Rahul Gandhi & the habit of getting the timing horribly wrong

·Columnist
·4-min read

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi released a white paper by the party on the Centre's COVID-19 management today in a virtual press conference.

“The whole country knows the third wave of COVID-19 is coming. We urge the government to prepare for it,” Rahul Gandhi said. "The aim of this white paper on COVID-19 is not finger-pointing at the government but to help the nation prepare for the third wave of infection," he added.

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However, he didn’t refrain from taking pot shots at the Modi government’s handling of the pandemic. The former Congress chief said it is clear that the management of the first and second wave of COVID-19 was ‘disastrous’.

"There were certain reasons as to why it was disastrous. We've tried to point out those reasons in our white paper. This is a blueprint about how to react to the third wave which is going to come."

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Rahul Gandhi added, "Ninety per cent of those who have died could have been saved. The biggest reason for this was the lack of oxygen at the time. While there is no shortage of oxygen in the country. PM's tears did not save the lives of people but oxygen could have."

‘The essential ingredient of politics is timing’ - former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau

While the white paper has suggestions which the government can use, the politics over it is likely to supersede.

It is a good move at the wrong time.

It also shows how Congress is slow to react and seize the opportunity. The whole system, which is full of experienced leaders who have been ministers in the Union Cabinet, has a very slow response mechanism.

At a time when daily cases have reduced from 4 lakh plus to under 50,000, vaccination has hit record high of around 85 lakh on June 21, the day re-centralisation of the entire process began, this white paper may not get much traction.

There is a return of positive sentiment as states unlock, casualties decline and the economy re-starts.

If the party would have released it in May when cases were very high, there was shortage of vaccines, oxygen and beds, there was gloom all over, this would have worked. However, timing has never been the forte of the Gandhi scion.

Currently, the media coverage of the white paper is also dwarfed by the record vaccination carried out on June 21 and optimism all around that India could meet its target of vaccinating the entire eligible population by the year end.

In February 2015, during the crucial Budget session, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, was missing in action. He had sought leave from his party to ‘reflect’ upon the ‘recent events’ and the future course of his party.

Rahul went off to Cambodia to meditate just before the crucial elections in Maharashtra and Haryana in 2019. He had addressed rallies in Maharashtra and Haryana on the last day of the campaign in the assembly elections in the two states.

He spent over a month, without participating in any party activity, before the Jharkhand assembly polls. He campaigned for the second phase of state elections.

Just a day before the 136th foundation day of the Indian National Congress on December 28, Rahul flew overseas due to some ‘personal commitments’. ‘Rahul Gandhi is out of India and will be away for a few days,’ Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala confirmed.

On May 4 this year, Rahul Gandhi said that a complete lockdown was the only solution to stop the spread of COVID-19. This after Prime Minister Modi appealed to the states to use total lockdown only as the last resort.

He added: “I just want to make it clear that a lockdown (total/nationwide) is now the only option because of a complete lack of strategy by GoI. They allowed, rather, they actively helped the virus reach this stage where there’s no other way to stop it.”

He made the statement at a time when the peak was approaching, as per scientists. Daily number of cases peaked on May 6, just two days after Rahul demanded total lockdown.

Politics in India is often compared to a game of chess, where those with knowledge and experience know when to make the right move.

The timing of the move is very important and Rahul has got it wrong again.

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