A question mark
Sanjay Baru, formerly media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, says that Dr Singh lacks the political authority that he needs to be Prime Minister.
BJP’s LK Advani calls Dr Singh a Sonia nominated Prime Minister. He also warns against a scion of the Nehru family taking over the reins of the PM: “India” says Advani “cannot be led either by a weak PM or an inexperienced PM”.
Congress’s Digvijay Singh stating that time is ripe for Rahul Gandhi to be PM: “Rahul” said Singh “is a mature person with sound political instincts and can become the Prime Minister. Rahul is now 40 and has been working for the party for the last seven to eight years”.
Congress spokesman Manish Tewari saying that Congressmen want to see Rahul as PM: “Rahul Gandhi” Tewari said “should become Prime Minister is the aspiration and desire of Congress workers and if anyone is expressing it he or she is not committing any crime”.
This apart, Congress circles are keenly watching the developments surrounding the next President of India. The present incumbent Pratibha Patil’s term ends next year and there is speculation about who will make it to Rashtrapati Bhawan after her. There are several theories doing the rounds one being that Dr Manmohan Singh will be pushed upstairs to make way for Rahul Gandhi as the next Prime Minister.
The other is that with parliamentary elections still three years away, Rahul stepping into Manmohan Singh’s shoes at this juncture may be ill timed. With things being the way they are and the Government smeared with scams and mis-governance, it is the Prime Minister who is in the eye of a storm. Rahul Gandhi stepping in at this stage could adversely affect his image given that there is very little that he can set right before the next elections. As against this if he were projected in 2014 when the elections are due, he would come in with a clean slate and at a time when the country would be looking for a change and a fresh face. Rahul’s sycophants believe that then time will be opportune for the country to vote him in as Prime Minister. His image they say will help rejuvenate the party, which seems to have lost its moorings and is somewhat slipping down from the popularity ladder.
However, what one needs to keep in mind is that most of this is conjecturing and wishful thinking on part of Congressmen. It is Rahul Gandhi’s supporters who trumpet his popularity and perceive that the country is dying to see him as their Prime Minister. Do a reality check and the story turns out to be quite different from what Gandhi loyalists would want scripted.
The ground reality is that being elected Prime Minister is not a cakewalk. Rahul has a long way to go and there are differences even within the Congress on his next role. Of course no one dare say anything except mouth praise for Rahul and how the country would be derailed if he did not jump in to save it, but there is a growing perception that the Congress will not be in a position to call the shots three years from now.
The current writing on the wall is visible and clear. Even though the Congress would happily turn a blind eye to it, there is no escaping the truth that if it does not do damage-control, it may have a tough time occupying center-stage, leave alone anointing Rahul as Prime Minister. The first test was during Bihar state elections where despite Rahul Gandhi’s tours, camping and campaigning, the Congress had a poor showing. Though not audible, post Bihar elections, there were murmurs within the Congress on the viability of brand Rahul. The next test were the Assembly elections to five states where once again the Congress did pretty badly. Now all eyes are on 2012 when the UP elections are due. Rahul’s foray’s into Mayawati’s domain, his leading the farmers and taking on the Uttar Pradesh government head-on is nothing short of aggression. Given that Rahul is leading the anti Maya campaign, Congress electoral performance in 2012 will be crucial in determining the impact of Rahul Gandhi outside the Congress and on the electorate. That would also be a good indicator on Congress prospects two years from then i.e. in 2014.
Consequently, whatever the Singhs and Tewari in the Congress tout or sell to their partymen, Rahul’s future will be determined by the outcome of elections be it Uttar Pradesh or Parliament. With regional leaders like Nitish Kumar, Jayalalitha and Mamata Banerjee emerging on the national scene, the choices are many and the going may get tough for the Congress. Therefore even if the Congress is banking on the three year lead period to set things right, the electorate may just spring a surprise on it. At least so it seems the way things are as of now.