New Delhi: Rahul
Gandhi’s unbridled aggression during the Uttar Pradesh campaign is being
debated within the Congress, with the reactions being a mix of surprise,
enthusiasm, apprehension and even disapproval.
While the younger
leaders, lower-rung party officials and ordinary workers feel enthused by
Rahul’s style and say only such combativeness could have invigorated the
party, some of the seniors have doubts. They wonder if this was the most
appropriate tactic at a time the polity is deeply fractured. None in the
party, though, disputes that Rahul has succeeded in turning the Congress
into a talking point in the state after long years on the sidelines.
of the senior leaders had initially been opposed to Rahul leading the
campaign and thus raising his personal stakes because they thought a
turnaround in the state was impossible. But Rahul had overruled them,
saying a Congress revival in the heartland was his highest priority. After
sensing a positive response from the crowds, Rahul took the battle to the
opponents’ camps, declaring both Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav
“unfit for good governance”.
He often used words such as
“choron (thieves)” and “goondon (thugs)” to target political
opponents and repeatedly said he would not rest till they had been thrown
out of power, “whether it takes five years or ten”. Congress leaders
are generally reluctant to comment on Rahul’s style and prefer to
discuss his hard work instead. Asked about his aggression, they have been
defending it vaguely by saying the extent of the rot in the state has at
times “brought out the anger in his heart”.
A leader said:
“People too are very angry. The situational logic supports an aggressive
response.” But some have argued that Rahul should have avoided harsh
language because “members of the Nehru family usually maintain decorum
in public discourse”. A few leaders have suggested that such
belligerence can provide a fillip to “anti-Congressism”.
MP said: “Let Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi use this language; Rahul
should not call political rivals thieves and criminals.” Even the
younger leaders, including some of Rahul’s aides, have tended to avoid
commenting on his pugnacious style, merely saying that nobody has been
able to reach out to the masses the way the Amethi MP has done.
about Rahul’s harsh words, one of the younger party MPs said: “He is
an Opposition leader in Uttar Pradesh who is trying to give voice to the
people’s miseries. He can’t remain goody-goody and still appeal to the
aggrieved masses. With his aggression, he has convinced large sections of
voters that he is serious about the state.”
leader said: “Rahulji is passionately involved with Uttar Pradesh and
feels sorry about the state of affairs there. He is doing oppositional
politics at a time thousands of crores are not only being looted from a
rural health mission but doctors and officials are being chased to the
jail and murdered. You can’t be poetic about this state of affairs; you
will naturally feel anguished.” Told that the Samajwadi Party’s
Akhilesh Yadav has been dealing with the same set of issues with sobriety,
a central Congress functionary countered: “His father Mulayam Singh has
been greatly responsible for this rot.
“The Samajwadi Party has
not only been in governance but also contributed to the culture of
corruption and criminalisation in the state. Rahul is an outsider in that
sense; he too won’t be able to speak that freely when the context is the
central government.” A veteran who had closely watched Rajiv and Sonia
Gandhi rise in politics said: “After a long time, the Congress has got a
leader who speaks from the heart, is spontaneous and has himself seen the
wretched existence of people in the villages.
“He has not been
artificially developed as a leader or tailored to lead only a government.
He has chosen the path of struggle and is therefore speaking with
sincerity and from his conviction. He is probably the only contender in
Uttar Pradesh today who is not responsible for the state’s plight.”
whether Rahul’s remarks could cause post-poll complications, the leader
said: “He has doubtless chosen the difficult path. He has a different
mindset and understanding of power and politics. There will be
complications, serious dangers on this path but it is his choice. He will
alter his ways with experience but not when he is fighting to reclaim his
party’s lost glory. Time is on his side and he can afford to
Most Congress leaders believe that the Uttar
Pradesh results will be key to Rahul’s political approach. They say he
might be severely disappointed if the Congress doesn’t make
“substantive gains” after this kind of hard work.
to commit themselves to a definite yardstick for “substantive gains”,
these leaders say in private that anything above 50 seats would be
satisfactory, but Rahul would be happy only if the party bags around 70.
The Telegraph, Calcutta