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Rahul Gandhi – India’s Destiny

May 28, 2009

He has the cutest smile that one can have. He came to the political scene well after his sister Priyanka had been out there in the limelight. Many thought at that time that Rahul was not interested in politics. Many ignorant media persons still ask Priyanka as to when she would join active politics. This Cambridge educated young man has raised the eyebrows of many a seasoned politicians – especially those in the opposition. In fact, it is only now after the thumping Congress victory that people have started realizing that they have a winner in Rahul Gandhi. When he first entered public life and was on one of his innumerable trips to Amethi, one of the reporters asked Rahul as to what was his aim and what he wanted to achieve. The young man said that he wanted to see India as a super power. He went on to point out that India had all the resources and there was no reason as to why India should be where it rightly belongs – at the very top. No one took notice of this comment, coming from a young man. Many dismissed it as another of the rhetoric that one hears every now and then. I am forced to think that the way the young man is going about things in a systematic, meticulous manner – this young man is planning twenty years ahead when most leaders and political parties cannot think beyond the next elections. What the young man did not say was that not only does he want India to become a super power but that he wants to rule the world – with a billion people backing him up.

Such ambitious men are good for the country. When Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated his widow Sonia became forlorn and Rahul and Priyanka saw their world break apart. It was a few years later that Sonia gathered herself and took over the party that was going adrift. Rahul joined St. Stephen’s College. While he was good at studies it was his tiffs with fellow students that made the news. One such incident that was reported was when Rahul asked his security guards to ‘take care’ of one of the students who tried to bully him. He then went to Harvard ostensibly because of security reasons and then to Cambridge. He is said to have done pretty well at Cambridge. Back here in India Vajpayee government took charge. Rahul’s mother Sonia Gandhi was the leader of the Congress Party. In 2004 elections, the ‘India Shining’ campaign boomeranged badly. The haste of the NDA government at reforms was another reason for the defeat of the NDA. Congress led UPA came to power. Sonia Gandhi needed a competent dummy and she found one in Manmohan Singh. His following is non-existent and he owes his Prime Ministership to the Gandhis. Rahul Gandhi in the meanwhile tried very hard to revive the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. He developed a team of his own – his backroom boys. These include Rhodes scholars and professionals who are sharp and as meticulous about their job as he is. He also has political leaders who he depends on for inner party activities. One of them is Digvijay Singh. These are the people who are not too keen on being a part of the government but are driven to make Congress a pan India party as it was not too long ago. These are the people who will ensure that Congress remains in power in times to come. They wield a lot of power within the party and are privy to information that even the senior-most leaders may not have access to. This is what Rahul mentions from time to time as party building. His other move has been to induct new young faces in the party. This time over many such talented young faces have made it to the parliament. He says that he needs more such young men and women who are driven to serve the country.

The other development was on the personal front. Rahul’s father had been assassinated and there was a sense of insecurity in the family. Sonia when asked about the LTTE and Prabhakaran said more than once that they are terrorists. The problem for the family was that the blighter who had planned the assassination was now hiding in the deep jungles of northern Sri Lanka. I am sure that Indian intelligence agencies were working overtime to find out anything that they could get about the elusive man. Indian satellites were zooming in on northern Sri Lanka and satellite imagery was used to find out his exact location. The Lankan officials have admitted more than once that defeating the LTTE would have been impossible without Indian help. Sri Lankan army chief was here in India sometime back on a week long tour and he was gifted a stallion by the Indian army chief. I am sure that high on the agenda was the LTTE and how to get Prabhakaran. It was also clear that without the help of the west, this would be very difficult to achieve. The Indo-US Nuclear deal was the manifestation of the close ties of India with the west. The Gandhis realize that to ensure development at massive scale to fight poverty and to help India get there, amalgamation with the west is critical. What was started by the Vajpayee government was taken forward by the Congress government. It was the natural culmination of the changed international equations. India thankfully fitted the bill, making it that much easier for the Gandhis to move where they felt comfortable. A deal was signed and the way it was passed in the parliament made for prime time viewing for the Indian public. But again the Congress managed to get what it wanted. The BJP came a poor second having lost an opportunity to support a widely popular bill in the parliament. Remarkably, those who had opposed the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Bill have done poorly in the 2009 general elections while all those who supported the bill have done well, or not done that poorly. Both the rightist BJP and the Communists who opposed the nuclear deal vehemently have been decimated in these elections.

