The Guest Lecturer

At Berkeley, Rahul Gandhi seemed the troubled student of Congress, not its next leader.

By: Editorial | Updated: September 13, 2017 12:05 am
Rajnath Singh, Kashmir, rajnath Kashmir, welcome openess, modi, modi independence speech, indian express Be it dynastic politics, or the Congress’s serious credibility crisis on corruption and secularism, or its lack of deliberative capacity, Rahul Gandhi is part of the Congress problem, and in fact, more responsible for it than most.

Speaking at the University of California, Berkeley, Rahul Gandhi accused the Narendra Modi government of many wrongs. Less predictably, the Congress vice president admitted that all is not well with the Congress. Any party in India that is in power for 10 years, Gandhi said, will run into a problem and the vision that the Congress laid out in 2004 was designed, at best, for a 10-year period.

By 2010-11, he said, it was already not working anymore. At the same time as this draining of vision, or because of it, the Congress had become arrogant. Gandhi also set the Congress failure in a wider context — of a global unravelling of the old order. “(It’s) not only us”, he said, pointing out that across the world, the inability to produce enough jobs was combining with the mounting pressures on institutions because of rising connectivity to rip apart older comforts and certainties, and giving an impetus to right wing forces.

There is heartening candour in Gandhi’s remarks at Berkeley, but there is a problem too. When he doesn’t paint the Congress decline as an irresistible cyclical downswing, in which the party had little agency, and over which it has scarce control, he points to solutions that are too wide, and which open up an escape hatch big enough for the Congress top leadership — and particularly Gandhi himself. The Congress, its VP said, needs to find the vision thing again primarily through the “conversation” it has stopped having since 2012.

Of course, parties must have multiple conversations with the people if they are to remain open to new and invigorating ideas. But surely, it is the task of leadership to steer these dialogues, and aggregate them, to give them shape, and define framing values and priorities. Surely, Rahul Gandhi, even if he is speaking in an academic environment, cannot sound like a very conscientious and disarmingly troubled student of Congress politics.

He has been vice president of the party since 2013, but by his own admission, he has been playing a larger and key role for much longer than that. Responding to a question on Kashmir, for instance, Gandhi claimed that he had worked “behind the scenes” and “silently” alongside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union ministers P. Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh, to break the back of the agitation in the state “for nine years”.

For him, then, to stand back now and assume a safe distance from Congress flailing and failure, is to unforgivably abdicate ownership. Be it dynastic politics, or the Congress’s serious credibility crisis on corruption and secularism, or its lack of deliberative capacity, Rahul Gandhi is part of the Congress problem, and in fact, more responsible for it than most. Leadership is also about taking ownership when things go wrong. That is, in fact, the first step towards making the ailing party better.

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    A Banerjee
    Sep 15, 2017 at 1:42 pm
    We must let him grow up and become more mature. Given a chance, he will certainly be able to reach the heights of a true leader. He still has the advantage of age on his side in his party.
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    1. Sumitra Mishra
      Sep 13, 2017 at 11:27 am
      Well analyzed. It's time for Congress to choose another mature leader who would not put his party to shame whenever and where ever he opens his foolish mouth.Tere are better brains and leaders in the party to save it from death. Rahul Gandhi has sent an SOS. Please listen to the tone n the mood of the voice, not the words.
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      1. K
        K.Suresh
        Sep 15, 2017 at 12:50 pm
        If you leave it to congress to choose another person to lead, they are sure to come up with Priyanka Vadra (of course parading her as Priyanka Gandhi)
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        tAMIZHMANNAN
        Sep 13, 2017 at 10:57 am
        Congis say that BJP have given money and hired people to call Rahul AN , STUPID ETC. Frankly speaking, there is no need for making such a propaganda. All people are of uniform opinion about Rahul: HE IS BASICALLY STUPID AND WORTHLESS, MORE A JOKER THAN ANYTHING. HE IS CONSTANTLY TRYING TO FOOL PEOPLE AND TRYING TO IMPRESS OTHERE THAT HE IS SMART. Without knowing anything, he wants to pose as an intelligent man and a knolegable person competent to become PM! NO ONE TAKES HIM SERIOUSLY. NO ONE WILL. He will be a JOKER AT ALL TIMES.
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          K.Suresh
          Sep 15, 2017 at 12:51 pm
          Anybody who offers money to call RG stupid is stupid.
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        2. W
          welingkar
          Sep 13, 2017 at 10:56 am
          The Congress Vice President sounds like an apologist for the master-minds of the Pak-sponsored violence in the Valley. If the BJP allying with the PDP was the cause of problems, why did his party ally with the NC? It appears the Congress defeat in the past elections still rankles the rank and file of the Congress, which leave no stone unturned to accuse the BJP and Modi. Time for the Party to really introspect or get thrown out again at the hustings. The revelation of the arrangements between terrorist turned MLA, Rashid Engineer and the Congress to get Ghulam Nabi Azad elected on a Rajya Sabha seat have shown that the Congress can go to any lengths. It would not be far-fetched to say that these terrorist networks of the Congress have been utilised to start agitations against the present Government.
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            tAMIZHMANNAN
            Sep 13, 2017 at 10:50 am
            Indians have understood how much this bahu looted and how much the whole bahu's family is worth today. It is many billions of dollars. She was working in a coffee shop as waitress for people to order some food and leaver few coins as tips in UK. Such was her life in UK where she was living as AU PAIR. (called a par in Italian). now she is giving us mamimum trouble using her assistants like Chiddy Chetty, , Doggy, Sibby and Mani Pappan
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