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The Rahul riddle

 | September 28, 2012

The biggest bane about India – and this is not just in the field of politics – is its obsession with family succession.


Sometime ago, The Economist wrote that if Rahul’s family name was not Gandhi, he would have been looking for a job. Who knows, he may have been dressed in Western attire, complete with a neck-tie, instead of the kurta and pyjama he now wears.

Rahul is expected to be India’s Prime Minister. At least that is the impression his Congress Party has been portraying.

The biggest bane about India – and this is not just in the field of politics – is its obsession with family succession. An industrialist’s son takes over his father’s empire. Nobody cares whether that young man is capable or qualified to sit in that chair.

And it is becoming increasingly obvious that even if a man is reluctant to succeed in the family enterprise, he is often pushed into accepting the role and the responsibility.

When Indira Gandhi died in the 1980s, her son, Rajiv, was forced into the prime ministerial pot. It was a burning pot, and Rajiv was not only disinclined but also not adequately qualified to run a nation like India with such diversity of interests and pressures.

There were many areas where Rajiv made a fool of himself; Sri Lanka is an apt case in point. Sadly, he also paid an enormous price for his foolishness.

Now, we have his son, Rahul, who finds himself in a spot with the Congress trying to nudge him into accepting a frighteningly challenging role.

But is Rahul capable of playing prime minister?

Till now, he has shown precious little to prove that he has skills to take on India’s mantle. He has not displayed any political acumen or aptitude.

Some feel that he does not even hunger for the prime ministerial position.

He is reluctant, shy, and does not talk to journalists, biographers and politicians, among others. He does not even make a forceful statement in Parliament.

He has also frittered away the opportunities that came his way. In the recent past, when his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi was away in the US for medical treatment, Rahul could have easily asserted and created a part for himself. He did not.

Even during the Anna Hazare movement against corruption, Rahul chose to disappear after a brief appearance.

The one opportunity Rahul made use of was during the recent State Assembly elections in India’s most populous State, Uttar Pradesh. But, he could lead the Congress only to a humiliating defeat. It was apparent then that Rahul had no idea of ground realities and the intricacies of Indian politics.

What then can Rahul do? What does he want to do? Nobody knows. Perhaps, he himself does not.

With the country all set to go for general election in the first few months of 2014 – or even earlier – the Congress has no prime ministerial candidate. Or, so it seems.

Of course, we have men like P Chidambaram, the present Finance Minister, and AK Anthony, now the Defence Minister. But they are not part of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Also, they are ageing.

Yet, the Congress in its obsessive desire to prop up Rahul made little attempt to nurture young talent outside the family. What if some in the young talent pool were to shine brighter than Rahul ?

Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at [email protected]. He is an FMT columnist.


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