The 2009 elections were a watershed of sorts. Rahul had worked mainly in Uttar Pradesh but the party did very well throughout the country, barring a few pockets. Everything fell into place. In Andhra Pradesh Congress is back in power. Chiranjeevi’s Prajarajyam Party cut into TDP’s votes. In Rajasthan, the infighting in the BJP saw them come down to just four seats. In Tamil Nadu, the Congress had the largest voting percentage! In Kerela they have won the majority of seats. In West Bengal again their pact with Trinamool Congress has worked well and they have won majority of seats. In Maharashtra the Congress along with its ally the NCP won majority of seats and the BJP-Shiv Sena was defeated even in Mumbai where the MNS cut into their share of votes. But it was in Uttar Pradesh that the Rahul magic was in full view. The party jumped to 21 seats ahead of ruling BSP’s 19 seats and marginally short of the 24 seats of the Samajwadi party. For Rahul and the Gandhis, May of 2009 will be memorable. The years of meticulous planning both at the political and the personal front finally paid off. The party won the elections and they remain in power for the next five years, giving them breathing space to do their kind of thing and to plan for the future.

The other, perhaps more important development was the defeat of the LTTE and the end of Prabhakaran and his family. The message is loud and clear to everyone out there – one does not mess with the Gandhis. The assault against the LTTE was also started right after Priyanka went to meet Nalini – a LTTE women operative who is lodged in Vellore jail serving a life sentence for the murder of Rajiv Gandhi. The death sentence of Nalini was commuted to life at the behest of Sonia Gandhi as Nalini was pregnant at the time she was convicted. Priyanka talked to Nalini in private. The offensive against the LTTE started soon after. The movement of the Sri Lankan forces was slow to begin with but by the beginning of 2009 they had made inroads into the LTTE enclaves. It will take a defense expert to unravel as to how Prabhakaran was cornered along with his wife, two sons and a daughter in an area of a few kilometers in the Elephant Pass. The logical escape route for Prabhakaran would have been the jungles of Vavuniya. That is where he and his men ambushed the IPKF and the Indian army lost more than 800 of its finest soldiers to the LTTE. But this time over, Prabhakaran could not move to the jungles and was killed while fighting. His death was announced only after the elections in Tamil Nadu of May 13 had been concluded. The election victory was a bonanza the party and the family were not ready for and it came as a pleasant surprise. Everything fell in place for the Gandhis. It is very clear that whether it was the nuclear deal, or the distribution of the tickets or the assault against the LTTE, it was Rahul and his backroom boys who were doing the planning and were closely monitoring the execution. Condolessa Rice, the Secretary of State did quip that Indians were hard bargainers. It was another example of Rahul’s meticulous approach to things. The way the Lankan military campaign was planned and executed was again hall mark Rahul. The election campaign was of course planned and executed by Rahul Gandhi. I am sure he keeps his mother posted on all the developments. But he still runs the show. I do not know whether the BJP and its allies understand what they are up against. Advani sure does. The way the old BJP hand did a deep namaskara and then shook hands with the young man when they met during the recent swearing in ceremony showed that he realized as to who was behind his defeat. Regrettably, Advani will not be there for long to lead the party. It will be the young guns from the BJP who will have to challenge Rahul and his men. The bad news is that I cannot see anyone in the top echelons of the BJP who can stop the Rahul juggernaut. Priyanka said that she was afraid of her brother and that she would not join politics.

There is this one man, however, that can stand up to Rahul. He is also from the BJP and happens to be Rahul’s first cousin. Yes, I am talking about Varun Gandhi. The way young Varun has caught the imagination of the people is quite remarkable. He may be on the extreme right fringes of the party, but the way he could communicate with the masses was really quite impressive. I do not know whether the slapping of the NSA against Varun was the handiwork of the BSP or was it sibling rivalry. Suffice to say that Varun was seen as a threat enough to make sure that he could not campaign for the crucial twenty days during peak election time. It is also true that the BJP will have to move further right to make any impact among the masses. Ram still remains their USP and they would be foolish to abandon what is theirs. Remarkably, Varun realizes this and has positioned himself knowing that this was the only way he could challenge the might of the Congress. One can also see that young Varun and his mother Maneka believe in the ideology they profess. That is a good beginning for Varun as it can be very difficult to keep on mouthing something one does not believe in. I hope both the young Gandhis – Rahul and Varun understand the Lakshman Rekha of a political rivalry and do not go at each other without any sense of proportion. Rahul did look a little rattled when the Varun bandwagon started to make waves. Varun has a charisma and he looks strong. I hope both realize that their own emancipation, nirvana or what have you lies in the welfare of the nation. That democracy is sacred and that winning or losing are two sides of the same coin. What makes Rahul a more serious contender for the crown was the statement that he made soon after coming out of the DM’s office in Sultanpur after his victory. Rahul observed that this was just a small beginning and that he would have continued to work the same way in UP as he had been doing the past few years, even if he hadn’t won a single seat in the crucial state. That is some focus, some belief. His taking David Miliband to Amethi and interacting with his people was just a small example of the Rahul Gandhi we all know. The young man has miles to go. The destiny of the country seems to be firmly intertwined with that of this young man.

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