“Young Turks”, socialists and communist fellow travellers to seize power from the entrenched power brokers of the party organisation. Though Nehru’s daughter, she was an outsider in the party hierarchy. Rajiv’s criticism of the party old guard in 1985 came after he became PM, when he had power and responsibility to act. Rahul is an insider, in more senses than one. Yet, he has tried to project himself as an outsider.
This contrarian strategy was first revealed in his address to a group of students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2009, when he said, “The hierarchical system exists (in Congress). It is a reality. But what is the option before me? I can either propagate the system or change it. I am not the one to propagate it so I am trying to change it. You do not like the system; even
I do not like it. We have to work together to change it.”
In itself, this is not a wrong strategy to adopt. But an agent of change can build on his inheritance rather than seek to rubbish it. You can be a John Major to a Margaret Thatcher or a Kevin Rudd to a Julia Gillard. The electorate rewarded Major and punished Rudd. It requires great sophistication and maturity to provide leadership to a transition without undermining the image of the predecessor.
Unfortunately, for Rahul, many around him chose the ill-advised path of mocking the PM and blaming him for all the party’s errors of judgement and acts of misdemeanour. It was almost as if Rahul’s strategists wanted to first give the government a bad name so that they could then project Rahul as the agent of change and hope for better government. Can an inheritor of power also be the rebel, the radical, the outsider?
The writer is honorary senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research and former media advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh