Four years ago, right before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi rolled up his sleeves and tore into shreds an ordinance the UPA government headed by his party was bringing to negate a Supreme Court order on disqualifying convicted MPs and MLAs. The act didn’t go down well with the other political parties, with then Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi calling Rahul ‘shehzada (prince)’ who had committed a sin by insulting the then PM Manmohan Singh. “Congress vice-president ne aapki pagdi uchhaal di,” were the exact words used.
Four years down the line, the same Rahul Gandhi didn’t shy away from suspending a senior party leader like Mani Shankar Aiyar for his ‘neech (lowly)’ comment against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This came from the same man who has taken on the PM on many occasions, even accusing him of doing ‘dalali’. Without a doubt, Rahul’s 13-year-old political career has been full of hurdles, that he has failed to cross without falling. But, the recent change signals that the real Rahul Gandhi might have finally arrived on the scene.
As he gets ready to take over as the party president, there are a lot of things Rahul needs to get right, beginning with his own political image, which leaves much to be desired, at least in the general public’s eyes. It is a work in progress. The Congress VP’s Twitter handle has gone through a complete change, his speeches are crisper than ever and the acts are making more sense.
Rahul’s friend and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah says the Congress leader’s prompt action against Mani Shankar Aiyar “should be an eye-opener for people who thought he was indecisive or unwilling to take decisions”. Omar believes that this will be the way going forward, with Rahul not tolerating any nonsense.
Even the Congress leaders have started to see the change. One of Rahul’s closest friend Milind Deora, recently said that earlier Rahul used to reject all his ideas but the number has come down recently. He added that initially some of Rahul’s ideas were ambitious but he has become far more pragmatic now.
The process was started a few days back, with Rahul Gandhi bringing in several leaders as AICC secretaries and cutting down the role of entrenched leaders such as Digvijaya Singh. He appointed Ashok Gehlot in-charge of Gujarat, to deal with Virbhadra Singh in Himachal Sushil Kumar Shinde was brought in, KC Venugopal took over Karnataka where Rahul wants Chief Minister Siddharamaiah to have a free hand and young RPN Singh was given the command of Jharkhand.
Despite all these changes, BJP somehow is not ready to accept Rahul as a threat. The party spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said that you can go through a make-up before every election but what you need to succeed is a good personality.
This once again leads us to one questions, can it be just another cameo? Rahul needs to make sure that he stays in and keeps fighting because Gujarat might be an important battle but the real war will be fought in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.