meeting will be the real second. It will be held in NCP heavyweight Sharad Pawar’s backyard. Some are saying INDIA is in a “state of flux” and the “unity” to take on Modi is still to seep in. That said, INDIA cannot escape its responsibility with excuses of INDIA parties have to “speak the same language”.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is a stumbling block. INDIA should put in a major effort to wean Kejriwal away from disruptive tendencies. And Rahul Gandhi should be seen taking part in the weaning effort. Going round and round hills and lakes on a motorcycle does not make a leader’s leader. Photo-ops with cute children and cuter moms also do not.
Rahul Gandhi isn’t doing anything himself to remove obstacles from INDIA’s path. The Congress has drawn up a west to east Bharat Jodo Yatra, from Gujarat to Meghalaya, a yatra on the lines of Rahul Gandhi’s Kanyakumari to Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra, for Rahul Gandhi. If and when this yatra gets moving, Rahul Gandhi will have to be more than just a ‘Mohabbat Ki Dukaan’. He has to make an effort to talk like the ‘PM face’ of INDIA – Rahul Gandhi has one more chance to make a smooth landing. It will be his Chandrayaan moment. (IPA Service)