Rahul Gandhi Quits as Congress President and Remains Big Boss

R. Veera Raghavan, Advocate, Chennai

Rahul Gandhi has resigned as president of the Congress after his party performed poorly in this year’s Lok Sabha elections. Does he appear a principled leader? A screaming no.

Assume you and your doting mother hold a huge majority shareholding in a company which hires a few officers and a large number of employees, and you are its chief executive officer on the mere strength of your family shareholding, not on leadership qualities. If you resign as CEO when your company flounders in business and you ask your officers to choose a new CEO, mostly one of them, you can’t expect any of them to take your place readily, can you? You know, and they know, and the world knows, that you will be the back-seat driver for any new CEO who should carry out your wishes or implement your orders. If he fails, he will humbly accept responsibility and you won’t take blame again, but if the company sees some success under his leadership, he and the whole company will credit you for all your advice and support to the new CEO and you’ll be projected the real winner. So when you announce you are resigning, all officers will feel secure in first appealing to you to take back your resignation to ensure you don’t spite them for any impertinence of independence – some clever officer could even tell you, to signal his loyalty, that unless you stick on as CEO a few employees of his department might commit suicide, though it will never happen. When they keep pleading with you for weeks, one of the company officers could be installed the new CEO whom you will have approved in the backroom.

The picture is no different in the Congress, with Rahul and his indulgent mother Sonia Gandhi enjoying a tight grip over the party, and the son announcing he is quitting as president after failing in a national election campaign. The party’s second-rung leaders and managers will disfavour Rahul’s resignation and want Sonia family leadership to continue, since they benefit personally from the present dynastic arrangement. That’s another story.

For public consumption, Rahul said he won’t be president anymore since he led the party in the last Lok Sabha polls and he must show ‘accountability’ for the result. If he is honest about this reason, he should wish that if the party fares much better in the next Lok Sabha elections under a new president that leader will be the party’s candidate for prime minister too – which is the other side of accountability. But you know that Rahul cannot stretch accountability to such logic or sense. Even if Rahul offers the prime minister’s post to another Congress leader, be sure that Rahul will merrily carry on with back-seat driving – like his mother did for ten years without losing primacy in the party.

For a recent view of true accountability among political leaders, look at David Cameron of UK’s Conservative Party. In 2016, one year into the second term of his British prime ministership, he campaigned throughout the country in the Brexit referendum, urging voters to say yes for UK remaining within the European Union. When a majority of the voting people rejected his appeal and opted to leave, he resigned as prime minister, aware that his chances of leading the party or the government later were quite remote, and in any case that could not be taken for granted. But India’s Rahul Gandhi knows that his sense of accountability is phoney, and he will wield the same power within the Congress after resigning as president.  Here is proof, as you compare some thoughts of the two leaders.

      Listen to these words David Cameron uttered in June 2016 outside 10 Downing Street when he announced he was stepping down as prime minister after the Brexit referendum.

“The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected…… Across the world people have been watching the choice that Britain has made……. I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel – head, heart and soul…. But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path ….. The British people have made a choice, that not only needs to be respected but those on the losing side of the argument – myself included – should help to make it work.”

That was David Cameron.  Now read parts of Rahul Gandhi’s statement of 3rdJuly 2019 about the defeat his party suffered in the recent Lok Sabha polls, when he had spearheaded the Congress campaign. Did he say he respected the will of the people and that he looked upon the newly elected BJP government as people’s choice? No, nothing of that kind. Did he acknowledge any shortcoming in his party’s policies or in his leadership as the cause for people’s rejection? Not at all. What did he say? He shamelessly hinted and said enough to mean that the press, the election commission and even the judiciary and also “the entire machinery of the Indian state” and every institution in the country were ranged against him or the Congress party – and that is why the party lost in the polls. Here, some excerpts from Rahul Gandhi’s statement:

“A free and fair election requires the neutrality of a country’s institutions; an election cannot be fair without arbiters – a free press, an independent judiciary, and a transparent election commission that is objective and neutral. Nor can an election be free if one party has a complete monopoly on financial resources. ….. We didn’t fight a political party in the 2019 election. Rather, we fought the entire machinery of the Indian state, every institution of which was marshalled against the opposition. It is now crystal clear that our once cherished institutional neutrality no longer exists in India.”

      While campaigning, if David Cameron spoke ‘head, heart and soul’,  Rahul Gandhi spoke tongue, cheek and foul. Post results, unlike the  Englishman, Rahul cares   nothing for  people’s  mandate in favour of his political opponents and he faults the “entire machinery of the Indian state” – whatever he meant by the high-sounding phrase – for losing an election. Is this the path to accountability? Is it not plain arrogance?  If the entire machinery of the Indian state is working against the Congress party, how will a new president of that party change such horrible ground realities, even if this joke is reality? Or, if what Rahul meant was that he as an individual, rather than the Congress party, was the victim of the entire machinery of the Indian state, should he not quit the party and remove the sole obstacle to its victory in elections?  Rahul is either arrogant or comical, and sometimes both. What a tragedy for a party that had a glorious past.

      Three days ago, The Hindu carried an interview with senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid who described an essential attribute of the successor for Rahul Gandhi as party president. He said the new leader would not be a ‘replacement’ for Rahul Gandhi – like anyone might think about a successor to a post. Describing Rahul Gandhi as a “larger-than-life leader”, Salman said something more which anybody would guess as Rahul’s wish. That is, the next party president in the Congress “should be someone who can work in tandem” with Rahul.  Mind you, Rahul and other leaders in the party will not work in tandem with the new president. The new head of the party should work in tandem with Rahul. Well, that’s what happened with every other Congressman when Rahul was president, and it’s going to be the same after a new president comes in. Ask any child who will answer you right: who is always the big boss in the Congress now?

(This article is borrowed with thanks from HERE.

Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2019)

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