Congress success Election analysis On the Record Sanjay Jha

The R Factor


It is four days since Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi held his press conference in New Delhi. 96 odd hours later, there is an unusual buzz, frenetic activity, and incessant dissertation of Rahul’s various pronouncements. There is an understandable sense of palpitating fluster in the BJP. Regional parties are tongue-tied at Gandhi’s sincere unanticipated open-mindedness on potential allies. Typically media analysts believe it is only pure strategic posturing deliberately planned to create fissures in enemy camps. The process of assessment continues.

The resulting rise in political decibels is all because Rahul Gandhi spoke impromptu, letting his intrinsic honesty manifest itself. It is actually as simple as that. It is something the Indian media, high on overdose of mindless mind-reading just cannot decipher. No standard banalities from Gandhi; no typical statements laced in usual political correctness. On the contrary, Rahul Gandhi reflected candor and commitment; he was not afraid of opinion poll ratings of his post-press conference “performance”.

If you watch regular official spokesmen of national parties, they are all practiced to perfection , occasionally punctuating their brief by an impulsive outburst. That is the professional method adopted all over the world; key messaging, just stick to it . But in a fast evolving world, traditional norms are being challenged everywhere, now also including media interaction. In upsetting the traditional route of safe-speak, virtually single-handedly, US President Barack Obama’s “ I screwed up” ( on his failed bid for nomination of Secretary for Health) is a landmark statement. It was refreshingly endearing, even if it shocked the mid-West and the conservative lobby in Capitol Hill.

In India, we have displayed shocking condescension, talk-down, almost pathological rubbishing of each other by political adversaries. Rahul Gandhi clearly believes that the Jurassic culture of senseless anti-anything and anti-everything propaganda needs to be peppered down; he would prefer intelligent articulation, and a balanced debate between opposing parties. And realistic appreciation of good work done ( as in the case of Nitish Kumar, for example ) , is not reflective of making concessions, but of being pragmatic and honest. Frankly, despite all the perfunctory platitudes , have we really ever had a “constructive opposition” in Parliament ?

Rahul has unwittingly, without any opulent ceremony and planned intent , encouraged plain-speak, thereby challenging the obsessed with sound-byte culture ( sorry, Narendra Modi, saab) media into meaningful substance-debate. It is a significant shift, and augurs well for a more transparent culture. It was hardly surprising to find the usually-never-lost-for-words Sudheendra Kulkarni of BJP looking totally foxed and completely clueless when quizzed on Rahul’s down-to-earth outspokenness.

For those who have carefully catalogued Rahul, they will not have been surprised at his trademark forthrightness. Perhaps it is time to do a quick recap:

At a time when the entire gang comprising of Sharad Pawar, Mayawati, LK Advani et al have been shouting from roof-tops about their grand ambitions, the young man has politely declined the big job, without even momentarily hesitating on that fairly crucial decision. And this despite the fact that the Congress party will perhaps be the biggest single party in the UPA coalition and the Lok Sabha . “ I need more experience” says Rahul in exhilarating honesty, which shows how much he values and respects the Prime Ministerial seat. He has seen several family members at the helm, and for him becoming PM is therefore serious business. He wants to personally feel that he has “ earned” it , and as and when he is ready he will make up his own mind. Five years ago, his mother Mrs Sonia Gandhi declined the same role for different reasons. Now if all that is not true commitment, what is??

Without batting an eyelid, Rahul made clear his personal preferences ; party-consolidation and nation-building. He was honest enough to admit that his “ boss” and the PM may be able to cajole/coerce him into a Ministerial role , but he had urgent tasks at hand; the democratization of the Youth Congress, and increasing local grass-root penetration, being his overriding passions. That was a visionary statement, shorn of personal ambitions and myopic goals. When have we last heard “politicians” talk that language?

It takes a lot of courage during the times of “excess hyperbole” ( read election time), for a high-profile political personality , whose government recorded a stunning GDP growth averaging above 8% , to say that India is not shining. Because for Rahul it is not about just BPO jobs, FDI, Sensex, SUVs, shopping malls and the world’s biggest IPO. Gandhi is aware that having four Indians in the Forbes top 10 billionaires lost is not symptomatic of India’s real success. Or a bullish Goldman Sachs report. Rahul is worried about those staggering numbers above 400 million that are on the poverty bench, awaiting a huge economic alleviation. They live on a survival help-line. And for Rahul therefore, India will shine not just with income growth, but with it’s fair distribution. Can anyone argue with that economic rationale?

