Can Rahul Gandhi breathe new life into India’s Congress Party?

Once the most ridiculed political leader in India, Rahul Gandhi – the-47-year-old scion of the Gandhi dynasty – is fast becoming a force to contend with. Gandhi was elected to lead India’s Congress Party in December, taking the mantle from his mother Sonia Gandhi, who had been its president since 1998. Sonia led the party for […]

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Newly elected President of the Indian National Congress party Rahul Gandhi gestures while speaking during a ceremony at the party headquarters in New Delhi on December 16, 2017. India's Rahul Gandhi took over December 16 as president of the main opposition Congress, becoming the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to head the party that has ruled the country for much of its independent history. Fireworks erupted over the party headquarters in New Delhi drowning out the voice of his mother Sonia Gandhi as she handed over the reins of power to her 47-year-old son. / AFP PHOTO / Prakash SINGH

February 1, 2018

Once the most ridiculed political leader in India, Rahul Gandhi – the-47-year-old scion of the Gandhi dynasty – is fast becoming a force to contend with.

Gandhi was elected to lead India’s Congress Party in December, taking the mantle from his mother Sonia Gandhi, who had been its president since 1998. Sonia led the party for the last 19 years, the longest period in the party’s 132-year-old history.

Rahul was made vice-president of the party in 2013, a year before the general elections which saw the party slumping to its worst defeat ever and signaling the return of Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a decade.

The Congress lost one stronghold after another post-2014, with Rahul becoming the butt of jokes on social media. Political pundits wrote him off as a lightweight, reluctant politician who didn’t stand a chance in Indian politics.

However, Rahul’s political fortunes are finally beginning to look up. The same political pundits, who dismissed him a couple of years ago, are seeing him in new light. They are seeing him as the man who can stand up to Modi and his political machine.

Thanks to Rahul’s aggressive campaigning in the western state of Gujarat that went to polls a month ago – there was no sweeping win for the BJP, as predicted by the exit polls, or 150 seats, as bragged by its party president Amit Shah.

The reduced margin of victory in Gujarat, where Modi was chief minister three times before he was elected as Prime Minister, was a much needed victory for the Congress Party and seen as a personal victory for Gandhi.

Gandhi’s attributes the victory to his campaign rhetoric. He has spent the previous years poking holes in BJP’s various initiatives including the demonetization plan which slowed the economy and hit employment rates Gandhi also ridiculed Modi’s GST reform, calling it the Gabbar Singh Tax. Gabbar Singh is a famous character from a 1970s Bollywood film and the epitome of villainy.

While it is unlikely that Gandhi will take the states that will hold elections before the 2019 general election, he is certainly a headache the BJP, and most certainly Modi, hadn’t foreseen.

 

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