Rahul Gandhi now faces some biggest political challenges of his career

Rohit Chandavakar
Saturday, 16 December 2017

Economists often talk of the phenomenon of “bottoming out”.  During a recessionary trend sometimes the economy hits such a rock bottom level that it can then only go upward after that stage. This bottoming out effect is seen many times in politics too.  The Congress now hopes that they will soon be experiencing this bottoming out effect in the country!

Economists often talk of the phenomenon of “bottoming out”.  During a recessionary trend sometimes the economy hits such a rock bottom level that it can then only go upward after that stage. This bottoming out effect is seen many times in politics too.  The Congress now hopes that they will soon be experiencing this bottoming out effect in the country!

The BJP hit a rock bottom situation in 1984 elections after Indira Gandhi’s assassination and only two of its leaders got elected to the Lok Sabha then the party bottomed out of this to get more and more seats in every election to reach where it is today. Hopefuls in the Congress party now believe that a similar thing will happen to their party from now on. With that hope they are now in a celebratory mood as Rahul Gandhi takes over the mantle of India’s oldest political party!

Rahul Gandhi has indeed come a long way. Historian Ramachandra Guha once said you have to understand what circumstances Indira Gandhi grew up in, to know why she developed a tendency not to trust anybody beyond her own family. Similarly you have to understand what circumstances Rahul Gandhi grew in, to realise his behaviour. He is a person who saw his grandmother being assassinated when he was a kid and then his father being literally blown to pieces when he was in his teens. It is an experience that can shake anybody and change their life forever. Most people are not able to deal with even natural deaths in their family.

Rahul then saw his mother who was initially reluctant to even enter politics, gradually preparing for a big political role and then ruling the Congress for almost two decades. The man has obviously been through a lot and now he faces the big challenge of reviving his party.

Rahul now repeatedly says in every speech of his very prominently that a systematic campaign was run in the country through social media and conventional media to portray him as a dumb person! This, because the other side fears that he, like his father, would ride a wave at some point in time if anti-incumbency builds beyond a certain level.

The biggest challenge for Rahul is to tide over the factionalism within the Congress party in various states of India. In the anointment ceremony that happened at Congress headquarters in Delhi on Saturday it was evident how nobody had any control over the activists who endlessly kept bursting fire crackers despite outgoing president Sonia Gandhi repeatedly announcing that the noise was disturbing her. It was only a symbolic representation of  how the party leadership sometimes loses control on their cadre. In many states the party has loyal cadre but there is enormous amount of infighting happening between them.

The party also faces legacy issues of old leaders versus young brigade in some states such as Madhya Pradesh. Another challenge for Rahul is to hold the UPA members together and deal with the left parties as allies or partners. Taking along hard negotiators such as Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Yadav are challenges of the future too.  It remains to be seen how this young leader shapes up and meets these challenges as first big test of 2019 polls is just over 18 months away.

Challenges
The challenges for Rahul include holding the UPA members together and deal with the left parties as allies or partners. Taking along hard negotiators such as Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Yadav are challenges of the future too.  It remains to be seen how this young leader shapes up and meets these challenges as first big test of 2019 polls is just over 18 months away

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