Rahul Gandhi has single-handedly weighed his party down, serving as nothing but an albatross around the neck.
The only hope for the Congress now is to convince the voter that Rahul Gandhi isn’t there at all, and if they vote for the party, they do not run the risk of promoting Gandhi.
As Maharashtra and Haryana voted Monday in what seems like a definite one-sided election, one thing has become clear – Rahul Gandhi needs to quit politics.
For this crown prince, a permanent vanvaas from politics is the only way out to breathe some life into his kingdom.
It isn’t enough that Rahul Gandhi, after a while of what can only be described as juvenile sulking, stepped down as party president. That decision seems to have helped nobody, except the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for whom Gandhi’s mere presence in politics – irrespective of the position he holds – is a blessing.
Where BJP, Congress stand
Both the BJP-ruled states, Haryana and Maharashtra, seem all set to come back to the party’s fold, riding high on the five-year performance of their chief ministers as well as the continuing popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But the biggest credit for the likely wins goes to an absent opposition.
The Congress looks clueless as ever in both the states, bogged down by embarrassing factionalism, lack of strong state leadership and, most importantly, a central command that inspires zero confidence. In fact, the Congress’ central leadership has become the butt of jokes, thanks to Rahul Gandhi, who led the party for less than two years but managed to destroy it for what seems like eternity.
For voters, Congress is Rahul Gandhi
If the Congress wants to harbour any hope of resurrection, it can do so only if it is able to completely distance itself from Rahul Gandhi.
It doesn’t matter if Rahul Gandhi is the party president or not, he is the heir-apparent and the face of the party. Voters believe if they choose the Congress, they will get Rahul Gandhi.
For the BJP, Gandhi is easy fodder. All the ruling party and its leaders need to do is rake his name up to remind voters of the alternative that stares at them.
So disastrous has been his run as the party president that he has ended up being a baggage for the Congress – and it is just not able to get rid of him.
Under Rahul Gandhi, the Congress has faced major electoral losses. His complete lack of voter connect, inadequate understanding of ground politics, a disconnected coterie, poor decision-making, a deeply flawed sense of entitlement and misplaced priorities have ensured that the Congress is not even considered an opposition in many states now. His own electoral defeat in the family pocket-borough of Amethi has exposed his reputation as a politician.
His ill-timed vacations aside, Gandhi’s most poorly thought-out political strategy was to personally target Narendra Modi ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, calling him a ‘chor’ (thief) and insisting on mounting a campaign that was bound to fail. He gifted Modi the ammunition to target him with – an ‘entitled, rich dynast’ hurling corruption accusations at a ‘self-made’ and ‘honest’ man who has risen through the ranks. This is just one of the many instances that show Rahul’s political immaturity and lack of ground-connect.
What the Congress needs to do
It’s time for Rahul Gandhi to walk away from politics, for good. Symbolic gestures like resigning from the Congress president’s post just won’t do when Modi has perfected the art of optics and Amit Shah the art of winning.
Rahul Gandhi is a liability for the Congress and as long as he is around in any form (even as a Congress worker), he will continue to bring the party down.
A Congress without Rahul Gandhi can start afresh – with a clear message that it is ready to break tradition and reach out to voters with a concrete action plan.
Moreover, as long as Rahul Gandhi continues to be in the party, all others in the Congress will be forced to work under his shadow, never getting a chance to assert themselves as leaders in their own right. He is, after all, the crown prince, even if he chooses not to sit on the throne. With him leaving the political field, young Congress leaders will have a far better shot at convincing voters that they are the real faces of the party.
Congress cannot be written off yet, it managed to secure over 20 per cent vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It is also in power in key states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. But if the Congress wants to arrest its slide and continue to be a political force, Rahul Gandhi will have to say goodbye to Indian politics.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.