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Did Rahul leave Rahul behind?

   By Vijay Darda | 01-07-2024

After becoming leader of Opposition, Rahul Gandhi has reached a position where he will directly face Narendra Modi in important meetings

The social media campaign to turn Alia Bhatt and Rahul Gandhi into butt of jokes is perhaps one of the longest-running campaigns ever. While there’s a lot of speculation about who did it and why, it’s not appropriate to name anyone definitively. The point is that Alia broke that perception years back with her stellar acting. Now, Rahul Gandhi has a similar opportunity, but his challenges are far from over.

In fact, Rahul Gandhi was portrayed as someone who shirks responsibilities. There have been consistent talks about the lack of continuity in his working style. He contested from Amethi in 2004 and entered Parliament. His party was in power for the next 10 years, but he did not take a ministerial post. He did not shy away from criticising his own government’s policies on several occasions. Ultimately, he became the party president in 2017 but resigned after Congress’ crushing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, stating that a new leader should take up the responsibility. Regarding positions in Parliament, after 2014, Congress had no option available. To qualify for the leader of the Opposition post, a party must have at least 10 per cent of the total seats, or 54 seats, in Parliament. Congress secured only 44 seats in 2014 and just 52 seats in 2019, making it ineligible for the position.

In the 2024 elections, Congress got 99 seats, leading everyone to wonder if Rahul Gandhi would accept the position of leader of the Opposition or keep his distance. Not only did Rahul accept the position, but the way he spoke hinted at his new image. He told the Lok Sabha speaker that while the government has political power, the Opposition also represents the voice of the Indian people. The Opposition will help run Parliament, but it’s crucial that this cooperation is based on trust. The question isn’t about how smoothly Parliament runs but how much the common man’s voice is allowed to be raised. While Parliament can run peacefully by suppressing the Opposition’s voice, this approach would be undemocratic. It is the speaker’s responsibility to protect constitutional rights.

Rahul’s assertive stance has indicated his future approach. Importantly, as the leader of the Opposition, Rahul Gandhi is now in a position where he will face Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly across the table. The leader of the Opposition holds a Cabinet rank, leads the entire Opposition and is a part of important committees like the public accounts, public undertakings and estimates committee. The leader of the Opposition plays an important role in the joint parliamentary committees and select committees, which appoint the heads and members of the key agencies and bodies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Vigilance Commission, Central Information Commission, Lokpal, Election Commissioners and the National Human Rights Commission. So far, Modi and Rahul have traded barbs, but it will be fascinating to see how they interact when sitting together at the same table. Although a glimmer of hope emerged when they together escorted the speaker Om Birla to the dais, the mention of the Emergency has put a spanner. People punished Indira Gandhi for the Emergency and later brought her back to power too. However, this controversy could foment tension in their relationship. Prime Minister Modi has extensive experience in governance and is a master of diplomacy. Therefore, the challenge for Rahul Gandhi will be even greater. If he succeeds, he will undoubtedly establish a new identity as a mature leader, providing a strong rebuttal to those who have relentlessly tried to tarnish his image.

I have felt that Rahul Gandhi is a very sensible leader. He has travelled across the length and breadth of the country to understand the pulse of the nation, much like Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave did. He seeks to understand things from experts. He is not interested in frivolous matters and does not rely on lies. Yes, questions have been raised time and again about his kitchen cabinet, but with time, he will surely set things right. His personality has changed after the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. During the yatra, he had told the journalists, “I have left Rahul Gandhi far behind. I am not the same Rahul Gandhi now.”

Let’s see if Rahul Gandhi has indeed left Rahul Gandhi behind!

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