The Abhimanyu Who Bested The Chakravyuha

Will Rahul Gandhi Rise To Full Glory From Ashes?

The reality is that Modi and Shah, striving for a Congress-Mukt Bharat, attempted to eliminate Rahul’s political career through multifarious efforts, bending laws and ethics, and misusing government machinery. Rahul got entangled in their Chakravyuha but fought courageously and emerged unscathed both times. Now, he has put the dream of a Congress-Mukt Bharat on hold, albeit the battle is far from over.

On June 26, 2024, Rahul Gandhi was elected as the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. After the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha Elections there was no Leader of Opposition, as the Congress party, the largest opposition party, secured only 44 and 52 seats respectively, which was less than 10% of the total seats, and hence was not eligible to elect the Leader of Opposition. However, in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress party secured 99 seats. As a result, after a decade, the Lok Sabha now has a Leader of the Opposition with cabinet rank, and Rahul Gandhi will enjoy the prestige and privileges associated with it.

Rahul Gandhi’s political journey spans over two decades from 2004 to 2024. During the first decade post-2004, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in power. In the following decade, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in power. During Manmohan Singh’s tenure, the Congress had 146 and 209 seats, making the government perfunctorily reliant on coalition partners. In contrast, during Modi’s tenure, the BJP had 282 and 303 seats, so the Modi-Sarkar was not dependent on allies. During Manmohan Singh's tenure, Rahul remained merely a Member of Parliament. He could have easily been included in the cabinet, but he declined ministerial position. Toward the end of Manmohan Singh’s second term, there were not so subtle hints about Rahul to be made Prime Minister, but the senior UPA partners would never have agreed, due to his perceived inexperience.

By the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul had had a decade of parliamentary experience under his belt, and was in his early forties. Although he was not projected as the prime ministerial candidate, he was made the party’s vice-president a year before the election. With Sonia Gandhi as the party president, Rahul could act as the de facto president, and it was clear he would soon officially take on the role. However, the 2014 elections resulted in a disastrous defeat for the Congress, with an unprecedented low number of seats. Rahul became the party president two and a half years later. During the next two and a half years, the Congress won assembly elections in three major states (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh) and gave a tough fight to Modi and Shah in the Gujarat assembly elections. In spite of this, the Congress faced another humiliating defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, prompting Rahul to resign as party president. There was much ado over whether his resignation would be accepted or if he would remain in position. Eventually, Sonia Gandhi was appointed as interim party president, and remained in office for three and a half years. She was not actively involved in politics due to health issues, effectively making Rahul the de facto president of Congress. However, there was criticism that Rahul was not serious about politics, that he avoided responsibilities, and lacked consistency. This resulted in a demoralized party, electoral failures in various states, and many senior leaders leaving the party. The chaotic inertia in the Congress was evident.

Amidst this turmoil, 23 senior leaders known as the G-23 wrote to interim party president Sonia Gandhi, expressing dissatisfaction primarily with Rahul and demanding a full-time president to revitalize the party. The group included leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Manish Tewari, V. J. Kurian, Raj Babbar, Rajender Kaur Bhattal, Prithviraj Chavhan, Milind Devra, Mukul Wasnik, Arvinder Singh Lovely, Renuka Choudhari, Veerappa Moili, Kapil Sibbal, Vivek Tankha, Jitin Prasad, Kuldeep, Yoganand Shastri, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Kaul Singh Thakur, Ajay Arjun Singh, Sandeep Dixit and Shashi Tharoor. Only five of them left the party later, with only two joining the BJP. Rahul's dismissive labeling of them as BJP agents highlighted his immaturity.

BJP's Modi-Shah duo, aiming for Congress-Mukt Bharat, created a Chakravyuha to further weaken the Congress and Rahul. In June 2022, Rahul was repeatedly summoned for interrogation by the Enforcement Directorate in the National Herald case, facing hours-long questioning each time. This was preceded by similar interrogations of Robert Vadra and anticipated questioning of Sonia Gandhi. Congress made some protests but there was no were weak. The Modi government influenced public conscience, almost succeeded in preparing to imprison him. It was clear that no institution could protect him, not the Congress party, the media, or the judiciary. Rahul faced a choice: abandon the Congress and surrender to Modi-Shah for self-preservation or 'go to the people and fight with the people'. He chose the latter, launching the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Initially regarded with part ridicule and part indifference, the Yatra eventually garnered support and success, lasting five months from September 2022 and covering Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Despite government obstacles, Rahul emerged transformed, more confident, and perceptive, courageously exposing the Modi-Adani nexus in speeches. During the Yatra, an election for the Congress president was held, and Kharge, Rahul’s preferred candidate, was elected. The party saw some rejuvenation at his hands.
Recognizing their own mistake in underestimating the Yatra's success, the Modi government initiated another Chakravyuha, reviving an old and weak case to sentence Rahul to two years in prison through the Surat district court, resulting in his disqualification from the Lok Sabha and literal eviction from his official residence within 24 hours. The whole nation watched it. However, instead of being demoralized, Rahul fought with renewed vigor, completed a second Bharat Jodo Yatra. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court overturned the Surat Court’s sentence, reinstating Rahul’s Lok Sabha membership. During his first Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul did not take active part in any local or state politics, as a result, Congress lost with huge margins in State Assembly Elections in 5 states. Second Time around, Rahul contested in the Lok Sabha elections following the Yatra, leading to a significant increase in seats, almost double the numbers from last 2 times, for the Congress, and now he is the Leader of the Opposition.

What poetic justice! The same Rahul who was disqualified from the Lok Sabha in March 2023 through conspiracies is now the Leader of the Opposition in the same house a little over a year later. The same Rahul who was evicted from his official residence is now granted a cabinet-rank bungalow. The CBI and ED hounded him for years, but he will now be a member of the 3-member committee that oversees the appointments of the chieftains of the ED and the CBI. The government, which once tried to prevent him from traveling abroad, will now facilitate his meetings with foreign dignitaries. Those who derisively called him “Pappu” and “Shehzada” will now address him as “Honorable Leader of the Opposition” in the Lok Sabha. So on, and so forth…

Did Modi-Shah, by tightening the noose around Rahul in June 2022, inadvertently strengthen him, making him more popular and leading him to become the Leader of the Opposition? If so, should Rahul thank them?

The reality is that Modi and Shah, striving for a Congress-Mukt Bharat, attempted to eliminate Rahul’s political career through multifarious efforts, bending laws and ethics, and misusing government machinery. Rahul got entangled in their Chakravyuha but fought courageously and emerged unscathed both times. Now, he has put the dream of a Congress-Mukt Bharat on hold, albeit the battle is far from over. Another Chakravyuha will surely be devised against this Abhimanyu; Will Rahul be able to navigate through it, oust the BJP from central power, and bring Congress back to power?... Remains to be seen.

(Originally published in Marathi as an editorial of Weekly Sadhana : July 6, 2024)

Translated by Rucha Mulay

Read The Original Article In Marathi: चक्रव्यूहातून बाहेर पडलेला अभिमन्यू
Watch this space for the sequel – “Does Rahul Want to Be Gandhi or Prime Minister”?

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हिरा जनार्दन

Very True. He is genuine fighter n will remain so because he is not power hungry. His is the politics for people. Let's hope for better...ɓest.

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