A close look at a leader who has come to be trusted and relied upon

BJP may not like to acknowledge Rahul Gandhi’s leadership qualities but see how often it has first mocked him before eating crow and heeding his advice, points out Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot

A close look at a leader who has come to be trusted and relied upon

Ashok Gehlot

Public memory is short and very few recall a tweet by Rahul Gandhi on February 12, 2020. He warned the Government of the impending coronavirus pandemic and urged it to take the threat seriously. But the Government chose to ignore the warning, allowed international flights to keep landing. Arriving passengers were neither tested nor quarantined. As late as on March 18 the Government was telling Parliament that there was no threat from the pandemic, that there was nothing to worry. People know what happened next.

The contrast with the conduct of the UPA Government is worth recalling. When the Ebola virus began to spread from Africa, the UPA Government promptly restricted flights and began screening passengers arriving at airports and ports. Suspected carriers were quarantined and as a result of such efforts, the virus failed to spread in India.

February, 2020 was not the first time Rahul Gandhi had raised the red flag to alert the Government and the country. But each time he flagged drug addiction in Punjab, insurgency in the North-East, misadventures in Kashmir, unemployment, exodus, farmers’ agitation or Chinese aggression, BJP leaders mocked him. Every time he was proved to be correct. The BJP may not like to acknowledge Rahul Gandhi’s foresight but this is now public knowledge.

I have closely observed him since 2004 when he first got elected to the Lok Sabha. I have often seen him rise above party politics and side with what is right. I am yet to see him compromise on truth and justice.

In the Congress party itself, I have been witness to his attempts to strike a balance between youth and experience. His attempt has been to promote youth from non-political families. When he was in charge of the Youth Congress and the NSUI, he ensured that presidents of these outfits were elected. The result is there for everyone to see. It is the result of his efforts that Indian National Congress today has a number of young MPs, legislators and office bearers in the party who had no political background. What was also remarkable was that he always took criticism in a positive spirit. This, I believe, has gone a long way to strengthen internal democracy within the Congress.

In the 2009 general election, along with Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, he had played a key role. Had he so desired, he could have become not just a minister but also the Prime Minister. But he voluntarily chose to stay out of Government.

People also tend to forget Rahul Gandhi’s role in formulating the Land Acquisition Act to protect rights of farmers following his much publicised visit to Bhatta Parsaul. When the BJP Government after 2014 promulgated an ordinance to dilute the Act and favour industrialists, it was again Rahul Gandhi who led the protests and forced the Government on the backfoot. The Government had to withdraw the ordinance.

That was not all. He forced the Government on the backfoot on rising unemployment, price rise and fuel price hike, crony capitalism and the mysterious Rafael deal.

When Rahul Gandhi became the Congress President in 2017, I had the opportunity to work closely with him as the AICC General Secretary in charge of the organisation. I must say I was impressed by his commitment to the country, democracy and national interest, his humanity and his foresight. In an age of publicity and PR, he is also strangely publicity-averse. He never takes credit even when under his leadership the Congress came close to power in Gujarat in 2017 and subsequently won assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in 2018.

In the 2019 general election also, he was the only leader of the opposition who criss-crossed the country to oppose the BJP.

A large section of the corporates and the media are running a sustained campaign to malign him on social media and through WhatsApp groups. But despite their onslaught, Rahul Gandhi is still trusted by an equally large, perhaps larger, section of Indians.

He is trusted as a leader of the opposition; and it is a measure of the trust that victims of injustice across the country look up to him for redressals and to secure them justice.

He is the voice of the voiceless.

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Published: 19 Jun 2022, 11:00 AM