Whenever Rahul Gandhi makes a speech, promising various things to various classes, the first thing that comes to my mind is the recent advertisement of Idea mobile internet card where a politician is making same old tall claims he had made five years ago and someone from the crowd chants ‘Ullu Banaving’.
Even in his latest speech in Vardha, he envisaged the emancipated lower middle class in the tenure of UPA-3. Leaving this travesty aside, his discrete metaphors have always made headlines. Last time around, it was ‘beehive’, after that ‘escape velocity’, and on this occasion, it is ‘hot air balloon’, aimed at Narendra Modi’s Gujarat growth model. “The BJP’s ‘India Shining’ ‘hot air balloon’ burst in 2004, another did so in 2009 and the one sent up by the party this time would deflate with noise three times louder”, he said.
Whether one agrees with him or not is a different issue. The fundamental question one needs to raise is ‘Does Rahul Gandhi’s past record make him eligible to make such comments?’
Rahul Gandhi has been a member of the Lok Sabha for almost a decade and his attendance in the parliament has been no different from Sanjay Dutt’s attendance in jail. It might well have earned him an ATKT during his college days. He had refused to take charge of the Ministry of Rural Development and has been adamant on not joining the cabinet, which deprived him of learning the system and getting some valuable administrative experience under his belt. At the same time, it displayed his tendency to run away from responsibilities.
Before the 2009 elections, there was a talk of Rahul Gandhi moving all over the country and picking up young, promising workers and grooming them to be future leaders. It was also said that the exercise had fetched good results in Punjab and Haryana. By that logic, there should have been some crystallization of talent around him. But faces who are contesting elections have, by and large, remained the same.
As far as his campaigning is concerned, it has been akin to a guest appearance of an actor in a Bollywood film. In states where Congress has been gradually dissipated, he has simply made no efforts to, at least, remain in the game. Presence of Congress in Gujarat is as good as zero and he came back after spending one day there, instead of campaigning rigorously. Even Arvind Kejriwal, who is merely in his second year as a politician, looks like a bigger threat to Modi. Madhya Pradesh too, is starting to slip away and yet we have seen no conscious rearguard action from the Vice President of Congress. In 2009, Rahul Gandhi visited a village in Uttar Pradesh and spent the night in a Dalit home but that visit too, did not go beyond symbolism. As a result, UP, a state in which Congress held their fort firmly during the days of Pandit Nehru, has drifted further away from them.
During his political career, Rahul Gandhi has shown sparks of noble intentions but they have been far and few between. He paid an episodic visit to Kashmir University in 2012, promised to promote investments. He went to Odisha in 2008 and gave false hopes to the tribals, who had been protesting against a project, which was likely to raze their livelihood. After the Congress party passed an obnoxious ordinance, he highjacked a press conference and did the right thing by opposing it. But not long after, his party has given a ticket to Ashok Chavan. All these gestures, which seem well intentioned, have been as significant as nighwatchman’s 30 runs. While you would accept 30 runs from a nighwatchaman, it is a tragedy that a PM aspirant of country’s oldest political party cannot be paralleled with a top order batsman. Whatever good sparks he showed, merely remained sparks, and did not materialize into anything substantial because of the lack of zeal and persistence in his lethargic work ethos. He has touched upon various issues but has pursued none. Merely dipped his toes and chickened out.
Therefore, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, BJP’s hot air balloon is at least in the air, while yours has not even taken off.