Less than 36 hours after a spectacular victory in three-BJP ruled states, the Congress it seems is failing to capitalise on the renewed interest in young Congress chief Rahul Gandhi due to delay and shenanigans over the choice of chief ministers of the recently won states.
In the fitness of things, Rahul could have showcased inner party democracy and genuine decentralization by insisting upon a head count in Bhopal, Jaipur and Raipur. This is exactly what PV Narasimha Rao had done in Madhya Pradesh in 1993.
Rao was personally keen to push the candidature of his friend and associate from Nagpur days, Shyama Charan Shukla. But in the ensuing informal head count, Charan lost out to Digvijaya Singh due to a behind the scene coming together of Arjun Singh and Kamal Nath.
The democrat in Rao asked observers Sitaram Kesri and Ghulam Nabi Azad to “play by the ear” and Digvijaya went on to run the state for the next ten years.
The idea of seeking ‘karyakarta’ opinion after state assembly polls have been conducted and results have been announced is bizarre and rather undemocratic. The will of the people has already been pronounced and elected representatives - read newly elected Congress MLAs - are sole and legitimate claimants of that voice.
No opinion poll, head count or sample survey is required. If Team Rahul was indeed keen to undertake such an exercise, any technology, app-driven survey should have been conducted before Kamal Nath, Sachin Pilot and Bhupesh Bhagel were given the responsibility of heading MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh Congress units respectively.
A large number of countrymen are looking at Rahul with a renewed interest and perhaps with a sense of anticipation too. They are curious to know more about Rahul’s idea of ‘New India.’ A section of thinking persons see merit in his description of farmer loan waivers as a short term tool to deal with agrarian distress.
But what are his long term solutions to make agriculture a profitable, viable and sustainable activity? The issues of job creation, grass root development, big ticket disinvestment, whether natural resources should be leased or sold etc, also have to be dealt with. At one forum, Rahul was heard saying, “India cannot give its youngsters a vision if it cannot give them a job."
On a democratic platform, Rahul is closely being judged about the choices he makes for Bhopal, Jaipur and Raipur. He has already lost an opportunity in showcasing inner party democracy.
It was a pathetic sight to see newly elected MLAs leaving the decision of the new chief minister to the “party high command” and leaders like Sachin Pilot, Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Bhupesh Baghel, Charan Das Mahant, Tamradhwaj Sahu, and T S Singhdeo being summoned to New Delhi.
The question needs to be asked why AK Antony and KC Venugopal were sent to Bhopal and Jaipur respectively in the first place. It is also puzzling to see why Gehlot, who was recently appointed as AICC general secretary in charge of party organisation, is seen as a chief ministerial candidate when only a few months ago he was picked, ahead of many of his peers, to work on macro-level management and strategy for 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
If Gehlot moves to Jaipur, does Rahul have his ready and acceptable successor as AICC general secretary in charge of the party organization? After all, the timing of Rajasthan polls and its likely outcome was rather well known to most both inside and outside the party.
(The author is visiting fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and a journalist. Views are personal)