With a reshuffle in the Union Cabinet and the Congress party organization imminent, the speculation over whether party general secretary Rahul Gandhi will be given a ministerial responsibility is rife again. While some Congressmen swear that he will replace Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to give a fresh lease of life to the UPA government, another section says that he could be given portfolios such as rural development or human resource development. Such rumours do the rounds every time there is talk of a cabinet reshuffle. However, Gandhi has so far been able to shrug off any such responsibilities.
The 41-year-old leader has been insisting that he is not interested in any ministerial jobs but wants to build the party. Rahul has addressed campus rallies, student gatherings, conducted membership campaigns and tried to bring back democratic practices in organizational elections at the youth and student level. The old vigour with which the party’s youth and student wings used to defend the party-led governments’ policies at the state and central levels has been missing for a while.
But the fact remains that Gandhi, who was always tipped as the ruling party’s future prime ministerial candidate, has not shown much interest in parliamentary work. Unlike many of his peers, Gandhi seldom makes use of the Question Hour. His interventions have been short and very few – the only impressive one was his Zero Hour speech on the Lokpal Bill during Anna Hazare’s intense campaign that had embarrassed the UPA government.
Rahul is an avid reader and has a clear view on most issues. However, he has not articulated them at all. He rarely interacts with the media nor does he have regular meetings with Congress parliamentarians. During his rare meetings with Congress leaders and ministers, he does not appear to them as someone who is keen to listen to them. Gandhi has not been able to build a team that could be with him in his attempts to rejuvenate the party. In the party, no one is a known ‘Rahul loyalist.’ In private conversations, most Congress leaders criticize Rahul and his style of functioning. He had exhibited signs of determination and a fighting spirit during his campaign in Uttar Pradesh in the recent election. He had given an impression that he was a politician with a difference and someone who choose to take the road less travelled. But, it didn’t yield the desired results. After the debacle, it seems he has shelved his UP agenda.
Unlike his mother, who has faced many challenges in her political life, Rahul had everything in his hand. When Sonia Gandhi decided to enter politics, it was a test of fire for her. Her nationality and patriotism were questioned. She had to learn everything from scratch. She proved her detractors wrong and did something even her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, could not do: keep the Congress flock together. The party retained power with a higher seat count in 2009.
Rahul Gandhi has the luxury of political opportunities which none of his contemporaries have. But, on a daily basis, he is proving to be a man of lost opportunities.