Country may not have a Gandhi as PM for age

 By Srinivasan K. Rangachary

Is the fear that Rahul Gandhi will suffer his father’s tragic fate preventing his present accession? That is the impression that is emerging from the Congress party. But the apprehension could well extend beyond now to 2014 and later. This writer’s analysis is that Rahul Gandhi will run shy of becoming Prime Minister even if he gets a chance, which looks increasingly remote.There are significant similarities and differences between the Rahul and Rajiv Gandhi situations. Indira Gandhi’s assassination made Rajiv’s succession inevitable.Such a situation does not exist with Rahul Gandhi. He is a party big shot but his mother is not the official PM. When Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his mother, the Congress ran a single- party government.The Congress party today has nothing close to a mandate, and it is leading inarguably the most fractious and corrupt coalition government.The government survives on a day- today basis with the sword of mid- term elections hanging on it all the time. And then, Rajiv Gandhi won the biggest mandate in India’s electoral history, riding the sympathy wave generated by Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Contributing factors were his youth and his ironic symbolisation of change from the permit- quota raj of his mother.Rahul Gandhi has still to get to that stage, and he may not. His novelty has worn off and the country’s politics and coalitional dynamics have made it impossible for any single party to get a majority, leave aside a Rajiv Gandhi- like mandate. But it is critical to understand and appreciate that such a great mandate could not arrest Rajiv Gandhi’s decline and fall. Once the Bofors allegation stuck to Rajiv Gandhi’s prime- ministership, he was finished. This is perhaps what really prevents a Rahul Gandhi take- over now. But this would be as applicable after the 2014 election, and for the foreseeable future.It is this that leads this writer to forecast that Rahul Gandhi will never be prime minister. Apparently, one of Rahul Gandhi’s conditions to take the top job is that the Congress should have its own Lok Sabha majority. It reminds you of Prakash Karats proviso for a CPI- M prime minister.That never happened and will remain a pipe dream. But even Rahul Gandhi’s condition (if it is that) will remain unfulfilled in his political life.As has often been argued, the trend of coalition politics is consolidating, leading to political fragmentation on one hand and the rise of dynasts on the other. The most that can or should be expected in the run up to the 2014 elections are strengthening trends against corruption and, as one of its consequences, a wave of anti- Congressism.In the polls itself, the Congress will be wiped out. By default, the BJP will win. But it may or may not get its own majority. This scrubs out Rahul in 2014. But if his condition is for single party Congress prime ministership, which will never happen. Coalition politics will be around for a long time.But assuming that the Congress breaks all these trends, comes back with an absolute majority in 2014 or later, and clears the way for a Rahul Gandhi prime ministership.Will he take the job? Now this brings the situation almost parallel to his father, but without his mandate. So will he take the call? The guess is Rahul Gandhi wont. He knows what happened to his father, and he wouldn’t want to risk being hounded out himself. None of the UPA-II scams so far have touched the Gandhis.This is because they hold no office. But once Rahul Gandhi takes up office, the immunity will shatter. You could argue that Manmohan Singh has remained untainted by the scams. That is a testimony to his honesty. But he is also powerless. The public is tired of him and wants him to go. But he is not considered corrupt.If Rahul Gandhi becomes PM, he can hardly complain of powerlessness. His situation can never be compared to Manmohan Singh. Rightly or wrongly, every scam of government will be linked to him, leaving him no place to hide. Rahul Gandhi perhaps realises he is safe so long he shuns office. This could well be the Rajiv effect.So the bottom line is this. In a compelling and fundamental manner, Rahul Gandhi does not wish to follow in his father’s footsteps. All the breathless media build- up of the Gandhi scion will ultimately come to nothing. The one man aside from Rahul Gandhi to know this better than anybody is Digvijay Singh, and he is playing along. INAV

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