rahul– V.N. Balakrishna | September 30, 2013

Ahmedabad | Much significance is attached to Congress Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s two-day visit to Gujarat beginning October 3. Can a demoralized Congress, yet to recover from the Assembly debacle of last year, regain its verve?

Party sources say Rahul cannot revitalize party without sorting out festering factionalism dogging since 1995 after power loss in state. Nonetheless, Rahul Gandhi’s visit is being touted as one of “strengthening the organization.”

His visit also gains significance as Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram are going to polls this winter. Strategist Rahul has to make sure semi-final does not trip him on way to the April-May 2014 final. Delhi, the power hub that is, can vote chanting Modi’s name and if word gets out that ‘NaMo’ magic has worked electoral consequences can be too serious to comprehend.

Compared to Rahul’s miserable record of the past when he reached his nadir in Uttar Pradesh 2007 assembly elections he has another chance to prove his métier as de facto prime ministerial candidate. Any gains in Gujarat from where toughest challenge emanates will act as morale booster in leading his partymen.

Rahul would be addressing party leaders from different parts of the state and the national executive meeting of the NSUI. He faces strong undercurrents of rising expectations of Congressmen wanting to taste power. All said and done his strategy would revolve in convincing people of Gujarat that Congress has wherewithal to be an alternative choice. Stakes are high as never before as it can get reflected onto the national stage. Unfortunately, thrice bitten Congress is thrice shy having expended all its energies in hurling stigma of 2002 communal riots onto Modi.

Insiders say for all his drawbacks Rahul has freshness of youth and could set ball rolling in counter-strategizing. He could ramp up local issues against Modi, for instance, festering regional disadvantages, as in Saurashtra. And by associating with displacements like the one at Sabarmati Riverfront where over 800 slum-dwellers were affected or of Vadilal-Sarabhai Hospital area, Congress can align itself on the side of popular grievance. Under his guidance his partymen could lead protests, move courts all in the name of downtrodden. With one stone he might minimize internecine feuds by kick-starting a dormant party in the state.

But before Rahul does any of these he needs to reinvent himself away from his old avatar of holidaying for weeks or being inaccessible, a case in point when Nirbhaya case obsessed the nation.

But Congress arrogance can prove counter-productive as was evident when a top strategist like former deputy chief minister Narhari Amin was denied ticket for “anti-party” activities during last assembly poll. “Modi made most of it while all that Congress gained was more leaders emerging to promote their personal interests,” says a party source.

With his mother’s health under strain, Rahul just might well begin life without catchy shibboleths a la Ghulam Nabi Azad’s famous “one week, sometimes can be two weeks.” Semi-final can cast its shadow. But the real humdinger is when the scion proves he has what it takes.


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