Dead Soda vs Sparkling Wine

Rahul Gandhi is like a compulsion for Indian politics; supposedly the biggest youth face of Indian politics. But where is the zest and dynamism?

“The big questions are- Who is the youth face of Indian politics? Who do the youth relate to? Do these faces even have a roadmap for the country’s future?”

His party treats him like a king on the chess board and behaves like his soldiers and shadows, but baba refuses to grow up and emerge as a real leader while his party continues to face one electoral defeat after another.

At the other end, there are many faces from the youth political brigade who are doing well; performing and achieving results but still they are not being projected as much as RG.

The big questions are- Who is the youth face of Indian politics? Who do the youth relate to? Do these faces even have a roadmap for the country’s future? I see a complete vacuum in this regard. The actual ground workers never come to the limelight. They organise rallies, mobilise support for leaders, hire tents and do the entire spade work. They help their leaders win elections but never get their dues.

So who are these leaders? In most cases, they are from the families of the existing leadership. Take a look at any prominent party in our country, from INC to BJP, Biju Janata Dal to Samajwadi Party, DMK, NCP, Shiv Sena to many others… most of them have reserved the first line seats for their children. Some of them could be considered youth faces of Indian politics. There are many names- Akhilesh Yadav, Jagan Reddy, Sachin Pilot, Omar Abdullah, Asaduddin Owaisi, Sukhbir Badal, Raj and Udhav Thackeray, Kanimozhi, Supriya Sule, Jyotiraditya Sindhia, Meenakshi Natrajan, Naveen Jindal, Agatha Sangma and others. They have the ‘affidavits by default’ to rule and acquire power. But even then, who is the prince? Who wields the maximum authority? Who is projected as the future Prime Minister? The answer is Rahul Gandhi.

The more he is attacked, the more his partymen come to his defence.  A Gandhi after all. Yet look at his careergraph— the more he tries to concur, the more he faces defeat. He looks like a kid trying to ride a bicycle for the first time. He has courage but no competency. See the very recent examples; he campaigned in Bihar for the party but nothing came of it. Eating with dalits, riding on motorbike to Bhatta Parsaul village of western UP, road shows and public meetings, rallies and press conferences… nothing worked; the poll results of Congress in the assembly elections in UP were dismal. At the same time, when he was on these media hogging activities, the other youth leader from Samajwadi Party- Akhilesh Yadav was going from door-to-door in the entire state. The complete communication gap between Chief Minister Mayawati and the people of state was cashed in by Akhilesh Yadav and he became the CM. During the elections, maximum air time was devoted to RG and his family. Though, SP ‘managed’ to get sufficient coverage, many other political faces were not even mentioned. But the prince failed. His colour of skin, glamour nothing helped.

The second example is Jagan Reddy. If you consider political understanding, hard work, management, connections, leadership qualities, Jagan stands far ahead of Rahul. Jagan, like his father, knows how to connect with his people and at the same time, how to use power, money, muscle and emotion. YSR’s closeness to the Reddys, his command on executives and his relations with the High Command always reflected in his political performance. At the same time, he was also dealing with mega projects throughout the country; from Uttarakhand to down south, he achieved targets and made money by all possible means. Jagan followed in his footsteps and that’s translating into success for him. The recent victory in bypolls is enough proof of his increasing strength. Sitting in jail is helping him gain sympathy and giving him enough time to strategize for the upcoming election. Now that he is emerging as the biggest and mightiest leader in the state, Congressmen in Andhra Pradesh are unofficially acknowledging it.

In Congress, the Prince’s position has become the biggest impediment to the party’s growth. Positions in the party are not on the basis of performance but on connections with the mother-son. Others who could do better if they were given a free hand are not getting the chance to replace or even stand parallel to the Prince. Others have to just follow him. That’s why Jyotiraditya Sindhia is fighting the battle of being the most important face at the state level against Digvijay Singh; Rahul is not his target. These young leaders never dream of being future Prime Ministers because it has been reserved for the family. They can be, like Manmohan Singh, only if the family decides.

Another problem is that the Prince is not ready to learn and evolve. He was missing from the whole political scene when the UPA was trying hard to decide on a candidate for the presidential elections. Even after the announcement of Pranab Mukherjee’s name as the presidential candidate of UPA, he didn’t appear. Anyone else, leading the party or the nation would have assumed the leading role instead of remaining closeted in some unknown location.

The tale of Kalawati or dinner at a dalit’s house isn’t enough; it’s mere tokenism which is not sustainable. If he is actually serious about his political career, he has to have a vision for the nation and people need to have faith in his leadership skills. But is he listening?

From a slum based tabloid to BBC world service, over the last 12 years, Panini Anand has worked as a journalist for many media organizations. He has closely observed many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades including right to information, right to food, right to work etc. For a man who keeps a humble personality, Panini is an active theatre person who loves to write and sing as well.

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