After being in the waiting for years, the “Rahul Raj” finally began officially in the Congress as the Gandhi scion filed the sole nomination for the party’s presidential election. Monday being the last day for filing nominations. Rahul Gandhi’s coronation as the party president is now merely a formality.
His elevation was mocked by the ruling BJP with Prime Minister Narendra Modi joining the lambasting feast by terming Rahul’s promotion as the beginning of “Aurangzeb Raj” in a dig at the dynastic culture of the grand old party.
Within the Congress, the election has not been without its share of controversy as Maharasthra Congress leader Shehzad Poonawalla described the exercise to chose the leader as “rigged” as he blamed dynasty politics plaguaging the democratic process.
Before filing his nomination, Rahul took the blessings of senior Congress leaders — former president Pranab Mukherjee and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. Singh described Rahul as the darling of the party as the entire party leadership lined up to defend the dynastic politics charge made by the opponents. “It is a great day. Rahul has been the darling of the Congressmen and Congress women and this is yet another step in his devotion to the Congress party and country,” said Manmohan Singh who was one of the top leaders who proposed his name along with Sonia Gandhi.
Gandhi appeared at the Congress headquarters with a “tilak” on his forehead sending a strong political signal as the BJP had questioned his faith after his frequent visits to temples during the Gujarat campaign. Gandhi, who had described himself a Shiv Bhakt, had termed religion as his personal affairs and advocated that he would not drive political dividends out of it. Contrary to his public stand on the issue, he wore a “tilak” sending strong signal that he was not averse to flaunting his religion.
The opponents did not spare the new tilt towards Hindutva as Bihar chief minister said that the party was moving towards extremism.
Rahul Gandhi, 47, will take over from Sonia Gandhi, who will make way for her son after being at the helm of affairs of the Congress for 19 years. Under her presidentship, the Congress formed government at the Centre twice in a row.
But the party has faced string of electoral losses since 2014 when it was decimated by Narendra Modi-led BJP in the general elections. It has been a downward slide since then for the Congress, which has lost all the state elections barring Punjab. The party suffered a series of rebellions from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Rahul was chosen to be the president by 9,000 Congress delegates. But his elevation comes at a time when the party is taking on the might of Modi on his hometurf Gujarat. While a victory in Gujarat will catapult Rahul in direct contention with the Prime Minister, a defeat will cast further spell of doom in the party struggling to find lost ground with the people.
A series of corruption cases during UPA II rule led the people move away from the grand old party as they gave an overwhelming mandate in favour of Modi’s BJP.
Rahul had become the Congress general secretary in 2007 and his elevation has led to widespread speculations that he will give the young leadership a chance while distancing from the old club. But several veteran leaders like Shiela Dikshit and Mohsina Kidwai were seen with him during the filing of his nomination.