Cabinet rejig

A missed opportunity for Rahul Gandhi



  Did the UPA Cabinet reshuffle or more aptly the rejig- 2012 really had the Rahul Gandhi imprint? If the hype and hoopla created by the Gandhi family loyalists and a strong section of the media, in the run up to the much awaited exercise, indicating at a bigger role for the Gandhi family scion is any yardstick, it is nothing but a damp squib.
       Well the most vital link in the much touted younger profile which Dr Manmohan Singh’s cabinet was supposed to acquire, was mysteriously amiss. It is nothing but Gandhi junior himself. The will he or won’t he dilemma continues to haunt not only the Congress and its UPA allies but the nation at large also. If it is to be construed as the last cabinet reshuffle before the 2014 General Elections or a snap poll if it happens, it was more prudent for Mr Gandhi to have taken a direct plunge and lead the young brigade on course to the electoral battle.
      If the Congress insiders are to be believed there is still a window of an opportunity for him to play the lead role at least in the organisational set up by becoming the number two to Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Working president or secretary general, these are the two options being considered for him. It will be the first of its kind if he is made a working president under a regular head of the party. In case he becomes the secretary general, it will be sort of repeat of history in the annals of Congress as in an earlier case the then Congress president and his grandmother had rehabilitated a sulking Mr Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna by creating this post.
     This apart, the most vital link that went missing in the entire reshuffle exercise was his much awaited introduction to the governmental set up. After all, the Prime Minister in-waiting, as his party often describes him, was required to have some administrative experience under the tutelage of Prime Minister Dr Singh and other senior leaders and ministers of the party. At least the sizable section in the country thought so and hoped that Mr Gandhi will take the first step in that direction and gain some experience before being considered for the Prime Ministerial slot.
      If he himself or his party considers him to be the future Prime Minister, it was the right time for him to have bitten the bullet. With her mother at the helm of the party affairs, his elevation in the party hierarchy could have waited for another day. But given the fragile nature of the coalition politics with elections knocking at the doors and ever tumbling graph of the Congress, it was in the fitness of things for him to have seized this opportunity.
      This could have been the real chance for him to have initiated work in compiling the young team or more aptly the team 2014. There are no illusions about the influence he wields even while sitting outside the government but it would have been a different story altogether to be part of the set up and gainfully contribute in running the national and international affairs. The most importantly, he would have gained valuable first-hand experience in governance.
       Leaving aside Mr Gandhi’s induction into the cabinet, the rejig exercise was absolutely bereft of his stamp if viewed in the context of initiation of the younger leadership into the upper echelons of the UPA’s power structure. Coming before the 2014 elections, as it could be the last such exercise before polls, the occasion should have been used by the Congress managers particularly Mr Gandhi himself to have drafted more and more younger faces, of course ensuring a critical balance between experience and youth. This would have not only checkmated his detractors but helped him deliver a strong message that he was the man for the future and that he would not shy away from accepting any challenge.
        Mr Gandhi should also have realized that the time of back-seat-driving for him is over. No matter whatever bigger decisions the government takes on his behalf or under his pressure, it is certainly not going to accrue any political benefit either to him or the Congress as the course of action is too obvious. This was an opportunity for him to have led his team of young hopefuls from the front.
         Even if the reports that Mr Gandhi is preparing himself to sit in the opposition if the election results turn against the Congress have any credence, he must bear in mind that presently his party heads the ruling coalition. Considering such an option, if true, at this juncture will amount to admitting the failure of his own government. The better option for him would have been to get actively involved in governance and be judged by the people at the hustings on the basis of the government’s performance.
          His own entry into the Union Cabinet with key ministries under the belt of his younger colleagues would have delivered a strong political message to the Congress’ political rivals. In fact, the Congress, in such an event, could have secured an advantageous position and dealt a psychological blow to them in terms of quest for future leadership. In that case, the Congress would be better placed to gel with the majority younger generation of voters who in the years to come will decided the political destiny of the country. 
       So far as giving a younger look to the Manmohan Singh Government is concerned, it has fallen much below the expectations of the political observers and of course the common man. A few known faces, recognized more by their page-3 credentials than any administrative skills, have either been promoted or found their way into the ministry. Good they have been promoted as some of them do have sparks of promise to do better if given the chance, but the exercise could have been more elaborate.
      There are certain bright spots so far as the promotion and induction of younger leaders is considered. A laudable move has been the elevation of Mr Ajay Maken to become the youngest Cabinet Minister in recognition of his work in the hitherto non-descript Sports and Youth Affairs Minister.
       Certainly, the focus will now shift to the much awaited organizational changes in which Mr Gandhi is expected to be given a pivotal role. It is immaterial from public point of view whether he is made the working president or the secretary general. As it is, he wields considerable influence by dint of being considered the natural heir apparent to his mother.
      For an average Congressperson or a common man, he is still the king-maker. His promotion from AICC General Secretary to any other glorified post will neither alter this perception nor in anyway shake his political detractors. In fact, such a move will only vindicate the public perception.
       On the contrary, induction into the Union Cabinet with a key portfolio would certainly have acted as a mood changer. Though a Cabinet berth comes with some strings of responsibility and public accountability attached to it, Mr Gandhi would have done better by making himself directly accountable to the people through accepting a Constitutional responsibility rather than being judged through back-seat driving.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 4 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 4 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 5 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST

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