Everyone is born with a destiny, but few are born with a destiny that is so intricately woven into the Indian consciousness that more than a billion people watch their every step. Few are born into a family that is an unalienable part of the history of the Indian nation. Few are born with a destiny like Rahul Gandhi's and in today's India, fewer are those that even attempt to understand the person and his politics.
At the outset, I would like to clarify that what I present is a counterview to the popular narrative that has been built around Rahul Gandhi. My writing is based on watching him and his politics over the years through all that is available in the public arena, but with one critical difference -- the absence of preconceived notions either for or against and with a starting belief that his motivations are well intentioned. This attitude has enabled me to separate the perception from the facts, leading me to assert that India needs a politician like Rahul Gandhi.
In order to support that assertion, I would like to debunk a few popular myths that have been carefully built around Rahul Gandhi.
Myth 1: He is a reluctant politician
In a country that is obsessed with power and those who wield it, I do not find it surprising that we may collectively fail to understand a politician who is detached from power. I have heard thousands of discussions to the effect that he does not take any responsibility. But what of the fact that he has held key responsibilities within the Congress organisation for nearly a decade now? People fail to realise that running a party as large as the Congress -- with crores of members and sympathisers, with office in every block of the country, with workers in every single gram panchayat -- is more complex than running many small- to medium-sized countries across the world.
"[A] leader should have the ability to stand up against his own people and lead them in the right direction if he/she feels that it is the correct path. I believe that Rahul Gandhi has done the same many times."
I believe that people fail to understand the value of Rahul Gandhi's efforts within the Congress, which has governed India for much of its independent history and will continue to be a key political party in the decades to come. As a Prime Minister, he can serve for 5, 10 or maximum 15 years but if he manages to instil inner party democracy in the Congress while encouraging a new breed of young grassroots politicians and nurturing in them age-old Congress ideals of secularism, equity, socialism, democracy and pluralism then he would have done a greater service to this nation than he would as Prime Minister.
Myth 2: He does not have leadership qualities
This one is probably the best media hoax of all times. I am not sure what we in India define as leadership. I personally understand a leader as one who believes in the power of the collective by empowering them and not the power of the individual as the saviour - the latter is fleeting while the former is lasting. I believe a key ingredient of a good leader is the courage to take the fall for those below him/her -- and also to credit the team for successes. Ever since 2010, Rahul Gandhi has been blamed for every electoral defeat of the Congress, yet he has campaigned tirelessly and taken all the brickbats in his stride. Where Congress has done well, he has given credit to the local leadership. I see that as true leadership!
What makes me wonder even further at the psyche of the Indian voter is that we decry a leader that is willing to shun the position of prime minister even as we don't blink an eye when others in their desperation for the same post step over and sideline friends, colleagues and seniors within their party. Sonia Gandhi made way for Manmohan Singh in 2004 and it can be argued that Rahul Gandhi made way for him in 2009.
"We want to make him a Prince but he wants to serve as a Karyakarta. We want him to lead a grand show from the front while he chooses to give the lead to others while supporting them behind the scenes."
Lastly, I would also like to point out the fact that a leader should have the ability to stand up against his own people and lead them in the right direction if he/she feels that it is the correct path. I believe that Rahul Gandhi has done the same many times -- when he tore the ordinance which protected corrupt leaders, or when he worked tirelessly for the earlier Land Acquisition and Food Security bills, overriding the opposition of many experts and seniors in the party.
Myth 3: He is a prince who does not understand the problems of the common person
Here I would like to draw attention to numerous instances that have proved otherwise, be it the Bhatta Parsaul agitation or campaigning for the cause of Dalits or fighting for food security of the impoverished or agitating against his own government's ordinance for protecting corrupt politicians. What Arvind Kejriwal did in Delhi elections by riding the Delhi metro, Rahul Gandhi did in 2010 by taking the Mumbai local. The Nukkad Sabhas that many parties do now have been done by him over the years by not only meeting but actually dining and living with the poorest of the poor over the years to understand their needs. To be born privileged may be Rahul Gandhi's destiny but he has linked his destiny with those of the weakest of this country.
We elect goons as members of Parliament, we appoint scamsters as ministers, we appoint people with little political and administrative experience as CM's, we appoint people with debatable human rights and development records as PM. Sometimes we have no better reason than that they are "common people" like us. Yet we fail to even consider Rahul Gandhi on the merits of what he wants to contribute towards the nation. We focus instead on what we think he should be.
We want to make him Prince but he wants to serve as a Karyakarta. We want him to lead a grand show from the front while he chooses to give the lead to others while supporting them behind the scenes. We want him to be loud, brash and in your face while he chooses to be humble, detached and subtle. Think again, are these not the real reasons why we ridicule Rahul Gandhi and his leadership?