In Rahul Gandhi, Congress and India got a leader who faces the future, not the past

This weekend, Congress got in Rahul Gandhi the leader it was looking for in the post-Sonia Gandhi era. And India got a leader apt to take the country forward in the 21st century

NH Photo by Pramod Pushkarna
NH Photo by Pramod Pushkarna
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Zafar Agha

The sum and substance of the Congress party’s 84th Plenary Session, which concluded on March 18 in Delhi, can be summed up in two sentences. First, the Congress got in Rahul Gandhi the leader it was looking for in the post-Sonia Gandhi era. Second, India got a leader apt to lead the country in the 21st century. This is, indeed, a dangerous statement to make in the present political weather. The Gandhi family haters would quickly tag me as a ‘chamcha’. Even a section of liberals would call me a dynast. But Modi’s India is not just a paradigm shift from left-centre to rightwing politics. It is also a shift away from modernity. Rahul Gandhi’s speech at the end of the Congress Plenary was like a wave of fresh air in a stale political atmosphere of BJP and RSS leaders constantly harping on the past, amid events like mob lynching and loot of public money from banks.

It was, indeed, a new Rahul who addressed both Congressmen and the country simultaneously from the podium at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium at Talkatora. Confident, mature, combative yet not shrill, and rooted not only in Congress ideology but also seeped in the civilisational idea of India that gives us Indians a distinct identity of unity with diversity. Of course, no one can imagine India without the Congress Party. Not simply because the Congress fought for and earned Independence for India, but also because the Congress laid the foundation of a modern India rooted in its inclusive, ancient liberal ethos.

Rahul showed abilities to lead from the front and inspire the young Indian generation, which is ideologically confused after being let down by Narendra Modi’s tall promises. This young generation wants to move forward. It can’t be made to do so by trying to polarise sentiments based on distorted history of imagined past hurts

It is that idea of liberal India seeped in its centuries-old inclusiveness that is in peril under the BJP-RSS regime. India at this critical juncture needs a leader who can not only reaffirm its civilisational ethos, he must also be able to inspire over a billion Indians’ faith in liberalism, democracy and its constitutional values. On Sunday, Rahul Gandhi came out as the one leader who can do it. Rahul showed abilities to lead from the front and inspire the young Indian generation, which is ideologically confused after being let down by Narendra Modi’s tall promises. This young generation wants to move forward. It can’t be made to do so by trying to polarise sentiments based on distorted history of imagined past hurts.

There were three segments of Rahul’s speech that laid down a roadmap for India’s tryst with destiny in the 21st century. First, he unambiguously warned the nation that the RSS-BJP politics of hate is not just a threat to any specific community alone, it is also a threat to the entire nation as well. It required guts to speak the way Rahul spoke about the RSS-BJP in these times. It was, indeed, courageous on Rahul’s part to speak so fearlessly especially after the brutal assassination of his two close family members. Those who live in fear can’t be leaders. Rahul’s speech left no doubt that he is the true inheritor of his grandmother Indira Gandhi’s legacy of fearless leadership. So, India ultimately got a leader in Rahul Gandhi who is ready to fearlessly lead India against RSS-BJP hate politics—something that millions of Indians have been pining for.

Rahul's challenge to dangerous crony capitalism

The second part of his speech was largely devoted to the Congress organisational set-up that he promised to turn into a truly democratic structure, laced with talent and vision. It is again a daunting task for a Congress president who inherits a tradition of functioning with the help of 'rootless' managers calling the shots in the party from the secure surroundings of the Rajya Sabha. One needs to wait and watch how Rahul takes on the entrenched vested interests in the Congress party, labelled as the 'old guard'. But the Congress party surely and urgently needs a more democratic structure for its own growth.

Last but not the least on Rahul’s priority list was the need to weed out the influence of crony capitalists both on Indian politics and the economy. It is, indeed, a much known reality now that crony capitalism have become a serious threat to both the economy and democratic system because they have become so powerful now that they hijack peoples’ mandate in their favour once a party assumes power. Rahul even hinted at the influence of this lobby upon the UPA-2 government during its last two years in power. Crony capitalism has turned into a menace post-economic liberalisation. It is time to confront this problem. Rahul Gandhi has displayed guts to stand up to this powerful lobby.


Those who live in fear can’t be leaders. Rahul’s speech left no doubt that he is the true inheritor of his grandmother Indira Gandhi’s legacy of fearless leadership. So, India ultimately got a leader in Rahul Gandhi who is ready to fearlessly lead India against RSS-BJP hate politics

Well, Rahul Gandhi has charted a dangerous course for himself. His speech at Talkatora reminded many of his father Rajiv Gandhi’s famous speech at the Congress centenary session held in Bombay in 1985. Rajiv then had warned both his partymen and outsiders that he wished to weed out “middlemen’’ from the system. The same middlemen with the help of disgruntled Congressmen ultimately stabbed Rajiv Gandhi in the back in the guise of the alleged Bofor’s gun deal scam.

The RSS-BJP machinery with well-entrenched party old guards and crony capitalists makes a lethal combine. Rahul Gandhi needs to watch against the machinations of this deadly lobby. The rest of liberal India and its poor may well then take the plunge with Rahul Gandhi in his march against forces of hate politics.


Zafar Agha is acting Editor-in-Chief of National Herald, Navjivan and Qaumi Awaz

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Published: 19 Mar 2018, 12:38 PM