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Rahul, Akhilesh, Tejashwi Working on 'Strategy of Encirclement' to Checkmate PM Modi in 2019 Polls

In a soon-to-be released ‘The Contenders’ (Simon & Schuster) popular political talk show host Priya Sahgal profiles 16 emerging politicians with a prediction that one will emerge as PM in the near future.

Rasheed Kidwai |

Updated:October 23, 2018, 2:02 PM IST
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Rahul, Akhilesh, Tejashwi Working on 'Strategy of Encirclement' to Checkmate PM Modi in 2019 Polls
File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi addresses a rally in Rajasthan. (Image: Twitter/INCIndia)
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New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi views the grand old party as a feminine one, not in the Western sense of the word, but as more liberal and sensitive than the masculine, toxic, 56-inch chest thumping BJP, says a new book on young politicians.

In a soon-to-be released ‘The Contenders’ (Simon & Schuster) popular political talk show host Priya Sahgal profiles 16 emerging politicians with a prediction from veteran columnist Vir Sanghvi in the foreword that at least one among the 16 profiled in the book would be prime minister one day.

The author claims that Rahul, Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav and a number of other young guns are working on a “strategy of encirclement” to checkmate Narendra Modi-led NDA in the 219 Lok Sabha polls.

Priya’s profile of Rahul Gandhi is most engaging and insightful. It gives a rare glimpse of Rahul’s line of thinking in the context of his future role and strategy. Throughout her writings on present and generation-next of political parties such as Ram Madhav, Yogi Adityanath, Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav, Jayant Choudhury, Arvind Kejriwal, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Kanhimozhi, Anurag Thakur, Harsimat Kaur Badal, Sachin Pilot, Tejashwi Yadav, Asaduddin Owaisi and Milind Deora, Priya remains remarkably non-judgmental, dispassionate yet astute observer of their political life. Her trait as a regular gossip writer takes a backseat as the book curiously avoids talking about personal scandals and some credible rumours.

According to the author, Rahul’s thrust on the Congress having feminine persona, has roots in the union of Shiv-Shakti where the qualities of both genders work in tandem to create a universe that is sustainable and well-balanced.

Priya recalls one of her initial one-on-one meetings with Rahul Gandhi when the UPA was in power and Dr Manmohan Singh had offered the young Gandhi a place in his government. “Rahul told me that he works according to no one’s timelines but his own. Rahul has certainly remained consistent to that line of thought. Impatient Congressmen may want him to be more aggressive and hungry for power, but he took his time to sip from the ‘poisoned’ chalice,” Priya reminiscences, adding, “he [Rahul] explained that he was not going to assume any responsibility just because it was expected of him. He would take charge only when he felt he was ready. Some would call this arrogance, others diffidence. In either case, it didn’t make the leadership manual.”

In the present context, Rahul is said to be working on a two-fold strategy to take on the BJP. The short term plan for 2019 is designed with the sole purpose of checkmating prime minister Narendra Modi at any cost. In other words, in Rahul’s scheme of things, it means being the smaller partner in some states during the coming round of general elections. Rahul’s sense is that non-NDA opposition parties are rather unanimous in not projecting any leader against Modi for they realise that to do so would be to fall into the BJP’s trap. The non-NDA opposition leaders feel that despite all their potential and promise, no young or seasoned leader from the Opposition is in a position to match Modi. “It’s better to fight him on issues,” Priya quotes Tejashwi Yadav and Jayant Choudhury as saying, “This is how we will cut them [NDA] down to size. We will not talk about personalities. It’s not one personality taking them on; in UP you have me, Akhilesh and Mayawati. If all of us come together and say the same thing, then it’s a strategy of encirclement.”

Rahul’s long term goal for 2024 is different. The Congress president hopes to establish himself as a credible prime ministerial face by then. Priya thinks Rahul will gain from 12 states, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra and Gujarat, which will help the Congress improve its tally in 2019. If the Congress crosses the hundred mark, she argues, Rahul’s short term plan will be in practice giving the Congress a relevant role in any anti-BJP coalition or as a more sure-footed leader of the opposition in parliament.

‘The Contenders’ offers interesting debate around “youth” in Indian politics. Vir Sanghvi, in his usual candid style, points out how most “young” politicians in India are actually older than David Cameron who was 47 when he stepped down as prime minister of UK. “Put bluntly, India is a country of the young, ruled by the old and the very old. Something like 50 per cent of India’s population is in its twenties. And 65 per cent of the population is under 35. Yet, you will search in vain for a single minister who is under 35 in most Indian Cabinets,” Sanghvi says while giving a rationale that it has something to do with the circumstances that prevailed when India won Independence in 1947. The leaders of the newly free nation were people who had led the struggle for liberation from the British. Because it had been a long, hard battle, they were already quite old or at the very least, middle-aged, by the time they took office in the first government of free India.

Rahul’s long term goal for 2024 is different. The Congress president hopes to establish himself as a credible prime ministerial face by then.
| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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