Rise & rise of Rahul Gandhi
By Abhishek Manu Singhvi
Even the worst critics of Rahul Gandhi (RG) admit readily that he has grown tremendously in stature and persona over the years. His sobriety, balance, equipoise, transparent humility, willingness to experiment, to be deferential, steadfastness and relentless pursuit of grassroots connectivity have all undoubtedly contributed to his current situation in the Indian polity. But perhaps the single most important reason is that he has never treated politics or public life as a vehicle for power and is happy — indeed obstinately so — to keep away from all pelf, power and position and do public service while strengthening the Congress Party.
Consider this. No political party in India in 60 years has come anywhere near to achieving what RG has singlemindedly (and earlier single handedly) set out to achieve within a few years. He has galvanised the Youth Congress and the NSUI by having fully transparent, vigorously fought and objectively monitored intra-organisation elections in each State and university for each office. The logistics and numbers are humongous. An independent Election Commission, of independent former ECs, monitors it to the extent that established Congress faces are expelled or suspended if they interfere with the electoral process of these two organisations. Several States — Punjab, Gujarat, TN, Uttarakhand and others — have successfully conducted these elections and the whole country is intended to be covered by 2011. A huge cadre of disciplined, properly elected, non imposed, vibrant and enthusiastic youth running into lakhs and based upon unimpeachable membership lists would have come into existence. With the Congress Party following this model in the near future, this would be a revolution of intra-party democracy for the first time in any party in India.
RG is able to do this because he is not bothered about the loaves and fishes of office. Not only are ministerships not his priority, though it may be that of the Press, of his critics or of other commentators, perpetual speculators and soothsayers, but his scant regard for office gives him an innate strength which is unique in Indian politics. The very same critics and skeptics who made caustic remarks about his forays into rural India and his entry into the house of the poorest of the poor with a spontaneity which was both unprecedented and infectious, are now trying, albeit with hypocracy and artificiality, to emulate him. India has become so cynical about politics and politicians that we, perhaps rightly and based on sad experiences, take a very long time before we stop attributing motives for those who are in public life. In my opinion, RG has emerged for the first time after many decades as a politician who has largely successfully combated that innate cynicism about politics and politicians which the aam aadmi had perforce acquired.
RG has also successfully transcended the stereotyped Indian politician who speaks much and does little. If at all, RG practises the reverse ethic to a fault. He is not hesitant to muddy his hands, to wade into the dirt and to try to set things right, including the leadership and strength to bite the bullet and stand up if something, as it must occasionally, goes wrong. He also has an innately inclusive approach to life and people, which allows him to deal with the merits of an issue or situation without making value judgements about groups, castes, communities or individuals.
RG arrived along with India’s demographic revolution and is undoubtedly the single most eligible and likely individual to reap the so-called demographic dividend. The idiom, the context, the language and the approach he exhibits is in sync with and has captured the imagination of new India, an India where more and more people want their leaders to say what they mean and mean what they say, something RG exemplifies in every word, deed and action.
No doubt he has many challenges to face but none more formidable than the engulfing wave of old India and of stereotypes which the youth of today want us to jettison completely but which established political parties, willy nilly, keep thrusting upon the polity. The challenge is for RG to achieve his pathbreaking, innovative and dynamic ideas within the limitations and confines of the Indian political system and an over 100-year-old party with its own pulls, pressures, paradigms and exigencies.
– The author is MP, jurist, former Additional Solicitor General of India and Chairman, AICC Law and Human Rights Department