The new image of Rahul Gandhi, as we have witnessed throughout his campaign for the Gujarat Assembly elections, is bringing hopes of the emergence of a strong Opposition in India’s democracy. Participation forms the basis of a democratic government. The lack of an Opposition is in itself a blot on democracy.
With Rahul Gandhi conducting 30 rallies in Gujarat and luring the masses, we may hope to see an Opposition at least. After all, an Opposition helps to keep a track of the wrong doings of an incumbent government.
Since long, we have dealt with the flaws of various governments formed by alliances. In my opinion, the voters were so frustrated with the delay in proceedings in various matters (due to the complicated functioning of alliances) that it gave a majority mandate to the BJP in 2014. Three-and-a-half years down the line, we are dealing with the flaws of a majoritarian, monopolist government.
Rahul Gandhi, the ‘yuva neta’ who emerged during 2008-2009, has finally made a comeback with a strong face. At least, as far as the present is concerned, we may feed ourselves with this ‘fast-food’. The disastrous speaker in Rahul Gandhi has suddenly transformed into a composed, organised and hard-working politician. While the campaign by BJP in Gujarat was mostly about criticising the Congress (thus spreading negativity), Rahul has addressed the real issues in his campaign. Not only this, he has also criticised the BJP and the Prime Minister – but he has not stooped down to the level of reckless commenting, while also addressing the grievances of people.
It is an age-old formulae of Congress to accommodate within itself, people of varying views and those who are famous in their respective regions. It is good to see that Rahul Gandhi is finally taking forward this aspect of ‘family politics’ – something should have done long before.
In Gujarat, the Congress started wooing the young faces – Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor. It was successful in its talk with Alpesh Thakor, who joined the Congress. It has also been in good terms with Hardik Patel. It has also not filed any nomination in Vadgam constituency, where Mevani has filed his candidature. If these faces and Congress improve their position in Gujarat, to any extent whatsoever, the applause for Rahul Gandhi will surely be well-deserved.
The Congress has consolidated its social media game too. I believe that one of the major reasons behind the BJP’s win in the 2014 general elections was its exemplary social-media handling. While the Congress did not toe the line soon after, it has surely started playing the game. Gone are the days when the Congress and Rahul blatantly ignored the trolls around them. Instead, he is now firing back at the trolls, in a way which not only manifests his sense of humour on social platforms, but also highlights his intelligence. This has allowed him to trend and made him popular on social media.
For a change, his popularity this time is not because of some lamentable speech. Neither does it rest upon the butt of raucous jokes. His light humour and sarcasm (for example, the Pidi tweet which said that it was his dog tweeting for him) allowed him to trend for days, and allowed him enter the hearts of the mainstream media and the people. It displayed a simple, sarcastic ‘common man’ side of his personality. Whether the credit goes to the social media team of the Congress or to Rahul is something we may need to scrutinise. Nevertheless, it is serving the desired purpose for now.
Another reason to laud Rahul is that he is finally understanding the communal mindset of Indian voters, and is playing accordingly. No matter how horrendous they may be, communalism and caste play crucial roles amongst the Indian voters. In Gujarat, Rahul has played his communal game mostly by visiting temples, even though it may have been as brutal as the ruling party’s efforts.
Needless to say, Rahul’s mannerism is attracting audiences in Modi’s and Amit Shah’s home state. While we may still be in a dilemma and may not trust him fully due to his untimely ‘disappearance‘, he has surely raised some hope. It seems that the voters may have an alternative option to choose from, in the 2019 general elections. He has a spotless public image. There are no direct charges of corruption or any severe cases against him. If performance and publicity go hand in hand, Rahul will undoubtedly be an option in 2019.
While he may still have some unwillingness to commit fully to politics, we can consider his current position and compare him to that of his mother and father. In my eyes, they were both ‘reluctant politicians’ – but in the end, both of them performed admirably.
We can expect Rahul to become a great leader. The current political discourse is seeing something new after a gap of three-and-a-half years. Whether Rahul Gandhi’s appearance in Gujarat turns out to be a mirage (or not) will only be determined by fate. As voters, we can only light small lamps of hope for the health of our democracy.