April 07, 2020
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“Dear Rahul, Why So Mum...”

25 questions Rahul Gandhi needs to answer

“Dear Rahul, Why So Mum...”
Graphic: Ashish Bagchi; Photograph: Narendra Bisht
“Dear Rahul, Why So Mum...”

Like his potential rival Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi has shied away from taking questions from the public, and the media. He’s given only one recorded interview, addressed a few press conferences, and has generally preferred dispensing off-the-record briefings to select editors. Now, as the country digests the aftermath of the UP election debacle for the Congress, there are many questions Rahul must answer. For starters, here are 25.

  1. Mr Gandhi, while taking token responsibility for the Congress party’s performance in the Uttar Pradesh elections, you said "organisationally we are not where we should be” and that the party’s “fundamentals” are weak. After two years touring the heartland, whose responsibility is that?
  2. On what grounds should we consider you a “leader of the future” when despite having a free hand to run the Congress, an all-India party with considerable pedigree, you can’t get it in shape to make a mark (forget winning) even in one state election?
  3. How do you explain the fact that 34 per cent (154 out of a total of 354) of the candidates nominated by your party in UP had criminal antecedents? How do you justify rewarding corrupt and criminal former MLAs and ministers who had been denied tickets by even their erstwhile parties?
  4. Why do you think any bright young person would want to join the Congress when, leave alone aspiring for the top job, one cannot even be sure of being considered on merit for selection as an MLA candidate. This is exemplified in your party’s selection for Patiyali in UP where an outsider from Delhi (who finally finished fifth) was parachuted in at the last minute to replace a local who had come up the ranks and had been nursing the constituency for years. How did this happen?
  5. Isn’t it true that it was your party which ‘communalised’ the UP campaign? Was it part of an ill-thought-through strategy to allow various leaders to rake up issues such as the Batla House encounter, Muslim quotas, and, before it all, l’affaire Salman Rushdie?
  6. While you may have rationalisations to offer, many just gave up on you after you introduced Sam Pitroda as belonging to the Viswakarma caste at an election rally. Are you proud of the role identity politics played in your UP campaign?
  7. With the benefit of hindsight, would you agree that the repeated defensiveness (“don’t want to be PM-CM”, “I am here for the long haul”) only showed up the incoherence of your campaign? When you yourself display such lack of conviction, how do you expect the electorate to vote for you?
  8. Where was the follow-up on the many issues you touched upon fleetingly during your campaign? For instance, the issue of land acquisitions at Bhatta-Parsaul or the condition of the poor in Bundelkhand?
  9. While grandiosely offering crores as “electoral packages" for Bundelkhand and weavers, do you realise that this money that you claim is "eaten up by the elephant" but "sent by us at the Centre" is actually the taxpayers' and not your jaagir to disburse as you please? How many of such projects does the PM or the Planning Commission pass in "only two minutes"?
  10. Digvijay Singh has now suggested that many felt that had you been the chief ministerial candidate in UP (while in the same breath ruling it out as you have a “national perspective”) your party would not have got the drubbing it did (even in the family pocketboroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli). Don’t you think administrative experience as CM of UP could have been useful in your future plans?
  11. Post this electoral loss, do you genuinely feel the UPA will last its full term? Or are you comfortable with the various “compromises” the government will have to make in the future to survive?
  12. What are your future plans? Does it strike you as ironical that assorted party spokespeople assert that you could become prime minister whenever you want? Don’t you think that apart from being patronising, it is also an insult to the office of the PM, and its current incumbent?
  13. So, are you going to be your party’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha election? Or do you, like your mother Sonia Gandhi, plan to enjoy power without accountability indefinitely?
  14. What are your views about the qualifications required to be prime minister? Do you think that it is right for someone who's not been elected to Lok Sabha to be selected?
  15. Can you please explain what role merit has played in you being made the general secretary of the Congress and its potential prime ministerial candidate?
  16. How would you sum up your performance in reorganising the Youth Congress? Have you had any success in removing the influence of "family, patronage and money" in selection? How is it that a large number of dynasts emerged as prominent faces under your watch?
  17. As an important general secretary of the Congress, what steps have you taken to bring about internal democracy in the party? When can we expect a free and fair election in the AICC?
  18. Do you agree that the Congress system, particularly from the time of Indira Gandhi on, has discouraged a strong state leader from emerging, lest an alternate power centre crop up? Is that why your young party colleagues are kept away from playing a prominent role in the election campaigns? Isn’t that what is stunting the growth of your party—and isn’t that what your allies fear vis-a-vis the Congress as well?
  19. You have often spoken about corruption. Would you concede that the various scams have had an effect in taking the sheen off UPA-II and your family’s charisma? What steps have you taken against the accused in your party?
  20. Would you concede that as a ‘youth leader’, particularly one given to routinely sermonising on ethics and morality, the least that is expected of you is to speak up when constitutional norms are broken with impunity by senior ministers in your party?
  21. Would you agree that UPA-II’s mishandling of the Lokpal movement added to the public anger against the Congress? What do you think of the role of the party’s dirty tricks department in disrupting the anti-corruption movement and setting up various members of Team Anna?
  22. Why is it that as a policy you either keep quiet or choose to speak only through your party spokespeople? Or if you speak, it is post-facto—as on the recent issue of FDI in multi-brand retail?
  23. In any case, it’s yet unclear whether you have given unqualified support for FDI in retail. Why don't you spell out where you stand at least in a written article or even a prepared speech?
  24. Why is it that you generally don’t address press conferences, even short ones like you did after the results on March 6? Why is it that you are not available for full-length interviews? Why are you not on social media like Twitter?
  25. Don't you think the country has a right to know where you stand on important issues facing the country?

Read 25 questions for Narendra Modi

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