Fifty years is the time when you have to separate yourself from what other people expect of you, and do what you love. Because if you find yourself 50 years old and you aren’t doing what you love, then what’s the point? — Jim Carrey
As Rahul Gandhi hits 50, is it time for him to do what he wants rather than what his party expects him to do? Because its almost inevitable now that he could soon take over as the party’s president from Sonia Gandhi when the time is right or when he feels like.
For many party colleagues, if Rahul wants to follow Jim Carrey’s advice, it is nothing new. Some complain in private that Rahul Gandhi has any way done what he has wanted to do — not one to follow set party lines or what his mother almost institutionalised as party president who successfully took her party to power at Centre twice.
Like when Rahul first entered active party politics and as general secretary in-charge of youth Congress in September 2007, he decided to hold organizational elections so that the choice was transparent and youth were given a chance. But a party used to opaque selection and pushing for nepotism, Rahul’s stress on transparency and fairness had few takers. Infighting broke out, many complained that the wrong people were being given a chance and that it was a failed experiment.
If there was one thing which Rahul Gandhi made it clear when he took over as both vice president of the party first and president later, it was his dislike for the old guard or gang.
Most of them were Sonia loyalists and they any way felt their time was up with Sonia's Congress giving way to Rahul’s Congress. But where Sonia scored was in her ability to balance all warring sections in the party. With Rahul, the wars came out in the open.
Stories begun to be planted of how Rahul was unacceptable to the rank and file. And that he was inaccessible, even more than Sonia who at least ended up giving time.
It didn’t help Rahul’s image when say a Himanta Biswa Sarma accused Rahul of referring his dog 'Pidi' to Sarma. The list of those disillusioned with Rahul is long.
Long time supporter Pankaj Shankar, Jagdambika Pal, Sanjay Singh and Ameeta Singh — all of them blamed Rahul for their departure. All said he had built his coterie and little time and value for the seniors who had given their ears to the party. Even some like Ahmed Patel who continue to be loyal to the Gandhis and ensure that Rahul is protected, are believed to be not given importance by Rahul Gandhi.
But it's clear Rahul has decided that he won't tow the tread line despite the electoral blows he suffered and the multiple questions being raised on his capability to take charge of a party which is down in the dumps.
Rahul hinged his 2019 Lok Sabha campaign on 'chowkidar chor hai', raising the Rafale issue at every campaign despite gentle nudge from some in party that this wouldn't work as Modi’s personal image was above board.
Rahul had this firm resolve that eventually he could make a dent to PM's image. The results shook Rahul as not only did Congress reach the 100-mark but he lost from the family bastion of Amethi.
But those who thought Rahul would take a step back were surprised. He did, he resigned as party chief taking responsibility for the poor performance of his party, but behind this was the anger and hurt that he never got complete support from the party during his campaigns. And this is why he still refuses to take up the top job.
So what does he love to do? He loves to wake up and shake the PM and government. His tweets often make the government respond even though he is just an MP. Rahul’s supporters see this as a mark that he matters and that he is the future alternative. The BJP feels as long as Rahul is there, Modi has nothing to fear.
At 50, Rahul Gandhi doesn’t have a successful electoral track record for his party. But he has decided to concentrate on what he calls waking the conscience of the government. And as long as the government continues to respond and even ridicule him, he and his team feel they have done their job.
At 50 perhaps, Rahul as the angry crusader and neta is not his first love as a profession. But then it’s a choice he has made. And the only way he thinks he can circumvent his party’s conservative style and carve his own is by sticking to his stand. Some find it stubborn. But for Rahul is what he loves to do, especially at 50.