“He will not disappoint you!”: Rahul Gandhi – the unfulfilled promise of Indian politics

To fight a man of the people like Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi would need to address high expectations and unfulfilled promises

Recently, Indian National Congress (INC) leader Sonia Gandhi pleaded with the voters from Raebareli in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a Gandhi family borough, to vote for her son the Rahul Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi said: “I am handing over my son to you. Just as you made me yours, please treat him as one of your own. He will not disappoint you!”

Rahul entered politics in 2004 as a Member of Parliament (MP) from Amethi, another a traditional stronghold for his family, with a substantial margin. In 2009 and 2014, he was re-elected from Amethi. However, in 2019, Rahul lost Amethi to Smriti Irani and won Wayanad in Kerala.

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Taking a dig Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Rahul who lost Amethi will lose Raebareli too in the ongoing polls: “They have gone from Amethi and will go even from Rae Bareli.”

While PM Modi is expected to win a third term in the election that got underway on April 19 and concludes on June 1, Rahul Gandh’s political journey since in 2004 has been of great anticipation and persistent disappointment.

Image: Rahul Gandhi filing his nomination for Raebareli (Source: KC Venugopal – X)

As the heir to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, despite such a long journey of nearly two decades in the political arena, Rahul has struggled to connect with the Indian masses and solidify his role as a decisive political leader within the Congress party. A clear case of indecisiveness is Rahul filing nomination from Wayanad – “Wayanad is my home, and the people of Wayanad are my family” – as well as Raebareli – “My mother (Sonia Gandhi) has handed over the family’s work to me with great trust and has given me the opportunity to serve it.”

Political pundits beleive Rahul’s lineage is both his greatest asset and his heaviest burden. This heritage has placed Rahul under pressure to perform at an extraordinary level. Comparisons with his late grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi, have often overshadowed his individual efforts.

Additionally, one of the most glaring issues with Rahul’s leadership has been his inability to present a consistent and clear vision for India’s future thus highlighting his lack of governance expertise. His fragmented vision, incoherent speeches, lack of any constructive alternative, and no long-term political strategy make him come across as reactive rather than proactive thus not enough to entice the voters.

It is not a mystery that world over effective leaders often build their base from the ground up, engaging deeply with grassroots movements and understanding the day-to-day issues faced by ordinary citizens. Rahul’s political activities have frequently been criticized for being sporadic and lacking in-depth engagement and almost no authentic conversations with the grassroots.

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Unlike Modi, his brief and often superficial interactions with the people fail to establish a sense of awe and a genuine connection, which is crucial for earning the trust and support of voters. No doubt, Modi’s knowledge of rural-urban divide, oratory skills and confident demeanour have significantly contributed to his widespread appeal as opposed to Rahul’s speeches which are characterised by a lack of substance, passion and conviction needed to inspire the masses.

At least Rahul should listen to his own advice: “True power comes from connecting with people, listening deeply to what they’re saying, and being kind to yourself.”

Despite his tokenistic rather than substantive attempts to project a more relatable and humbler image, foreign-educated Rahul continues to be perceived as an elitist dynast disconnected from the realities of the common Indian. In Indian politics, rather than foreign degree a person’s charisma plays a vital role. For instance, Modi, is known for his strategic acumen, has successfully cultivated an image of a self-made leader, rising from humble beginnings as a tea seller to become the Prime Minister. This narrative of self-reliance and determination appeals to many Indians especially the great Indian middle-class.

It would be an understatement to say that Rahul’s journey in politics has been a saga of unfulfilled promise. He must understand a simple fact of any leadership: either he wants to be a political leader or wants to keep pretending to be a political leader!

Looking like Karl Marx and advocating for wealth redistribution while failing to create anything, wandering the country like Don Quixote under the grand illusion of slaying hatred while actually spreading discontent, and pretending to be Mahatma Gandhi without any genuine spiritual growth won’t help in the ongoing struggle to reclaim the party’s historical prominence.

Image: Rahul Gandhi and PM Narendra Modi

To fight a man of the people like Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi would need to address all his shortcomings, get better advisers, learn leadership mantras, and build a stronger relatable connection with the Indian populace. Only by doing so can he hope to resonate with the hearts of the Indian people and carve out a lasting legacy in Indian politics.

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