Tuesday, May 25, 2010

'RAHUL IS STILL NOT READY': WILL HE EVER BE?

"Rahul is still not ready." This is the only headline that emerged from yesterday's press conference called by Dr Manmohan Singh himself after four long years. All the rest that he said had already been read and heard before; it was like a 78 rpm record being played on an old handle-driven HMV -- pun intended -- player. Yet, not one of the channels or newspapers or experts who dissected the Prime Minister's words and body language had the courage and, in some cases, the honesty to acknowledge this plain truth in plain words.

"I have been given this task (Prime Ministership). It is still unfinished. Till I finish the tasks there is no question of retirement." This statement of the PM has been widely quoted. Seen in isolation, it indicates that age and a heart surgery have not in any way diminished Dr Singh's enthusiasm for both his chair and his job. But, the moment you juxtapose it with how he responded to the inevitable question about vacating the seat for the known heir, it takes on a different meaning altogether. On the question of Rahul Gandhi joining the cabinet so that he can get some sorely needed on-the-job experience before he ascends the throne, this is what the PM said: “Rahul is very qualified to hold a cabinet post. I have discussed it with him on a number of occasions. He has always been reluctant to give a positive answer. He says he has duties to perform in reviving the Congress party. He is doing a good job. As and when (he is) ready, he will be a very appropriate addition to the cabinet."

Is there any doubt about what Dr Manmohan Singh told the nation as straight as he could? Rahul is not ready even now to take up ministerial responsibilities. Reason? He has party duties to perform! Is that not crap? It has been a tradition with the dynasty to hold on to the posts of the PM and President of the Congress party since the times of Indira Gandhi. Currently, Rahul's mother holds the latter post. With the party securely in the hands of the Family, surely handling a ministry and certain party responsibilities should not be a daunting task, particularly for someone who does not face competition from any one else within the Congress. But, after nearly a decade in active politics he still can't multi-task?

What about Rahul taking over as PM? Even the normally dour Prime Minister could not conceal a chuckle: "Let me say I sometimes feel that younger people should take over. As and when the Congress party makes that judgement, I will be happy to make place for anybody chosen by the party."

These three statements read together have given to the general public, for the first time perhaps, a couple of extremely significant answers. First, Dr Manmohan Singh is not going to step down for any pretenders who might be harbouring secret ambitions to become PM. Second, he will make way for Rahul Gandhi whenever Sonia Gandhi asks him to, but is dead sure that there is no danger of that happening: Rahul is simply not ready to take over as the Prime Minister of India.

Does this surprise you? It would only if you have been buying into gushing praises that some leading journalists, particularly those familiar with the fine art of lobbying, have been showering on him for virtually no fathomable reason except perhaps the benefits and threats that they perceive/receive from the Gandhi name. In the history of independent India no one has been built up so intensively for so long by the media which is now more powerful than ever before as far as influencing, even distorting, public opinion is concerned. Despite that, if the desired effect has not been achieved, there is a problem that is being concealed from India.

It has been forgotten that there was an orchestrated campaign to project Rahul Gandhi as PM even during the last Lok Sabha elections. But, in the end, Sonia Gandhi chose Dr Manmohan Singh again and he led the party to victory. Why did that happen? Rahul himself backed out saying that he was not yet ready for the top slot. A year down the line, the situation remains unchanged.

What will happen in 2014? Dr Manmohan Singh will, in all likelihood, not opt for another term. So, Rahul has to get ready before that, or Sonia will have to find another Manmohan who will allow the Family to rule by proxy - have the cake and eat it too - without being accountable for what the government does. Another Manmohan is not visible and the experience of the banished PV Narasimha Rao is still fresh in memory.

That is why the 2012 elections of UP are going to prove to be a watershed in more ways than one in the history of free India. Not only will they impact the future of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party but, he way things are unfolding, will create new social fissures and re-open old wounds. Sonia Gandhi, as we all know, cannot have as good an understanding of the history, the rhythm, the pain and the soul of India as, say, her mother-in-law did. In her isolated castle, she has manifestly been led to believe by her handlers/advisors that the only way for the Congress to conquer UP again is by polarising Muslim votes in its favour and ensuring that Hindu votes remains divided; many Hindus will vote Congress in any case.

This naked communal agenda is being clothed and sold as 'inclusive politics' by the party and its troopers in the media. The details of this strategy will unfold over the next two years and will be addressed separately. For, now you must read two previous posts, "Akbar turns Jinnah, asks for Muslim state" and "Who can protect India's secularism, Congress or BJP?" to get an idea of where we are headed on this path. In addition, expect an all-out political war to be unleashed by the Congress on its opponents. Mayawati and Mulayam may suddenly find CBI cases against them coming back to life; the latter might even be compelled to enter into an alliance with the Congress on demeaning terms to ensure that victory does not elude Rahul.

If the Congress manages to win or even nearly win UP based on this strategy, the credit will all be given to Rahul Gandhi and he will then either take over as PM or, as I suspect, will be still kept off the spotlight of scrutiny, and projected as the party's untested Prime Ministerial candidate in 2014. If the Congress wins that election, he will get at least five years in office and the Congress an uninterrupted 15. That appears to be the game plan.

In 2009, Rahul said was not ready to be PM. In 2010, the PM says he is not. These are not insignificant statements to be ignored. There is obviously a real fear that Rahul has a serious ability gap that cannot be concealed by dimples, fair skin, the English language so worshipped by some, the stamp of royalty and fake praises of obsequious courtiers in the party and the media. If after all these years he is not ready to take on the responsibility -- the power and perks he has -- that is his to take, the question that begs to be asked is: will he ever be? What do you think?
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Related reading: Rahul: from dud to genius in two hours
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