THE ELEVATION OF RAHUL GANDHI as the vice president of the Congress party dominated the three-day All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting in Jaipur this January, called to “brainstorm on grave issues confronting the nation and the party and to come up with solutions”. With this, he formally assumes a position that has been his for the asking since he joined his mother, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, in electoral politics in 2004.
Whether he can turn around the fortunes of his party in the same way that Sonia Gandhi did, with the adoption of a left-of-centre orientation and her capacity to form strategic alliances, is a matter of some doubt. His elevation will not end the endless speculation about his views on key national issues because he hasn’t spelt out his vision for India’s future, or about whether he will be prime minister in the event the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) can form the next government. Evidently, Rahul Gandhi is diffident about position and power.
Even so, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) made the declaration that Rahul Gandhi would be the official No. 2 and the principal campaigner for the party in the next general elections. His elevation invokes the routine criticism about dynastic rule, an enduring structural fault line in the party. Indeed, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Arun Jaitley, has already criticised it as a move to convert the world’s largest democracy into a dynastic one. Nonetheless, the AICC meeting has catapulted Rahul Gandhi onto the centrestage of Congress politics just when the party is reeling under two years of unprecedented corruption scandals and political slip-ups.