Weighing Up The Newbie
The Path Of The Juggernaut
There appears to be a great asymmetry to the contest. Narendra Modi gets bigger with each stride towards that presumed third-term victory in Gujarat. He is brash, confident, ruthless—the absolute Alpha Male, getting rousing endorsements from the crowds in Gujarat, and committed in the long term to expanding his power, clout, control. Pitted against him on the national electoral route that will lead from Gujarat to the 2014 general elections will be the reluctant prince of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi. With that faraway look in his eyes, he’s still seen as a novice committed to the greater good rather than power play. He is hesitant, reluctant, falters in his speeches. He seems to have little ambition or enthusiasm for power. He is just there to do his duty by the dynastic calling that the Congress has now become dependent on.
So the question really is: Does Rahul have a plan to take on Modi? Ask a senior Congress leader, and he laughs and counters with a query of his own: “Do you have a plan to take on Modi? I think members of the BJP will be more engaged in taking on Modi after Gujarat. Rahul Gandhi will just do his duty and campaign where he is asked to in Gujarat.” Currently, there is both great expectation and great ignorance being displayed by Congress leaders. There is certainty that the heir apparent is about to play a greater role in party affairs but no one seems to know when exactly it would happen. Last time this correspondent checked, word was: it could happen tomorrow, day after, next week. “In our party, we don’t know when the high command will take decisions; but one day, they suddenly do, and things happen,” says a media cell member.
Currently, when the contest is in Gujarat, Modi is the Goliath but it is unrealistic to see Rahul as some David-like figure with a few stones and a slingshot, defeating the Man in his fiefdom. Indeed, national leaders have traditionally not been able to combat strong state leaders. He only need look at his family’s election history. Grandmother Indira Gandhi could not do anything about the rise of NTR in Andhra Pradesh in the 1980s. Rajiv Gandhi tried to give a spirited fight to West Bengal’s Jyoti Basu in a state election, but really could achieve nothing. Indira and Rajiv were both prime ministers. Rahul is still unproven political material. And the Congress has been blitzed by corruption scandals, the most recent touching Robert Vadra.
Photograph by AFP, From Outlook 12 November 2012
There is also a stark difference between the Gujarat poll and a national contest. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the Congress had a lead in 75 assembly segments of Gujarat. Besides, there is no denying that the Congress has a presence in the state as there is no other political force opposing the BJP. Hence, logically its chances in Gujarat should have been brighter than 2007. The showing in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls also led to many pundits in Ahmedabad predicting that Modi would get a fight this time round, particularly as Keshubhai Patel, former BJP CM, had finally quit the BJP and declared his intention of fighting Modi. Yet the situation that is emerging on the ground suggests that Modi would not just be holding his bases but could even improve on his performance.
The trick for Rahul would be to avoid making any blunder that Modi can seize upon. He would also do well to keep the focus on local issues and not allow the CM to personalise the contest. It would suit Modi to turn this into a clash of two individuals. It would not suit the emerging persona of Rahul, which has many vulnerabilities. What Rahul can take solace in is the fact that a national contest will be vastly different and Modi will not be the big fish in a small pond. Should the Gujarat strongman be positioned as the face to take on Rahul in a general election, then he too shall be subjected to a scrutiny that will show up the chinks in that heavy armour.
Send Rahul Gandhi (The Baba and the Blusterer, Nov 12) to campaign in Gujarat and he will ensure the Congress is dead and buried in Modiland. He sounded really silly when he said “had a Gandhi been in power at the time, Babri Masjid wouldn’t have been demolished”. Outlook is correct in noting that Rahul is unproven material. He’ll remain so forever. To cook the Congress goose once and for all, Rahul should ensure that he takes Digvijaya Singh and Salman Khurshid along to Gujarat.
C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
Lazy, reluctant, timid, Rahul needs some military training to discipline himself. Plus some history lessons to get a perspective on the problems India faces today.
Lata Mehta, on e-mail
Only Modi can save India from corruption, misgovernance. It’s heartening that he is slowly but surely being recognised as a future prime minister—in India and internationally.
Arun Kumar, London
Who is Rahul? What is he capable of? What experience does he have? For heaven’s sake, at age 42 he still lives with his mother. Do not burden him with the managing of the lives of all of India. It’s beyond me to understand how he can be expected to take on Narendra Modi.
Ashutosh Kaul, Toronto
But for his parentage, Rahul would have been a nobody. Modi, on the contrary, is a self-made man and leader.
Vaibhav S., Calcutta
Look at the advice being offered to Rahul Gandhi: “Do not speak ill of Modi. Don’t speak ill of Gujaratis. Don’t attack the BJP. Don’t even mention the RSS. And not a word about 2002!” No wonder it seems as if the Congress goose is cooked even before the fire is lit.
B.V. Shenoy, Bangalore
Nehru groomed his daughter for prime ministership and this stood her in good stead. Besides, she had some exposure to how Gandhiji worked and connected with the people of India. Rahul looks like he is indecisive and directionless—perhaps due to the poor advice of his image managers, but largely due to his own failings. I see no hope for him; the undisguised sycophancy he is constantly exposed to is not helping him either.
T.N. Vaidyanathapura, Bangalore
A eulogy to the Clown Prince?
Arun Visvanathan, Chennai
"He is brash, confident, ruthless—the absolute Alpha Male"
"With that faraway look in his eyes, he’s still seen as a novice committed to the greater good rather than power play."
committed to the greater good? what exactly? other than being born with a silver spoon!
And Sonia or Rahul will not link Modi to the riots, because the Congress is far more culpable in the masscre of Sikhs following the assasination of Indira Gandhi.
Saba thanks for advicing the reluctant prince! but, who's offering the kingdom ? reality is Modi is much more.....someone whom BJP leaders may not be wanting to lead them! but the people of this country want him at the helm at any cost for the virtue you have listed! its an end Game do hope minorities understand and desert the sinking ship!
Irrelevant Comparison !!!
Saba naqvi, should answer first about who asked him if Rahul was competing with Modi. It is just a imaginary contest. It is for filling up the unused pages of the weekly magazine. Saba . you should write on a subject which would really mean, some insight into issues closer to the majority of Indian population.
I really like Saba Naqvi. Every time I think she must be done with the all the garbage against Modi, she proves me wrong. She has proved me wrong more number of times than my class 2 mathematics teacher. That means something !!
I really wish that instead of being journlist, she worked in garbage recycle plant. She would have contributed more to country, planet and humanity. Still happy to read her.
An elegy is a mournful poem while eulogy is adulatory praise in honour of some deceased soul. The tenor of Ms. Naqvi's article was more mournful than hagiographic.
Both elegy and eulogy are apt and you are obviously the correct judge of what you meant.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT