The recent reaffirmation by the
Congress of its governing model of dual centres of power,
notwithstanding party general secretary Digvijaya Singh's caveat,
was further substantiated by Manmohan Singh's and Rahul Gandhi's
addresses to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
While the prime minister reiterated the government's commitment to
reforms, the Congress vice president outlined his vision for the
country's progress. In doing so, Rahul can be said to have given
glimpses of his great grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru's
It was evident that Rahul is much more of a thinker than either
his grandmother, Indira, who was a ruthless practitioner of
realpolitik, or his father, Rajiv, who didn't have the time to
develop his vision, or his mother, Sonia, who has been preoccupied
with the nuts and bolts of politics instead of formulating a broad
It is Rahul's interest in theorizing about the system rather than
being involved in the nitty-gritty of administration which
explains why he refused to accept a ministerial post, although
Manmohan Singh had said he would have been happy to have him in
And, now, the same unwillingness is clearly the reason why Rahul
has not only been shying away from the speculation about becoming
prime minister, but has even started mocking the idea by
emphasizing its irrelevance for him.
Instead, he wants to delineate his outlook for this "beehive" of a
country, different in his view from the concept of a lumbering
elephant, which is usually projected in contrast to the energetic
Chinese dragon. For Rahul, the beehive comprises a billion-plus
people who are throbbing with energy. It is this energy which he
wants the industrial magnates to tap.
Inclusiveness is obviously the central feature of this vision.
But, in case the CII mistakes this assertion as a socialistic plea
for the empowerment of the downtrodden at the expense of the rest,
Rahul clarified that he wants to take along everyone - the
struggling poor, the aspiring middle class and the thriving
business community which, he said, provided the "cutting edge" of
advancement. This certificate to the mercantile class marks a
sharp departure from the Congress's earlier patrician disdain for
the grasping businessman.
It is clear that Rahul's viewpoint is different from Sonia's,
whose emphasis has been on a paternalistic allocation of doles and
jobs to targeted groups selected through caste-based reservations.
Hence her insistence on reviving the idea of including castes in
the census data after a gap of eight decades.
In the last few months, however, Rahul appears to have influenced
his mother to shed some of her left-leaning predilections and
speak of the "aspirational" middle class. Considering that he
represents the future, it can be assumed that he will take the
Congress along a path which defies a neat left-right
In a way, it is fairly revolutionary since Rahul intends to
overhaul the entire system by taking the power away from MPs and
MLAs and investing it in the village pradhans or heads of the
local panchayats. Earlier, too, he had spoken of his wish to do
away with the coteries or select groups of people in the parties,
including the Congress, which take all the decisions.
While the idea is laudable - it is really an iteration of the
process of decentralization which has long been talked about -
Rahul gave no indication as to how he was going to implement it
and whether he would begin by breaking up the 'high command'
structure comprising his mother and himself.
In the absence of specifics, it isn't surprising that the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has accused him of being "confused".
It is possible, of course, that he hasn't yet given his ideas a
concrete shape. But, if his objective is really to shake up the
organizational structure, then it is obvious that, first, he will
not take up the onerous job of being prime minister in the
foreseeable future. And, secondly, that his primary focus may not
be on the forthcoming general election at all. After all, a leader
engaged in the process of reinventing his party will not be able
to concentrate on the dos and don'ts of a major contest.
It is probably this scenario which made Manmohan Singh hint at his
continuance as prime minister if the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
wins a third term in office. What this also means is that he will
have freer run in pushing for reforms unlike the earlier period
when Sonia's focus on the leftist prescriptions of the National
Advisory Council led by her impeded the reforms process.
The fallout cannot but be beneficial for the UPA since a buoyant
economy will boost its political prospects. At the same time, if
Rahul can seriously introduce an element of democratic functioning
in the Congress, then the party can hope to return to its glory
days when its corridors of power in the centre and in the states
were full of towering personalities.
Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org