The Rahul Gandhi Reality


In politics, perception and symbolism can sometimes matter more than reality. In India, despite Manmohan Singh being the official head of India’s government, it’s popularly perceived that the Nehru-Gandhi family holds the real authority. And if recent speculation surrounding prime minister-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi is correct, the rising politician is already having a major say in some of the key policy initiatives of the Congress-led government in New Delhi.

Take the case of the proposed development of Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa. A contract given to Vedanta, a UK-based multinational company, to build bauxite mines in the area was revoked in August when Rahul took up the issue of tribal land rights and the serious environmental hazards posed by the project. His stand was endorsed by his mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi (in her bi-monthly magazine, Sandesh, she praised her son for standing up for Orissa’s tribal communities and fighting for their rights).

A few weeks ago, Rahul again made his views known publicly, this time in an uprising by farmers of western Uttar Pradesh who were demanding better compensation for acquisition of their lands and protesting the Land Acquisition Bill, which they accuse of favouring industry over farmers’ rights.

And now, Rahul has come to the defence of the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, who is currently under fire from opponents and congressmen alike for his alleged mishandling of the tense situation in the region. Gandhi has stated that Abdullah, in his admittedly tough job, should be given more time to manage the situation in the troubled valley.

The stand taken by Rahul Gandhi vis-à-vis Abdullah is considered more authoritative than the word of the Cabinet Committee of Security and, according to political analysts, Rahul’s recent interventions on various key policy issues suggest that Singh might now be taking a backseat, preparing the ground for the expected future PM after the general elections in 2014.

This is all happening against the backdrop of congressmen increasingly tending to look towards Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for direction over Singh. The Gandhi family wields seemingly unlimited power in India, yet without always taking full responsibility. The public, meanwhile, is also inclined to believe what the Gandhis say, often over the government’s word.

What does all this mean? Some decry such power being held by the Congress’ head and her son as a dangerous trend and suggest that it would be better for Rahul to just take control of the government rather than directing it from the sidelines. And, despite Singh’s honesty and dedication, it's clear India today faces a situation in which the prime minister’s authority has been eroded, and the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi appears more powerful than the Cabinet.

With all this going on, it’s no wonder ministers and Congress party members in today’s government are so divided on important issues. Congressman Digvijay Singh, for instance, simply keeps contradicting Home Minister P Chidambaram on the issue of the Maoist threat in the country. Meanwhile, important legislation on education has, despite getting the nod in the lower house, been nixed in the upper house not by the opposition but by the intervention of some senior leaders of the ruling party who claim loyalty to the Gandhi family.

There is a popular perception that this internal challenge to the present government is happening with the knowledge and backing of the Gandhi family, and the first family of India isn't making any attempt to clear the air of the confusion that seems to be gripping the second term of the United Progressive Alliance regime led by Singh.

For now, India today appears to be a nation torn between popular perception and reality.

March 3, 2011 at 04:35

All this is happening because Indian democracy is seriously flawed and this is because the vast majority of the people are poor, naive, ignorant, vulnerable and can be easily be taken for a ride which is what is happening.

Democracy only works when people are aware of issues, and cannot be exploited due to poverty and iliteracy.

The middle class makes a lot of noise, but their numbers are small and does not count. This should pretty much explain why issues such as corruption, terrorism, security, non governance issues are seldom acted upon.

Bhagat Singh
November 30, 2010 at 06:07

We all are being made fool form last 63 years.I am not against anybody.I am simply a true Bhartiya(not Indian).I love my mother Bharati the way her 732000 sons and daughters (Number never shown to us we are kept busy reading about Newton and Archimidis).There is a truth written in a book name “Transfer of power agreement” Signed by Mountbeten and Nehru.Total 17 Volums each around 20 kg.Due to that We are still not free.Do not see what this media shows to you.Try to look beyond.Think why corruption is increasing?We are not able to curb?Why Moist problem exist? Why every state want to be free?why immoral beahavior by youth is in picture? Why conversions are happening with high rate?(I know you are not aware ).If you really want to know what all the problems with Bharat and solution of it .Listen ,read,watch and share the links given below.Dont just jump to conclusion. Go through it completely then gin=ve your opinion.

Maa baharati ki jai

True young Indian
November 10, 2010 at 02:27

Guys! you just believe in “Might is right” so it is obvious that now the time is for Rahul.

Prasanna Ammiraju
October 8, 2010 at 12:48

I am surprised to see many comments here who favour Rahul Gandhi. He is a pure oppurtunist trying to build image. He visits only states where his party in in opposition and conviniently ignores states like AP, Maha where his government orders shooting on protesting farmers and acquires lands forcibly. He talks about dalits and orders his Home Minister to send forces to jungels of Chattisgarh where hunders of dalits are shot dead every month.

Pratigyan Das
October 4, 2010 at 08:31

Call it an irony- india is destined to be ruled by a gandhi, it seems! Rahul Gandhi may be calling the shots at this time and may be popular at this hour with all his populist acts, but it needs to be seen how this gandhi acts when he adorns the hat of premier ship which is most likely. And as far as manmohan singh is concerned, it’s an unfortunate fact that till the time rahul gandhi takes over whoever becomes the pm has to be a dummy. let’s face it- congress will be torn apart without a gandhi and the indians it seems have accepted it gracefully especially because of a weak oppsition for the basic reason that they want a stable government at the centre.

October 3, 2010 at 17:22

Its quite right that the Nehru-Gandhi family has a strong hold over the congress affairs from the preindependence times, and our current prime minister is not the one who is directing instead he is the one who is directed and the director of the act needs no introduction, Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Chairperson.

But on the other hand one has to give credit to the dynamism of rahul gandhi who is making efforts to reach masses. One cannot ignore the reality that Rahul’s say in the major affairs of indian political theatre is increasing with every passing day.

But making noise is not just enough, as he is still regarded as the young prince by masses of urban india. He still has a long journey ahead of him to travel before seeing himself as the PM of the worlds largest democracy

Raghuvir Jha
October 3, 2010 at 05:28

The author has a point. One fails to understand how in a country of one billion people and hundreds of parties, one family can cling on to power for so long.. It is a defect in India’s democratic system.

Praveen Kumar
October 1, 2010 at 00:13

Rahul may be the son of Sonia Gandhi, but he does not shy away from acknowledging the silver spoon he has been born with. But the fact that even then he has the humility to work among the masses, eat bread in a dalit’s house while on tour and ask the farmers to consider him their soldier in center,speaks volumes about his political maturity. If you compare his credentials along with some of his more aged and seasoned members in the Congress, he does appear academically bright. He has worked in the international consulting firm Monitor and has a solid educational background. I sincerely hope he becomes the PM of India so that when India attends the high table of international bodies, people admire the young indian, who at least metaphorically projects the young India.

vinod mishra
September 30, 2010 at 07:26

this is the real truth of present government .there are three power centre exist in centre,no body knows who is decision maker.we have mess up conman wealth game ,kashmir uprising ,pakistan’s offensive diplomacy ,naxal threat, spectrum scam etc. only a powerful leader can address all the problem .but there is always question mark on PM and HM mandate .i appreciate ur analysis .

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief