Opinion: Rahul Gandhi Ought To Be Sacked

Indian National Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the party headquarters in New Delhi on May 23, 2019. - Rahul Gandhi, leader of India's main opposition Congress party, conceded on May 23 he had lost his seat in the famous family's long-held home constituency. (Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

(by L Subramanyan)

Any organisation, be it corporate or non-corporate, runs on the vision of its leader. Just as one credits the success of Reliance to the vision of its founder Dhirubhai, and subsequently, his son Mukesh, in the same vein, Mukesh’s younger brother Anil is derided, almost unanimously, for the lack of leadership and vision.

If a bureaucrat can be taken to task for not performing (as many have been, in the past), by the same argument, there are several instances where ministers have been made to resign, on grounds of inefficiency or impropriety, even if nothing was proved in a court of law (MJ Akbar in the #Metoo issue). In the same token, Venkaiah Naidu resigned from the post of party president of the BJP in 2004, after the BJP lost the elections; Rajnath Singh, who was BJP’s president during the 2009 elections, also quit the post and made way for Nitin Gadkari.

Newly elected President of India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajnath Singh, left, and outgoing party president Nitin Gadkari talk in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. Singh was elected unopposed Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

A change of leadership due to non-performance indicates several things. One, that the organisation, in this case, BJP, takes its role seriously enough to correct the mistakes that may have happened. Secondly, it reflects the sense of responsibility that the post entails. President of one of the major political parties in India carries an enormous amount of clout. And as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility”.

Thirdly, and critically, it reflects the party’s affiliation with the electorate. To say to the voters that ‘We are sorry we could not convince you but we will do a better job next time’ is an exercise in humility at defeat.

No one is questioning Rahul’s approach to the elections. He was aggressive, belligerent, and tried to take the fight to the other party. He gave slogan for slogan, insult for insult, and tried to create a collective sense of anti-incumbency.

Unfortunately, he is not Narendra Modi, and neither does he have an astute strategist like Amit Shah.

However, the Nehru-Gandhi scion must now take responsibility for his failure and resign. Never mind the drama that the mother-son duo may enact, where the son says he wants to leave and the mother says ‘no’. Never mind the scores of sycophants (old coots, young coots et al), who will continue to chant ‘Rahulji is our leader’, without an iota of conviction. Never also mind that there could be a vacuum at the leadership levels in the GOP. Rahul Gandhi must realise that he, as a leader, has failed miserably. Furthermore, with the loss of his own pocket borough of Amethi to a feisty outsider, Rahul’s credit has eroded even further.

If the party President has to hunt for a safe seat, where does that leave the party? As the electorate has already answered: nowhere.

It is not that the party lacks leaders who may be able to lead the party in 2024. I can think of Sachin Pilot as one young leader with a firm head on his shoulders. There would be others, who will emerge from the shadows of the dynasty. It will also allow the party to think afresh and identify strategies that are its own, rather than sad imitations of the foxy Shah-Modi duo. It can then set a new agenda, a new direction and work towards it, without the pressure of a dynasty that has long outlived its usefulness.

The results of 2019 make one thing amply clear. New India wants decisiveness and panache, tempered by strong leadership and commitment to development. The New India is also chatty, forms opinions fast and has a sense of pride of its place in the sun. It is not the India that was defensive, apologetic and craved global adulation.

On the other hand, Congress has many things to its advantage. Its history, its past leadership and being the only ‘national’ party with a pluralist image. The trick is to combine the past with a vision for the future and most importantly, without the sword of dynasty hanging on its head.

To not recognise this fact and continue in the same vein, with a few inane lines like ‘let us introspect’ or ‘an organisational overhaul’, will reduce the Congress party to a worse joke that it has already begun to look.

Oh, yes, if the mother-son drama persists, then they ought to be sacked.