Challenges galore for new Congress president Rahul Gandhi. It comes at a crucial time for it signals a generational shift after Sonia Gandhi held the party together for 19 long years, 10 of those in power as UPA chairperson. The Gandhi- Nehru scion will have to rework the party dynamics of power, reorient policies, approach and objectives while retaining and refurbishing the pre-Independence spirit.
Sixth in the family to head the party, 47-year-old Gandhi will have to make a big difference if he has to succeed and take on the Narendra Modi juggernaut that has spread its tentacles to every nook and corner of the country.
Before taking on the saffron party, his challenge will be to revamp the Congress organisation structure that has virtually collapsed after it lost power to BJP led NDA in 2014. Secondly, the faction ridden party that’s famously known for squabbles will have to be given a sense of purpose and unify the cadres invoking the spirit of the 132-year-old legacy, contribution and its relevance in today’s modern India.
Thirdly, given that Nehruvian socialism has been given a quiet burial, putting together an alternative socio-economic and political narrative that caters to aspiring India should be attempted. Fourthly, strengthening the party especially in states where it would go to polls in 2018 will have to be done. Retaining power in Karnataka, challenging the BJP in Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh that’s facing anti-incumbency, may have to be prioritised.
Fifthly, breathing life into a moribund Congress that hitherto enjoyed the following of millions of workers virtually in every village ahead of the 2019 epic Lok Sabha battle will be most challenging for the management graduate. This is particularly unnerving given that a delicate balance between the old guard and youngsters has to be achieved with a top down approach up to the panchayat level. It is clear that the old guard will have to go out of a revolving door with the induction of the Rahul Gandhi team. whether this will be restricted to just the party apparatus or whether the CWC will finally be revamped is not known yet, but one presumes that there will be a clean sweep incdluding office bearers. The young turks who surround Rahul — Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Ajay Maken, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Deepender Hooda, Jitin Prasada, Kanishka Singh and many others — may get the opportunity to work at the cutting edge of the new congress.
Sixthly, providing flexibility to chief ministers and Pradesh Congress chiefs in running the party apparatus as well as state governments may mark a tectonic shift given the outdated mode of centralising every decision with 24, Akbar Road. Though Congress has lost large swathes of turf to BJP, even today it runs six state governments, hundreds of zilla parishads, thousands of panchayats etc. Rahul Gandhi will have to build on the existing structure to restore the party’s lost glory.
Seventhly, picking up key leaders in states and centre to galvanise the party with personal imprint will be important. In most states and central committee, the key panels are dominated by septuagenarian leaders that may not click with voters born post-independence especially those who have become first time voters in last the five years.
Eighthly, technology and new media will have to be exploited by Rahul Gandhi constructively to take on the well-oiled machinery of BJP–NDA run by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah duo. In the process, recruiting youngsters with bright new ideas to key posts will have to be done expeditiously. The onset of the Gujarat campaign has seen a more aggressive mein from the congress socmedia team.
Ninthly, a comprehensive policy will have to be put together on Congress approach towards Hindutva that was on display in recent Gujarat elections. There’s nothing wrong if Congress has to accept that its minority appeasement policy pursued till date has outlived its utility. Tenthly, Rahul Gandhi will have to provide his own theology to nationalism and economic policy making if he were to click as party president.
In all, the Gandhi–Nehru prince charming as he’s tagged, may like to re-invent the Congress as an Indian way of life without losing the legacy, moorings and ideals for which the party stood thus far. More than that he has to show the people of India that he is rooted, grounded and willing to serve full time. For there are no short cuts in polity and you have to be visible all the time.
Also, there’s no harm in naming a non-Gandhi family member as Rahul Gandhi’s deputy. This will blunt the dynasty barb and the party’s branding as a family run enterprise of sorts. Rahul Gandhi may take his time, but it has to happen.