Does Rahul Gandhi want power without responsibility?
Rahul Gandhi carries tags of part-time and reluctant politician. This image was strengthened further with Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury being elected as the Congress party leader in the Lok Sabha.
The Congress, with 52 MPs, remains the principal Opposition party in the Lok Sabha and its leader has an important political role in matters of floor management and cornering the government on key matters.
The Congress's decision is being seen as another instance of Rahul Gandhi shying away from taking responsibility. In fact, a joke was making the rounds on social media before the Congress named Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as party leader in the Lok Sabha that Rahul Gandhi would not accept the position as it required getting up early and holding meetings during a Parliament session.
This image has been bolstered with the decision of Rahul Gandhi not to lead the Congress in the Lok Sabha. This comes on the back of a serious drubbing in the recently held Lok Sabha election.
Despite the Congress's morale-dampening loss in the polls, critics gave Rahul Gandhi the credit for an aggressive and relentless campaign against Narendra Modi-led BJP. But Rahul Gandhi wore reluctance even through the hotly contested election.
While Narendra Modi openly sought vote for himself for a second term in the Prime Minister's Office, Rahul Gandhi repeatedly avoided the question if he would become the prime minister if the Congress or a coalition led by it was voted to power.
Rahul Gandhi entered politics in 2004 through Lok Sabha election. But his emergence on the national political scene happened in 2007 when he addressed the plenary session of the Congress party as general secretary.
"I am the symptom of the disease that plagues the Congress todayYoung people with non-political background should get chances," Rahul Gandhi had declared about the way forward for the Congress. He took the responsibility to nurture the Congress in a new culture.
That did not happen, however. And, like any other political party, the Congress continued to accommodate dynasts election after election. Rahul Gandhi, despite being in a position to impose his will, first accommodated dynasts and then blamed them for the electoral loss.
The same tendency in Rahul Gandhi's politics is said to be behind his decisions that have put the Congress in a tight spot in the past. He had refused to enter government in either of the two Manmohan Singh government an offer that many considered an opportunity for an apprenticeship for Rahul Gandhi. At one point, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said he was ready to work under Rahul Gandhi, thus virtually offering him his own chair. But Rahul Gandhi did not agree to the suggestion.
In 2013, when Rahul Gandhi was appointed vice-president of the party, he quoted his mother Sonia Gandhi to tell the Jaipur session of the Congress that power is poison. The continued reluctance in assuming responsibility and lead the party to power was not going down well with the Congress leaders in states.
It was evident when Digvijaya Singh, in 2012, lamented that Rahul Gandhi "has been confining himself to student politics and youth politics. He should come into the mainstream of Congress party."
But on the contrary, Rahul Gandhi decided to showcase his power at a press conference tearing an Ordinance that had been cleared by the Union cabinet. He did it while the then PM Manmohan Singh was in the US. This was taken as another instance of Rahul Gandhi wanting to enjoy power without responsibility.
In 2019 Lok Sabha election, Rahul Gandhi blamed senior leaders like P Chidambaram, Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath for the dismal show by the Congress party.
To follow it up, Rahul Gandhi offered to quit as Congress president and has been adamant on his decision ignoring the suggestions that a Gandhi is the strongest glue to hold the Congress together. Even if he quits as party boss, he is certain to remain the biggest power centre in the party. Power without responsibility.