Rahul Gandhi: From a reluctant leader to party president

Rahul Gandhi: From a reluctant leader to party president

Rahul Gandhi took over as the president of the Congress Party on Saturday, succeeding his mother Sonia Gandhi, who had helmed the organization since...

New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi took over as the president of the Congress Party on Saturday, succeeding his mother Sonia Gandhi, who had helmed the organization since 1998.

The change of guard at 24 Akbar Road is being viewed as an event of utmost significance, given the fact that the 134-year-old grand old party would like to improve its current Members of Parliament (MPs) tally of 44 in the 2019 general elections.

Between 2016 and 2017, Rahul has been politically and astutely more aggressive with regard to the performance and achievements of the incumbent NDA regime at the Centre and with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular.

In 2016, he mockingly described the government as a "suit-boot government", highlighting to Prime Minister Modi's monogrammed suit, which he wore during his Republic Day meeting with Barack Obama.

He took a jibe at the Prime Minister's "acche din" slogan, saying the latter has "failed the country".

The BJP, on the other hand, has often described Rahul as 'Yuvraj', or ‘Crown Prince’ and lashed out at him for enjoying benefits of 'dynasty politics'.

The Gandhi scion has retaliated by saying how can him being a dynast be wrong, when the entire nation’s political leadership, irrespective of party affiliation, practices and swears by it.

A scion of the politically influential Nehru-Gandhi family, Rahul entered politics in 2004, by contesting elections from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

The Amethi seat had been held by Sonia, after her husband and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's death, until she transferred to the neighbouring seat of Rae Bareilly.

The Congress had been doing poorly in Uttar Pradesh at that time, holding only 10 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats. This move to give the Amethi seat to Rahul surprised political commentators who saw his sister Priyanka Gandhi as a more acceptable choice.

Results of the Himachal and Gujarat elections will be out on Monday (December 18), and a majority of exit polls are leaning heavily in favour of the BJP. Rahul says he 'doesn't believe in such things' and is confident that reality will surface two days from now.

Not so long ago, Rahul was criticized for not having the felicity to woo the general public. That does not seem to be the case now after 13 years of experience, crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country, feeling the pulse of the people and playing the role of an emerging opposition leader to the hilt.

In a surprising social media overdrive, the Gandhi scion has also been, of late, putting out well-aimed tweets, consisting primarily of couplets, and life lessons.

Responding to Trump's tweet that talked of America's evolving friendship with Pakistan, Rahul Gandhi wrote on the micro-blogging site, "Modi ji quick; looks like President Trump needs another hug."

Adding to this are the constant verbals with political nemesis and Union Minister Smriti Irani on a plethora of subjects.

Prime Minister Modi has retaliated as well through social media, questioning Rahul’s mathematical acumen and lack of knowledge of food grain statistics.

Rahul is being credited by many Congress leaders of restoring party unity and ushering youth to re-energise the party cadre.

He was instrumental in helping his party to win elections in Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Uttarakhand to name a few, that was ruled by the BJP earlier.

A supporter of women empowerment, Rahul backed the Women's Reservation Bill, which would allow 33 percent reservation of all the Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly seats for women. He has also backed the repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

He was elected the General-Secretary of Indian Youth Congress in 2007. Subsequently, he was appointed the Vice-President of the Congress in 2013.

Rahul has had his share of controversies. For instance, during a rally in Allahabad in 2013, he said, "Poverty is just a state of mind. It does not mean the scarcity of food, money or material things. If one possesses self-confidence, then one can overcome poverty."
The phrase "state of mind" drew sharp criticism from the opposition. BJP Uttar Pradesh spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak then said Rahul was 'mocking the poor'.

He has also said that the introduction of Jan Lokpal Bill will not root out corruption alone. Anti-corruption leader Anna Hazare accused him of making the bill "weak and ineffective".

After the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, Rahul claimed that a police officer had told him that Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) was trying to recruit disgruntled riot-affected youngsters, at an election rally in Indore.

However, the district administration, the Uttar Pradesh government, the Union Home Ministry, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) denied any such development.

This remark drew heavy criticism from various political outfits such as BJP, SP, CPI (Communist Party of India) and Janata Dal (United). Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also demanded him to apologise to the Muslim community for the comment.

After the Gujarat elections this year, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had said "The entire country has lots of expectations from Rahul Gandhi. Much before he was elected as party president, he has shown his mettle. He knows his responsibility."

Rahul's take over comes with sense of huge responsibility. Karnataka, which goes to polls early next year, would be his first litmus test.

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