Natural Leader (for the INC)

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After dropping a series of hints, the Congress party appeared to have cleared its stand on anointment of Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate for the Lok Sabha elections. In an interview with a national Hindi daily, Rahul had said he is ‘ready to take up whatever responsibilities given by the party’, inviting media to add up recent events draw the conclusion that the Gandhi scion has been readied to be the ‘face of the party’ ahead of the election. The formal announcement has been speculated to happen during the AICC meeting scheduled on January 17.  

Although, the Congress party have been maintaining the line for too long that it does not declare its CM or PM candidate before the elections, supporters are likely to erupt with joy and new hopes of a revival. The longstanding demand was somewhat delayed due to ideological differences that surfaced between the young and senior leaders after the reversal of fortunes in the last rounds of elections threw in new challenges. Senior members have manifested their discomforts on moving away from the aged-old ideologies they have been safekeeping. The advance selection of prime ministerial or chief ministerial candidates is a taboo from their perspective as it is supposed to be in violation of the definition of parliamentary democracy. Adherence to this system requires that the leader of the majority party be chosen only by the newly elected representatives. Compromising on this basic element by declaration of a designated PM renders the elections into a contest between key personalities and sidelined the ideologies and programmes of the party, according to their arguments. Such die-hard proponents of parliamentary democracy regard the promotion of particular individuals as future leaders of the Parliament or the Assembly as taking away the rights of the elected members to choose their leaders.

Another impeding factor may have been that many concerned leaders of the Congress had hesitancy in supporting the idea of naming Rahul Gandhi to head the party campaign for the next Lok Sabha elections after the experience drawn from the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections of 2012. The young Gandhi crisscrossed the politically important state for two months and held more than 200 election rallies. However, it won only 28 seats and just two out of the 15 seats under Amethi parliamentary constituency represented by him. Though Congress leaders defended the Assembly elections results and stood by Rahul’s affinity with the voters, their political rivals kept on highlighting the outcome as his personal defeat. He did not head the party campaign during the Gujarat elections that followed later that year. The move was seen as a tactic to avoid the blame of defeat and to shield Rahul Gandhi.

However, seeing its political fortunes diminishing fast and Parliamentary elections knocking at the door, the Congress party now sees no other option but to bank on Rahul Gandhi to tow the sinking ship to clear water. There is absolutely no time for fickle mindedness or wasting valuable time in consideration of the possibilities of the plan backfiring. In a way, the senior Congress leaders should learnt from the conviction with which Narendra Modi was propped up by the BJP as its prime ministerial candidate. Many prominent leaders inside the saffron party were reluctant and Congress leaders in their honest perception thought it was political suicide. Now, the Gujarat chief minister had been given credit for the thumping victories at the state elections by his party men and even the Congress party had stifled their responses on the attribution to Modi’s leadership. The young Gandhi has to fight a high anti-incumbency wave and the weight of a government fettered by high number of scams, but if somebody has to be chosen from the party to draw the huge crowds and retain them at the polling stations, there is absolutely no competition.

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