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The nemesis of Rahul Gandhi

As we approach 2014, the din of election rhetoric grows louder - the media and general public discourse alike get influenced by what the politicians put forward and portray. In such an atmosphere, while it is imperative that the real issues should boil to the surface, to the contrary, personality clashes and rhetorical debates will take center stage. One such debate being pushed to forth by the BJP is the comparison's between their PM candidate Narendra Modi and Congress (not yet announced) probable candidate Rahul Gandhi.

There are those who accept this contest as one of personalities, and even try to justify the ideological bankruptcy of Rahul Gandhi as his style of leadership; however most commentators concede [1, 2, 3] that Modi triumphs Gandhi in most sphere's of personality comparisons. Gandhi on his part has tried hard to break the jinx on him; he tried to instill internal democracy within the party, spoke several times against the party's decisions supporting/abetting/condoning corruption, and tried creating a industry friendly image. However, all his efforts - especially the ones aimed towards setting a stand against corruption - are likely to backfire.

The malaise within the Congress party is neither Rahul Gandhi or his mother, nor are their socialist ideals, and neither is the purported "dynastic politics". In fact, 'dynastic politics' is not a cause but a symptom of all that is wrong within the Congress party. The malaise within the Congress came to the fore during the 1996 crisis, when Sitaram Kesri's interventions brought the Congress party to near demise. This malaise is the triumvirate of corruption, opportunism and muscle politics.

Several layers below the national leadership, but starting, in some cases, at the very second rung of leadership lie the powerful satraps of the Congress party, whose very existence thrives on the muscle power they exude in their regions of influence. When I say muscle, I don't necessarily refer to goons and thugs - it transcends beyond goons to strong influences in local bodies, legal systems and police force. Many Congress (and ex-Congress) leaders own their constituencies so much so that, all systems - from Police Force to courts to the Municipalities run on their whims. Those who dare to go against the local satrap are sidelined from all angles.

The reason the Congress party needs "dynastic" leaders like Sonia or Rahul is so that these satraps can continue to run their clandestine empires under the garb of politics. The reason why a Narsimha Rao or even a Kesri was a threat to these satraps was that these 'homegrown" leaders tried to establish their own supremacy within the party, thus challenging these local satraps, and in turn trying to expose their rotten ways.

The reason why these satraps are happy to anoint Rahul Gandhi as a future PM, the reason why they are happy for Sonia to run her Socialist agenda through the NAC is that (a) it keeps the masses happy (b) it keeps Rahul and Sonia feel in-charge of the party agenda. In return for this support, these satraps get the power to misuse government agencies and bodies to fund their businesses, provide them a legal cover and give them the political power to keep their opposition at bay; all this with anonymity provided by the "leadership" of Sonia and Rahul.

In essence, Rahul is his own nemessis - the fact that he is the chosen one - reflects a deeper malaise within the ranks of his party. And if he lifts his head against corruption, especially the condoning of it by his party, he upsets the unique power sharing agreement of acceptance of his own leadership in return for continuance of status-quo (on issues of Lokpal, Reforms etc.). He thus upsets the equilibrium which, more than corruption itself or Modi's (so called) charisma, is likely to become the biggest reason for Rahul Gandhi's fall.

While I don't admire Rahul, I sure feel empathy for him, because there is loss for him on both sides - if he embraces the current ways of functioning of the Congress and its feudal set up - he will fail to impress the populace and hence lose. If he goes against the flow, challenges the corrupt within his party outright, he risks losing support of some crucial king makers on the party, even risks another potential split in the party; and thus is more likely to lose.

However, if Rahul is indeed sincere about changing the Congress, he needs to accept defeat and in spite of it challenge the corrupt within his party - this will result in more than half of his current second line leadership and several state leaders alienated or even legally implicated. They are likely to break away and form regional parties like the NCP; and further weaken the Congress. But is is only once these satraps are removed, their powers taken, legal charges against them chased, proved and many put behind bars - this might take 10 years - that a new Congress party can emerge. A party which has a more sincere leadership, filled more with the likes of Tharoor, Jairam Ramesh and Ajay Maken.

It may even be a Congress which will not anoint him as a Prime Ministerial candidate (a position he looks disinterested in) or even as a Party President; but it will surely be a party which will allow him and his mother appropriate relevance through implementation of the Socialist schemes which they want to implement on the lines of his father and great grandfather's ideals.

But it's unlikely that Rahul Gandhi will wait 10 years, it is also unlikely that he will be allowed to risk the alienation of so many national leaders; and it is equally unlikely that the Congress will win the next Lok Sabha elections.

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