Monday, August 16, 2021

Fly on the Wall | A New Rahul Emerges

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Media Group

A New Rahul Emerges 
The Parliament's Monsoon session may be witnessing a storm since July 19 amidst unprecedented Opposition unity. But the session saw the emergence of a New Rahul. Though scion of the Gandhi dynasty has been around in politics for nearly two decades and in Lok Sabha since 2004, things didn’t work well. There was a complete disconnect between his thinking and what was happening on the ground. His image also took a beating when he tore the bill presented by his own government in parliament relating to criminals. The end result was the Congress’ historic low of 44 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP’s star campaigner Navjot Singh Sidhu called him names and it gelled well with the audience during the polls campaign. The worst came in 2019 when he lost his traditional Amethi Lok Sabha seat. But come July 2021 and it saw the emergence of a New Rahul Gandhi. The political analysts are surprised over his ‘image makeover’ during the Monsoon session. This makeover has taken place so silently that only those in close circuit have noticed it. The first sign came when Rahul Gandhi played the role of a conductor of the bus that ferried leaders of Opposition parties from Parliament House to Jantar Mantar to express solidarity with the agitating farmers. Rahul stood at the boarding gate to receive them and was the last to board himself, de-boarded first once the bus reached Jantar Mantar and stood at the gate to ensure that every leader was attended too. The drill was repeated on the way back to Parliament House. Earlier, he hosted a breakfast for Opposition leaders which was his another first. For a change, Rahul Gandhi listened to them rather than talking solo. Rahul Gandhi stood in solidarity with the protesting Opposition MPs on the Pegasus hacking scandal throughout compared to his earlier approach of being always busy with his mobile phone. Those days have gone.

When Rahul met Sanjay Raut
Rahul Gandhi is in a new orbit and holding parleys individually these days. He meets them in the lobby, goes to their residences and invites them to his house. He invited Shiv Sena senior leader Sanjay Raut at his 12 Tughlaq Road residence and held talks for 110 minutes, to be precise. While the functioning of Maharashtra government, Shiv Sena and the shape of things to come were on the agenda, the two also shared their vision for the future of the Opposition politics. Later, the two leaders also met twice. It was a new experience for Sanjay Raut too. The Opposition leaders also noticed another change in Rahul these days; he is attentive and engaged in group meetings rather than keeping busy with himself.

Antony has reservations about PK plan
All members of the Congress Working Committee in small groups have discussed at length a detailed plan of action submitted by poll strategist Prashant Kishore. Sonia Gandhi wanted to solicit opinions of each CWC member PK’s plan of action. K C Venugopal was present in all groups to take notes and submit the same to Sonia Gandhi. PK suggested that the Congress should have a small decision making body like the Parliamentary Board for faster decisions at a short notice rather than an omnibus CWC body. The Congress should create a permanent structure to formulate poll strategies which differ from state to state culminating in 2024 LS polls. It transpires that some seniors including A K Antony have reservations about PK being named as 136 years’ old party’s official poll strategist. Many feel an individual shouldn’t be allowed to play the role of a ‘Super Man.’ But Antony seems to be in a hopeless minority as the party has been in his own home state of Kerala, two LS polls and states after states. Therefore, no party can keep basking in its old glory without delivering. Interestingly, Ghulam Nabi Azad is in favour of PK’s plan.

Kamal Nath new Working president!
If all goes as per plans being finalized by Congress Interim president Sonia Gandhi, the entire organizational structure may be over-hauled sooner than expected. The grapevine has it that former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath may be brought in as party’s vice president. He is the senior-most in the party and Sonia seems to have decided to go with the tested family loyalist. He desperately needs someone to help her after the untimely demise of Ahmad Patel. The Congress may have four vice presidents including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. The reshuffle is part of Mission-2024.