It is amazing how Rahul’s undisguised appreciation of some good work having been done by the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh , Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar of Bihar has created such an unwarranted hullabaloo. The fact is that these two have certainly done well in some quarters, even if they are part of the NDA combine. Unlike conventional political bashing, Rahul openly praised some of their initiatives, without going over-board. So why on earth should that genuine appreciation create such political air-pockets and uncontrolled turbulence? It is something that the BJP can learn from. I honestly believe ( I had written that in my blog earlier) that LK Advani lost a historic opportunity to appear statesmanlike and raise the BJP brand by voting against the nuclear deal. Senator John Kerry of the Democrat party lost to a weaker George Bush , and yet came to India lobbying on behalf of the Bush administration on the nuclear deal as it was deemed in the mutual interest of the two countries. No petty partisan games; national issues took center-stage. President Obama has two Republicans in his cabinet, and Hillary Clinton fought a bitter battle with him ( more than even John McCain, perhaps) and is today his Secretary of State.

Being a political adversary does not mean asinine mud-slinging ( of the Narendra Modi type) or endless flaky criticism ( of LK Advani-kind ) . Rahul has introduced the element of a balanced perspective when taking on his well-known opponents. We don’t have to be bitterness-personified, says Rahul.

Gandhi has painstakingly stated that he wants to encourage local level, direct grass-root entrants into the party. Let me ask you; who has in the past publicly admitted to having an advantage of being part of a well-known political family? Rahul has stated just that , with courage and conviction. Which is precisely why he is pursuing internal party reforms with passionate zeal. In fact, Rahul has completely dismantled the much over-blown debate on dynastic politics by altering it himself. Surely, he cannot be expected to apologise for being born a Gandhi. It is like Anil Ambani or Ratan Tata saying, “ We are very sorry for being in the billionaire list. Please forgive us”. True, they would not have been there had it not been for their fore-runners, but they have also got there through their own incremental efforts, right?

All central government’s end up influencing , willy-nilly, some of the independent institutions of the state. It is a fact, an inconvenient truth, that people generally abstain from stating. Rahul admitted the practical reality ; it was not a confession of government interference in the Bofors case, but a public acknowledgement of the need to bring about “ systemic changes”, like in the pre-election issues of the Election Commission as well.

Once again Rahul Gandhi promptly agreed with suggestions given by several experts, including LK Advani that we should look into the slush money parked abroad in Swiss accounts. It was a transparent statement; if something is good for the country , we should do it, irrespective of whom the suggestion comes from. That is the kind of consensus politics India needs.

I think everyone completely overlooked what happened on the first day of the elections, when Naxalites butchered people dead. Naxalites have emerged as a dangerous internal threat , and economic impoverishment is the root cause of their rampaging rise. In fact, Rahul understands that rural poverty , if not decisively overcome, could result in a violent social upheaval taking various forms. Village empowerment through education, employment and development is the long-term solution. And the Naxalite is an internal terrorist, make no mistake, if they resort to a violent agenda. And they do not need to travel to India by sea.

Rahul did not allow the first-cousin issue to escalate into political warfare; he chose to respect their ideological differences instead. Attacking Varun Gandhi would have been suitable fodder and pro-Muslim strategy , but he skipped it. He made no political capital out of it, letting Varun Gandhi and the BJP work on his resuscitation. It was dignity in politics, reflected with decency and character.

Rahul sent a clear message to all and sundry; “cut the annoying daily vacillations on your prime ministerial goals, get us the numbers, and we will talk”. I think in that one unambiguous statement he laid his cards on the table, taking the wind out of the sails of several negotiators. No hidden agendas. No beating about the bush. Deliver and we shall negotiate, said Rahul. Otherwise, Gandhi was categorical, the party with the largest seats will dictate the pace. Since ideological priorities were being traded-off over hard arithmetic by the regional players , then let the numbers speak for themselves, said Rahul.

Rahul Gandhi’s driving force is a constructive approach to nation building which cuts across party-lines. Not for him scoring brownie points with Modi on silly witticisms. Or awaiting media endorsements and poll pundit’s approval. He knows that the real verdict lies amidst those dusty-towns with no electricity, not glitzy studios with flashing back-drops. Unlike others, he does not have to try to be too clever. He is just being himself.

Rahul has brought in candor and character , measure and modesty , humility and homegrown simplicity to Indian political debate and discussions. He is willing to take the bull by the horns; if you can’t handle his frankness and matter-of-fact honesty, go check your conscience meter.

Some stated that it was a coming of age of Rahul Gandhi. I think it could be the beginning of a new one in Indian politics itself.

One comment

  1. OUR COUNTRY ENTERS TO 62nd year of inception

    This is my mail to my , youth of our country —

    Please awake… I am starting this blog as your , friend , member , one and all , equal and searching for .. the inner strength of Indian youth

    If you want , self respect — first respect your nation , lets build one strong undivided india

    of MK Gandhi , Sardar Patel , Subhash Bose , Maualana Azad , Rajeev Gandhi , Atal Bihari

    They are not late , they are alive in “our midst’

    It is easy to criticize , very difficult to , “create”

    Please convince BJP and Congress to join and form the Lokh Sabha of 2009 , and all state governments …

    This will help India , achive 12% Growth for Next 12 Years , and no this is not a dream , it happenned in Germany for 10 Years , where the two parties ruled by swapping every 3 Years , and Germany is the Engine of Europe.

