Cartoon: Courtesy Sudhir Tailang
Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of the Congress and the face of the Party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, came forward to sit in front of a camera for a long interview with the angry-young man of the Indian media, Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief of the Times Now. The interview, the first in last ten years of UPA, was a sublime opportunity to the heir-apparent of the Congress to change the tone and tenor of our current socio-political discourse but, sadly, the man failed to rise to the occasion. Once again, he proved he was the biggest disappointment of our era. He has neither decibels nor substance; he’s just a dud.
The Congress is leaving no stone unturned to project the man as a youth icon and is spending fortune on his image make-over overtures. But, in absence of a political vision and a solid idea in him to take the nation to the next level of systemic and institutional changes, such overtures will hardly make an impact. As a leader, Rahul Gandhi is supposed to talk of change. He’s supposed to come up with few path-breaking ideas that could alter the political environment of the nation; he’s supposed to put forth few radical concepts that could revolutionize the way our institutions operate. But, he failed to rise to the occasion and to turn himself into a leader India wants him to be. Instead, he chose to remain stuck up into the same muddy ground his party has chosen for itself over the years. Today’s India wants to swim to the new waterfronts of opportunities but Rahul chose to slosh around the cesspool of dying ideas. In fact, he’s ended up being a morbid prisoner of his party’s legacy of stale ideas.
In the interview he chose to put all the blames of our current socio-political entanglements on the system. But, the point is who is responsible for degeneration in the system? Who has brought it to such a level of misery that it brings abhorrence and apathy in the consciousness of a common man? It’s your party Rahul, that is presiding over the system since last ten years and that has ruled the nation for close to 5 decades. If there is corruption, there is misgovernance, there is inefficiency or there is misuse of power then you’re responsible. If the system has become dysfunctional it’s you to blame. You must stand up and take the blame. But, you chose to remain silent on those scams and turned a mute spectator during the brazen loot of natural resources and of national wealth. Even in the interview, you failed to owe the blame. It was a golden opportunity Rahul to owe the responsibility and, like a mature leader, to talk on solutions. But, you let the interview pass by.
It was not the right occasion to point finger at the system rather it was the occasion to come up with solutions. You’ve identified the source of reigning ills but now you must display the vision and the guts to take on those ills. History tells us that all changes have come from few determined individuals who have carried a vision and have had steel fitted in their spines to implement those visions. A leader must carry conviction in his heart and clarity in his mind to transform the nation and society. Rahul Gandhi, unfortunately, has failed so far to display that clarity, conviction and spine. The interview gave him the golden opportunity to bandy about such ideas; but he showed, to our consternation, that he had none. He talked of empowerment all through the interview and cherished to make it a tool of socio-economic changes for the underprivileged and the women. But, where is the determination, Rahul? With the kind of position you’re in, the kind of goodwill under your belt and the kind of resources at your command, you’d have brought in an unimaginable revolution. But, in absence of a commitment to these causes displayable through actions on the ground, such utterances get reduced to nothing more than tutored homilies.
The 80-minute interview, as anticipated, was destined to get overshadowed by Arnab’s carefully designed questions on Narendra Modi that were few but disproportionate in connotation sure enough to draw the nation’s attention. Here, Rahul evoked the horrors of the Gujrat riots and tried to score a good few brownie points by pinning the blame on Modi. But, Rahul didn’t realize that he was hitting a self-goal in so much as any accusation made by his party at Modi on Gujrat riots brings the spotlight back to the anti-Sikkh riots of 1984 where the congress party has many skeletons to hide in its cupboard. The congress is accused of a pogrom of the same nature and the same administrative passiveness in dealing with it. Thus, by evoking the horrors of 2002 riots Rahul has created a mess for itself where the congress is being subjected to a renewed scrutiny on its actions during the riots. This was certainly not Rahul would have meant it to be in the election year.
The interview had given him an opportunity to rise up to the occasion and turn into a statesman of our era by putting forth a pragmatic view on Modi and 2002 riots. He had this opportunity to come forward and to say that the riot, whether 2002 or 1984, was definitely an unfortunate event but since the judicial process is on we should respect the same and should try to move on to focus on some more constructive issues of our time. He could have stolen the heart of the nation by refusing to get embroiled in the hackneyed and much despicable debate of riots. This way he would have largely been successful in changing the political discourse of our time and would have been credited with bringing about the politics of development back into focus. It would have been a tectonic shift in our era of politics and would have brought a bout of fresh air in the electoral arena of 2014. Of course, the Congress has many important things to pick from its 10 yrs of rule and to brandish the same before the nation. But, Rahul Gandhi failed to talk on the highs of his own governance; he failed to emphasize the achievements of his own government by being overshadowed by the discourses of riots. Thus, he failed in bring forth the tectonic shift.
The interview had brought him an immense opportunity to go for his desired image make-over. But, Rahul squandered this historic opportunity to turn himself into an adorable statesman from the imminent loser of his time.
A missed opportunity, of course.