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The BJP victory in Gujarat was of course widely expected, but the scale took everyone by surprise. Despite Morbi, corruption charges and all-round inefficiency, the party was returned to power with an increased number of seats in the assembly, topped up by a higher vote share than last time. For how much of this is Rahul Gandhi to blame?

A grovelling commentator tweeted, “53% vote share, 156 seats, 27 years, 7th term win. PM Modi has made history. This record even BJP will find hard to beat.” Congress, however, nosedived to a paltry 17, its vote share too declining precipitously.

Of course the Aam Aadmi Party played a big role in the Congress’ defeat, but this is not an analysis of the Gujarat assembly elections, but an attempt to see where Rahul Gandhi figures in all this.

In the last elections, the Congress performed creditably, notching up as many as 77 seats against the BJP’s 99, whereas it had won merely 61 seats in 2012.

The Youth Congress election held by Rahul Gandhi might have been well-intentioned, but the old bandicoots and their families who would brook no interference had their own ways of subverting any meaningful reforms

Everyone was buoyed by the Congress’ performance. Clearly it was a result of both intense campaigning by Rahul Gandhi and the roping in of young leaders such as Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani, each catering to a different caste grouping.

But the euphoria did not last long. In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP swept the state, capturing all 26 seats at stake. Subsequently, 15-odd Congress MLAs crossed over. Hardik, who had been made Gujarat Congress Committee’s working president, called it quits, complaining that he had no real powers. Alpesh Thakore too. Why didn’t Rahul Gandhi monitor Gujarat developments is the question.

In this context, I recall here what I wrote earlier, “In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress won as many as 21 seats in UP, standing next only to the Samajwadi Party which had bagged only two more — and the credit was largely thanks to tireless campaigning by the young leader.

Also Read: Rahul Gandhi may not forgive Rajiv’s killers, even if it antagonises Tamils

“But instead of building on that stunning triumph and reviving the party machinery, he turned to whatever interested him, with the result that the Congress bit the dust in the Assembly elections held only two years later, winning only 22 seats. An alliance with the SP did not make things any different in 2016. Dalits, Muslims, OBCs, everyone seemed to have deserted the Congress in the recent elections.”

Also in 2009 Rahul Gandhi roped in retired chief election commissioners to conduct Youth Congress polls! It might have been well-intentioned, but there was no way of  getting through the ossified structure; the old bandicoots and their families who would brook no interference had their own ways of subverting any meaningful reforms.

In Tamil Nadu, Karthi Chidambaram managed to get most of his proxies elected, and he had the gall to convene a meeting of the winners and threatened them to obey his diktats or else.

The situation could not have been any different in the rest of the country. Eventually nothing came of the experiment, and the youth wings are still controlled by seniors; nothing seems to have changed. We have not even heard of inner-party elections at any level, and one doesn’t  know whether Rahul Gandhi remembers his own initiatives at all.

His father, Rajiv Gandhi, didn’t go beyond thunderous declarations to kick out lock, stock and barrel the power brokers. If anything, he became their prisoner.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra is indeed a good effort, Rahul could be attracting many nonpartisan liberals, but beyond photo ops and some stray write-ups what? 

It is not that any of the clan is a visionary or untainted, but simply that even small, tentative measures are doomed to flounder, given the hold of old-timers.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra is indeed a good effort, Rahul could be attracting many nonpartisan liberals, but beyond photo ops and some stray write-ups what? When communalisation brings them power, the BJP is not going to backpedal. Saner sections of the party are just caving in, while so-called civil society seems paralyzed everywhere, and even the courts are seen as having been co-opted, by and large.

Also Read: Bharat Jodo yatra: What polarized Kanyakumari shows

An environmentalist tweeted the other day, “Checks and balances in our system for the protection of our environment have failed, failed us completely.” The person was reacting to the nod from the Bombay HC to a proposal to fell 20,000 mangrove trees for completion of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. This would perhaps apply to almost every facet of our life today.

Congress wants to show it is waking up to the prospect of complete annihilation, the Jodo Yatra itself being one indication. Now heartened by the response, they have vowed to march further down that road.

If only they mean it at all, and Rahul for a change does follow through, they still have a long road ahead.


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