New Delhi: The catastrophic second Covid-19 wave ravaging the country, with people scrambling for hospital beds and medical supplies, has had Congress leader Rahul Gandhi earn plaudits for his “foresight and vision” from members of the G-23 or group of party leaders, who had last year questioned the “leadership vacuum” in the party.
ThePrint spoke to multiple leaders of the group, who said that the crisis has “shown Rahul Gandhi’s leadership skills”, signalling a slight shift in the internal party dynamics.
Kapil Sibal, former Union minister and one of the most vocal members of the G-23, said “Rahul Gandhi said all the sensible things” with respect to Covid.
“He is a good man, no doubt about it. He doesn’t have the negativity. He got the things right (about Covid). All sensible people got things right about this. Modi should have learnt from it,” Sibal told ThePrint.
Sibal had last year accused the Congress leadership of not introspecting and not presenting an effective opposition to the Modi government. He has been critical of the Modi government and its handling of the pandemic as well.
“We have to first delineate the qualities of the leader. All the qualities needed by a leader are lacking in Modi. He has just captured all institutions, that’s how he is surviving. He doesn’t have leadership skills. He doesn’t have vision,” Sibal said.
He added that Congress has a history of delivering and “it’s only a matter of time before people see that”.
The G-23 is a name given to the group of 23 leaders of the Congress, who in August last year wrote to party president Sonia Gandhi, demanding a “full time and effective leadership” — a leadership that is both “visible” and “active” on the field.
‘BJP should apologise to Rahul’
Former Karnataka CM Veerappa Moily, another member of the G-23, said Gandhi emerged as a “leader with vision and foresight” during the Covid crisis.
“The public can tell that what Rahul said made absolute sense. He forecast a lot of these problems, but BJP made fun of him. They should apologise to him. He spoke like a true statesman,” Moily said.
“Anyone can talk about the status quo. It takes a statesman to make plans ahead of time,” Moily added.
Rahul Gandhi, former party president, had warned of the threat of Covid-19 ahead of the pandemic in February last year, followed by making public statements on the same through the course of the pandemic.
Most recently, Gandhi had written to PM Modi suggesting that vaccination be opened up to “everyone who needs it” and that foreign vaccines be made available in India. Days after this letter, the Modi government decided to fast-track emergency approvals for foreign-produced shots.
Several Congress workers have been sharing graphics of ‘What Rahul Gandhi said when’— with a timeline of Gandhi’s statements at various stages of the pandemic.
What @RahulGandhi said When: The situation of the country would've been very different had the Modi government listened to him in time rather than ridiculing his suggestions. pic.twitter.com/vooF852BHK
— Saral Patel (@SaralPatel) April 26, 2021
The Indian Youth Congress — the Congress’ youth wing — and its leader Srinivas B.V. has especially been credited for leading the charge to arrange hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and other supplies for those who have been tagging him on Twitter with desperate pleas.
“He (Rahul) said all party members should leave political work and focus on providing Covid relief. This is really important messaging from our leader. It has also generated enormous goodwill among people,” said Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Rajya Sabha member and one of the signatories to the last year’s letter.
‘Not limited to Rahul’
Other members of the G-23, however, while appreciating Gandhi, said his words are symptomatic of the “greater culture of Congress”.
“I wouldn’t limit it to Rahul Gandhi, Congress has a long history of consultation and delivering in times of crises. We have the experience of handling Tsunami, the entire disaster management Act was formed under Congress government,” said former chief minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan, a signatory to the letter.
“What Rahul has articulated is part of that culture. Unfortunately, because of Corona, our communication is limited to AICC press briefing and Rahul’s tweets. But this is the position of the entire Congress uniformly,” he added.
Another signatory to the letter, Sandeep Dikshit said that “every warning Rahul gave about the pandemic has unfortunately turned out to be true”.
“There are many things one can say about him and his leadership style. But in the whole covid scenario, he is one person who very clearly understood what was happening,” Dikshit told ThePrint.
However, Dikshit said he is skeptical about how much this crisis will change the mood of the public towards Rahul Gandhi.
“The current Indian public is very difficult to read. Everything is too transactional for most voters, instead of being about long-term change,” he said.
Commenting on the demands the G-23 leaders’ letter raised with respect to effective leadership, Dikshit said, “Those demands were specific to wanting the leadership to be alive and kicking consistently… but in the covid crisis, I am impressed with how the leadership has acted.”
(Edited by Debalina Dey)