Can Rahul Gandhi save Congress?

Rahul Gandhi’s recent promotion to Vice President of the Congress Party seems to be providing a much-needed boost within the party. But will this appointment make any difference or will Congress continue to languish?

Corruption and accusations of government incompetence are rife in India at the moment, particularly with the recent rape case that is raising the profile women’s rights issues in India. Mr Gandhi, for many, is seen as part of that very establishment.

Rahul Gandhi photo

“It was more a question of when Rahul Gandhi would assume party leadership, rather than whether he would or not.”

Critics are quick to point out that Rahul Gandhi has only exhibited some low-key successes and failures in his political career. Other than being part of the Gandhi dynasty, he totally lacks the street cred required to make a real political impact. Proving to stick to his word on some relatively minor issues and having a lucrative surname in Indian politics is simply not enough.

Mr Gandhi has also been somewhat notoriously quiet when it comes to parliamentary participation and engaging in public political debate. In fact, in his MP career he posed only two questions in debates – in 2005 and 2012. Hardly the characteristic of someone aspiring to be prime minister on his own merit.

His speech, albeit ironically speaking of meritocratic politics, did make all the right noises, and came off as expected by any politician, But his actions leave him far from being as credible as BJP leader Narendra Modi for example. Mr Modi, who is currently on his 4th successive term as chief minister of Gujarat has some significant achievements under his belt already.

Perhaps had he been more active in his role as MP and made a real impact one would be more optimistic about the future of Congress. At 42, he would have made a refreshing change to India’s geriatric leadership.

As was the case with his father Rajiv Gandhi, saying the words, no matter how passionately, is not enough. Congress is filled with a rot based in dynastic leadership and sycophancy – fixing that will be no easy task.

As yet Rahul still has to build credibility by stating how he proposes to tackle corruption, economic challenges, women’s rights and foreign policy challenges with Pakistan and China. Perhaps if he takes action on developing a clear vision for himself and Congress on these issues, India might have reason to be a bit more optimistic.

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