Sadanand Dhume Tweeted on 15 July 2020 that he is “still unconvinced that Rahul Gandhi has the political chops needed to revive Congress.” This was the finishing statement in a Twitter thread on the on going Rajasthan political crisis which started by him shunning Rahul Gandhi and asking, “For how long can any party survive by putting lipstick on a pig?” To support his views he shared his TOI Blog. After the scathing insult he generously offered to hear counter arguments from anybody who wishes to debate without name calling.

I offered to do so in a quoted Retweet, but I also presumed that he will not be able to deal with a debate. He will quietly ignore as if he didn’t see my Tweet. Within 5 minutes of my RT he replied, “Try Me”. So here is my counter. I would update this space with whether he really debated with me either on this blog or on Twitter.

Here is my para by para rebuttal to his TOI blog:

Para 1 is about Rahul Gandhi’s age. How he has achieved nothing at 50 compared to other world leaders. At the outset, what is “achievement” itself is not clear, though I presume it is the ability to secure electoral wins that is seen as the mark of success in which Rahul Gandhi has been failing ever since he joined politics according to his critiques like Dhume. In this para, I have nothing to argue since age is not an argument. I think it is just opening statement.  

Para 2: is also about age, and how by now everybody has lost hope and one has to be foolish or brave or both to still think that he can be a Prime Minister. I am one of those brave or foolish person, though I personally believe RG doesn’t want to be the PM, even if Congress wins a LS elections in coming years, RG won’t be the PM just as his mother gave it away, he too would do so. One needs to read a few books and some fact finding inside congress camps to come to this conclusion. For books I would recommend, Rajdeep Sardesai and Rashid Kidwai (I have some contacts inside the Cong camp).

Paras 3—6 Dhume writes, “ordinary people seem uninterested in the man and his message.” To support the claim he gives example of how RG’s interactions video with Raghuram Rajan has got mere 200k views on YouTube. This is a correct. It is failure of INC communication team, they should work on it.

Para 7 he finally makes an argument that needs countering. “Why is Rahul busy playing TV anchor when he ought to be out on the streets raising hell against the government?” Dhume asks. My response:

  • There is a lockdown, he can’t be going to street, but still he did meet a small group of migrant labourers impromptu. BJP spread fake news that it was staged but many face checkers confirmed its authenticity.
  • Through his career RG has done all that is understood by the phrase “taking to street” – walked through muddy road, dusty deserts, travelled by trains buses, ate at dhabas, jumped through walls, crossed barb wires, escaped cops, courted arrests, led marches and protests. In one of my recent columns I’ve enlisted at least 10 such street activity by RG with time and place, in case anybody has doubts.  

Did these activities help him in win elections?

Yes and No.Election win or lose is not a simplistic linear cause and effect thing. Some of these above activities were prior 2009 so we can say they helped him win UPA for the second term. But he wasn’t the Congress President then. He failed to win the LS election in 2014. Then also he was not the President. But after 2014, Congress’s best performance, winning 3 Hindi Heartland states and swift coalition formation in Karnataka, was under his leadership as President. The moment he stepped down, Cong started losing the States he won. It is all about perspectives.

Para 8: gives a list of all Modi govt’s failures. After reading it I was like, “Whoa that’s a whole bunch of failure, this Modi chap is pathetic. But wait a minute, why is the blog about RG then? Didn’t you just say he is 50 years old and there is no hope, why you still writing a blog on him?”

Para 9: talks about two types of Cong leaders, those who secretly know RG is a failure but believe without him Cong will fall apart. And another who blame his coterie to be out of touch. The para seems incomplete but I assume what Dhume tried to say is that the 2nd type are those who want a non-Gandhi President but cannot speak up. I have nothing to argue since these are not about RG’s qualities but other people’s approach to party’s decision making.

Para 10-11: is about country needing strong institutions, media and good political parties which recognizes and rewards talent and is in touch with the people. It does not directly refer to Rajasthan politics but I assume it is hinted at the “Sachin Pilot is a victim, his talent not rewarded he should be Rajasthan CM and Congress President” narrative that BJP is peddling.

