The decline of Congress in recent years coincides with the entry of Rahul Gandhi at the center stage of Indian National Congress party. It will be only fair to review the current state of Indian National Congress party with the leadership attributes of Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi has been one of the curious cases of leadership failure in Indian politics. The prince of Gandhi family has now spent almost 20 years in Indian politics but failed to rose to become a people’s leader. In fact, his popularity & acceptance only declined with time. To begin with, He has everything on his side at the time when he steps into leadership role of Congress. Gandhi Surname, party in government at the center & many states, loyalist to advise and help. He had full support of party leaders & workers but in last few years party performance only nosedives southward. Now he remains leader of only few in the party who firmly want him at the center for their personal interest.
In 2004, Rahul Gandhi started his political journey by emphatically winning the traditional family seat of Amethi but finally in 2019 general elections he lost this seat to BJP’s Smriti Irani. The brand Gandhi is slowly but surely started fading in the Indian Politics. The senior leadership group wants to stick Gandhi brand as they believe it will help the party to remain united but unfortunately it has gone the other way around.
What went wrong with Rahul Gandhi? He belongs to a family where politics & leadership runs from generations. To start with unlike, Indira Gandhi & Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi was protected & never groomed to be leader during his childhood. I think that was the biggest mistake done by the Gandhi family.
So where did Rahul Gandhi lack on leadership skills-
Hide & Seek (Inconsistent Campaigns)– – Rahul Gandhi leadership style never took a consistent approach in politics. He should have taken some lessons from Smriti Irani who defeated him in 2019 elections. It was her persistent & consistent effort that she can defeat Rahul Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi left many campaigns midway. During one of the campaigns Deoria to Delhi- The campaign took off very well at early stages but not sure what stuck to him, he dumped the campaign midway. Leaders improvise campaigns if it’s not yielding results but complete withdrawal without any communication never go well with workers & followers. It sends confusing messages & gives signal to the workers that leader is not serious about goals.
Lack of Communication with Party Workers– -The landscape of Indian politics has changed in last decade. Leaders directly interact with party workers & voters. If we look at PM Narendra Modi & CM Yogi Adityanath campaigns, we realize that they are in everyday touch with their voters & party workers. But Rahul Gandhi choose to appoint managers for speaking to the workers who have no authority to take decisions or to support the cause of the people. Unfortunately, many of them are not people’s leader. He chooses to take feedback & learn from his Managers who often provided him the information which are often suits their interest.
Lack of Willingness to fight— One of key elements is missing in Rahul Gandhi style of leadership that he is not ready to learn & also not willing to fight. Parliament is the Mecca of Politics where debates took place to pass on the bill. Rahul Gandhi hardly participate in debates in the parliament & asked minimal questions. Whatever you do in Media, as a politician you can’t afford to ignore the parliament. He should have used the parliament as a platform to launch himself as leader of Opposition.
Reluctant— People never wants to have a leader who is reluctant to take responsibility. There is huge chorus in Congress for Rahul Gandhi to back as President & lead the party, but Rahul Gandhi is reluctant to lead the party. Reasons best known to him, but the leaders must lead from the front & not shy away from taking responsibility. Just when the budget session was about to start in 2015, he decided to go on leave to un-disclosed location missing entirely the budget session. As a leader of Congress, opposition parties were expecting him to lead the opposition during budget session.
Unable to read the public mood–One of the things which makes a leader successful is their ability to read the public moods & opinion. Rahul Gandhi completely failed in this part of skillset. He often went against the public mood & opposition parties have taken full advantage. In last 10 odd years, Indian people thought process has changed a lot, but Rahul Gandhi wants to run & lead the party on the same old thought process. His question mark on surgical strike, article 370 & support for religion-based reservation has not gone down well with the people. Congress party has felt the brunt of his inability to read people minds.
Fail to groom & preserve local leadership — Great leaders have extra ordinary ability to choose the right people & groom the second/third generation of leadership. Rahul Gandhi is often supported mediocrity over merit while choosing his lieutenant. When we closely look at people around him running the show, you can easily observe that only few f them are people leaders. Many of them never won elections. This leads to a message to the ground level workers who are doing all the hardships & winning elections that results are not rewarded in the party. Also, during the tenure of Rahul Gandhi, many talented leaders left the party as Mr. Gandhi never entertained them or try to hear them. Just to name few, Himanta Biswa Sharma, Jagan Reddy, Jyotriditya Schndiha etc. All of them are people leader & can win elections. They all have one common complain that Rahul Gandhi is not accessible. Their departure from the party coincides with the downward performance of the party in those respective states.
Some say leaders are born but it is also true that Leadership skills can be learned over a period but needs a consistent effort & mentoring. Indian National Congress Party must take some decisive decisions to strengthen its positions & to bring back voters in its side. To start with they need to accept that Gandhi scion is not right choice to lead the party against strong opposition.