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
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
"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.
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