My response:

I disagree about what Dhume thinks country needs. Good political party with talent, hard work, young age these are usual stuff, no brainers. Every party, organisation, corporate need them. But what does India need? Today India needs an opposition led by someone with an ideological conviction, rock solid courage and integrity to fight not just Modi’s towering personality and mass appeal or Amit Shah’s election machinery, money and muscle power but also RSS. As there was a need to fight Muslim Brotherhood. And guess what, only RG had the courage to equate RSS to MB, he called out Savarkar not as Veer but Coward, alleged RSS to be responsible for Gandhi’s killing. No other political leader has ever attacked RSS the way Rahul has.

Anybody who’d carefully study the last 6 years of Indian politics would notice that Modi has been primarily fulfilling various RSS projects nurtured for over 90 years. From the time RSS refused to fight the British they have considered Muslims and Christians to be the original enemy and have worked towards the Hindu Rashtra project. Today, colonialists have been replaced by capitalists and a few other original enemies have emerged – Anti-nationals, urban naxals, Lutyens, Khan market gang, tukde tukde gang and so on. Today’s ruler are not fighting the capitalism or poverty or inequality and busy fighting these enemies. Amidst this, the nation needs a leader who would can never compromise, never collude with RSS-BJP on any issue.

The nation needs a leader who’d not be scared to come up with pro-poor social legislations which are frowned upon by the middle class and capitalists. A leader who has the courage to think of Minimum Income Guarantee even though he knows the country would ask where would the money come from? The same country that doesn’t ask where is the money for the Sardar statue or Ram Temple coming from. Nation needs a leader who doesn’t pretend to know all, who would not try to run the nation from one room but will talk to all stake holders, subject matter experts and take collective actions.

But what is the point, can he win elections? This seems to be the only argument behind everybody who writes Rahul Gandhi off.

Rahul Gandhi is the leader India needs. But he alone cannot win elections. For that he needs a strong team, better communications, funds, fearless unbiased media which can question authority and he himself have to be able to manage it all 24x7x365. He cannot achieve electoral wins by being on and off politician. Even to a known RG supporter like me, he still comes across as a reluctant politician who zones in and out of the Indian political scene.

To everybody’s surprise for the last 3 months he has been on top of everything and pushed Modi govt on several issues by repeatedly hammering his point again and again. He has gone from once a week Tweets to thrice a day. From Tweets to blogs to videos. Lockdown is an excuse to not be on the street. Will that change once we come out of lockdown? I cannot tell. I hope it does. Hope he takes the nation wide yatra many of us have recommended and hope his focus remains on the political fight.

However, even in absence of any of the other mechanisms required by RG to secure electoral win, I would still say that he is the only leader capable of posing any kind of opposition to Modi. Today India has no other political leader capable of directly challenging Modi but the Gandhi siblings and few other old Congress leaders who have all been written off. Yet, even with 40-50 MLAs in the Parliament, and with a few Tweets here and there, Rahul Gandhi has been able to corner the government on many issues. Land acquisition bill amendment was stalled after RG led a protest. On GST he demanded 18% slab, which Modi govt more or less agreed later, he cornered Modi with Suit Book Sarkar, Chowkidar Chor Hai. With every attack Modi changed his course. Modi couldn’t ignore the Chowkidar Chor Hai slogan, so he adopted is and made it Main Bhi Chowkidar. That’s the nature of any fight. Then there was the Rafale issue, Judge Loya’s death, Modi’s failure in handling China incursion, jhoola diplomacy, and so on. I can go on with endless issues where RG has put Modi on the backfoot. Here is a brief list.

Also read: 20 issues Rahul Gandhi is focused on this campaign season

Rahul attacked Modi, but Modi won. That’s ok. That is the nature of any fight. My fear is, if RG is gone, there will be no one left to fight.

Rahul Gandhi did not win the right elections to be a Prime Minister. But that does not mean he is a failure because he will not stop fighting. No matter how much the BJP ridicules him for merely being born in a certain family. He can fight, one day he may win, if not he can continue the fight, but he can never lose. Fighting is not losing. Giving up is losing.

Without RG at the helm of Congress party, both BJP and Congress will be controlled from Nagpur and elections and parliamentary democracy will be reduced to tokenism. That is RSS’s ultimate dream.

So I would wait for another 10 years before Rahul Gandhi can be politically savvy enough to win elections but I would still want him to lead Congress as the opposition’s moral compass.