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Rahul's Way or the Highway!

This is not the first time, nor shall it be the last time. The Grand Old Party of Indian Politics might be fraying at its edges at an unimaginably rapid rate but it has in it's not-so-distant past seen much worse. Regardless of whether the old guard is prepared to acknowledge it, the only discernible ray of hope for the Congress is as always, the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Rahul Gandhi
In her time, Indira Gandhi triumphantly managed to cow down all her naysayers (essentially those regional who dared challenge her supremacy) within the Congress. She systematically weeded and eliminated them, making her a figure more powerful than the entire party put together. Her persona was enough to sweep the ballot boxes.

For example, in 1977, after 30 protracted years in the Government, the Congress was vanquished electorally by a coalition called the Janata Party. Many promulgated its end but a mere 3 years later Indira led them to a landslide, bulldozing her adversaries. Similarly, in 2004, the Congress led by the sagacious Sonia Gandhi stitched up some smart alliances and sprang a surprise by winning two consecutive terms.

Today, the Congress is a decade-old incumbent and faces an image crisis. Its trump card Manmohan Singh is now an embodiment of public disenchantment with the Congress. Sonia is now ill and Priyanka (despite her USP of being an Indira lookalike) is reluctant to take the electoral plunge. The encumbrance now falls on Rahul.

In many ways, Rahul's situation mirrors Indira's. In the wake of Lal Bahadur Shastri's untimely death in 1966, the Syndicate (a group of regional satraps) installed Indira as the Prime Minister with a misplaced underestimation of her political skills leading them to think of her as a manageable puppet. The rest of her reign (as I mentioned), she carefully cut them to size and grew from strength to strength.

Rahul today faces similar challenges from the old guard in party circles. The Congress has lost all integrity in public eyes and drastic steps need to be taken to salvage the situation. The Government is being seen as inept, corrupt, inefficient and lethargic by the masses. His initiatives like the passage of the Lokpal Bill, scrapping the ordinance protecting tainted netas, democratizing the Youth Congress and bringing in transparency to ticket distribution are essential. His biggest obstacle remains certain sections which opposes them tooth and nail.

The public expects Governments to perform and be accountable for its actions. In order to get its mojo back, the Congress need to follow Rahul. Judicial Accountability, Whistle Blowers Protection and Citizens Charter all are needed if the party expects to get back even a semblance of the respect it once held. It must begin to strengthen democracy within the party and decentralize power to state leaders. Interestingly, Rahul in his speech at the January 17th AICC Convention also mooted the idea of selection of party candidates at the grassroots levels in at least 15 Lok Sabha seats. If implemented, this pilot project of sorts can revitalize the party from the bottom and improve it's image in public eyes.

These moves might indeed not be enough for the party to win 2014. In all probability, this year is a lost cause for the party. Perhaps it might even be the Congress's need of the hour. Sometime in the opposition might allow it to shed some flab and shatter its over-confidence. Rahul needs to follow in his grandmother's footsteps. The way ahead is difficult but clear-cut. As for the others, it is simple - Rahul's way or the highway!

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