    Please — think if this happens , we will “walk with pride”

    We will have a unified , Common Minimum Programme , outline

    National Highway Programme — to be followed by both the PARTIES , of 100,000 kms of 8 Lane Highways

    Telecom Plan to Develop 400 Million Fixed Lines and 600 Million Mobile – 2G, 3G, CDMA , Wired Internet Service to Every Indian 1 km near his residence , in all Post Offices and all banks

    We will have Metros , 500 KMS in Each Cities like Delhi , Mumbai , Chennai, Bangalore , Hyderabad, Kolkattaand 200 KMS in Tier2 Cities like Ahmedabad, Pune , Bhubaneshwar , Jaipur , Chandigarah, Guawahati, Cochin etc atleast 50 cities all in next 6 Years

    Also High Speed Train between Bangalore and Chennai — This Entire Corridoor can be our IT Export Centre of US 500 Billion $ a year , speeds of 350 KMsa hour , — You can travel from Chennai to Midway Bangalore , work and go back , cost of Developing IT Corridor will be 1 / 10th the Urban Cost , leaving us HUGE ROOM TO LEVERAGE

    Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Train —This Entire Corridoor can be our Finance Centre of US 500 Billion $ a year , You can travel from Ahmedabad to Midway Mumbai , work and go back , cost of Developing FIN Corridor will be 1 / 10th the Urban Cost , leaving us HUGE ROOM TO LEVERAGE.

    To add THERMAL POWER 25,000 MW a year , and grow by 20 % a year , and allowc PRIVATIZATION of Transmission , and this will create a MARKET of 6 Billion US$ a year to begin with , and to grow by 20 % a year .

    To add HYDEL POWER 5,000 MW a year , and grow by 20 % a year , and allowc PRIVATIZATION of Transmission , and this will create a MARKET of 1 Billion US$ a year to begin with , and to grow by 20 % a year

    Have a Nuclear Policy that Develops the 50,000 MW of Nuclear Power based on Uranium Fission by 2020 amd 400,000 MW by Thorium by 2030

    This will De Congest Cities , give quality of life , to Millions of Indians , who will work better and travel in comfort , and be proud of their , country and your mandate ” will make this happen”

    Develop the Second Green Revolution , wherein we produce 600 Million Tonnes of Rice , Wheat and all Cereals up from 232 Million Tonnes , by better land planning , river planning and seeds and technology and creating a market where , people can market and produce intrastate and inter state.

    Instead of Joining Rivers , using Canals which is Very very expensive , all alonfg our 80,000 KMS of Rail Tracks we will lay ” 80 Inch Dia PipeLInes , Multipile Sets , and pump excees water to deficit , in floods , ie from Bhrampaputra basin ” via chicken neck , in West Bengal tO Bihar and Chambal , and Eastern UP and Maharashtra — so that that their is no suicides in Vidarbha .Also to Andhra Pradesh .

    Also move Excess Water from all Rivers of Kashmir , to North India — Rajasathan , and not let it flow to Pakistan

    This will allow farmers 3 Crops instead of One or Two — and irrigated crops .

    Bringing more Food to markets and Prices will drop — plesae awake “brothers and sisters”

    India has Huge Natural Gas Reserves in KG Basin , Cauvery Basin, Mahanadai Basin , this Gas has to be transported to all parts of India , and quickly, hence need ” one single policy”

    Enough Gas for India for 50 Years , we have 450 TCF , as much as QATAR and one fourth of Russia , we need more Players apart from RIL with NIKO, and allow more Deep Sea Drilling Firms to Enter India

    More gas will be discovered , ” we have only explored 19% of India , in 62 Years of Independence” — in Bihar , UP, Assam , Gujarat , Kerala.

    Also allow FOR CREATION OF SOVEREINGN WEALTH FUND GIVING 8% INTEREST “, this will , allow all “UNACCOUNTED WEALTH TO RETURN — YES WORTH 3 TRILLION US$ IN ALL SWISS , US , AND UK , MAURITIUS BANKS ” , and no questions asked , receipts given to all FINANCE FIRMS who invest this on behalf of clients , no questions asked , this will allow The investors , more returns in India , where they will prosper , and deliver more tahn in Europe or US where economies are “stagnating”

    Yes , also allow all NRI. PIO , to invest without , “REDTAPISM” and get the best out of INDIA , and offer their best.


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