Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Prime Minister Gandhi?

There is no doubt that anytime from now a new a Congress or Congress led government is formed, Rahul Gandhi will become India’s Prime Minister. It is inevitable some say.

Well it may be inevitable but is it desirable? More specifically, do good intentions translate into good governance?

Let’s examine.

Good intentions are necessary for good governance. But they are not enough by themselves. They have to be supplemented by foresight and effective man management followed by proper and prompt enforcement of the original ideas. As far as Rahul Gandhi is concerned, he may or may not have these qualities. We do not know – yet.

Rahul Gandhi is the dream candidate for the middle class. Educated, English savvy and handsome, he is just the man they would want to see representing India at the high table. But none of this means he will make a good PM. What it does mean is that India will have a...well... Educated, English savvy and handsome PM. That’s it.

One thing that does not work in Rahul Gandhi’s favour is that he has no experience of being in the government (although this does not automatically imply he does not know how governments are run.) He has been consistently (and cleverly?) avoiding any responsibility at the centre, opting instead to work for the party to strengthen its base at the ground level. This has been a move that has paid rich dividends. Not only has he managed to avoid taking any wrong action (how can he when he is not in the govt) thus keeping his credentials for a future PM post intact, but he has also reinvigorated the party workers.

In addition to all this, he has emerged, through what the opposition calls ‘Poverty Tourism’, as a messiah of the poor, thus earning himself the title of ‘Rahul Baba’ among the Dalits – a move that has definitely angered Mayawati. To his credit, he has resurrected his party in UP, and has matured as a statesman.

One can remember the time he made the ill-advised comment stating “that the 1971 break up of Pakistan was among his family's ‘achievements.’” Not only did this invite criticism from several Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi parties (noted historian Irfan Habib remarked that the comments were "..an insult to the Bangladesh movement.") but this gravely undermined India’s moral authority. Such comments are less forthcoming from Rahul Gandhi these days.

Another problem that arises, hypothetically, is how the likes of P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Kamal Nath, Pranab Mukherjee, etc who are so senior to him, will work under him? Or to see it this way: If you are Rahul Gandhi and you see that P. Chindambaram is not doing a proper job as Home Minister, how do you fire him?

But no one can write off Rahul Gandhi. Why? Because the last time someone wrote off a person for not having PM credentials, the person went on to create history. The person in question went on to become only the second prime minister after Nehru to get reinstated after completing a full term in office. He is perhaps the best example of a person who has turned out to be a successful Prime Minister despite no obvious previous record of effective leadership.

Ultimately how good a Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi turns out will largely depend on how he addresses four major challenges for India in the coming decade. On the external front, he will have to deal with an imploding Pakistan and an increasingly aggressive China. Andt at home he will have the enormous task of facing the Naxal challenge and of creating Inclusive growth as India prospers. While the first two issues may not be interlinked, the latter two definitely are. And the sooner he realizes this, the greater his chances become of being a successful Prime Minister.

An interesting fact is that if Rahul Gandhi’s surname was not Gandhi, he would not even be considered for the PM’s post with the current skillset that he has.

Another interesting fact is that no one from the Gandhi family has turned out to be a poor Prime Minister be it Indira, Rajiv or even Pandit Nehru.

So will Rahul Gandhi be any different? Quite frankly, I do not know. Only time will tell. Watch out for this space in 2019!


  1. Although you say you do not know how good a PM Rahul Gandhi would turn out to be, you sound a little cynical. I, too, am unsure of Rahul Gandhi's 'Prime Ministerial potential'. The fact is that we haven't seen much of him. You've also talked about Mr. Gandhi "consistently and cleverly avoiding responsibility at the center". I think that's a little too harsh. What exactly do we mean by 'responsibility at the center'? Heading a department, maybe (I am not talking about it in a derogatory manner)? I conceive it as mere paper work, or something similar to that. Not that it's not important to do these things. What I'm trying to say is that there is a difference between 'showing' responsibility and being actually responsible. What Mr. Gandhi is doing in his 'Poverty Tours' is....well....in a way, very responsible (I don't see you praising him on this anywhere in your article. But maybe that's because you wanted a neutral analysis). That's not how a person 'avoids' responsibility. It is, if you look at it from a certain perspective, a good and important preparation of what he plans to do in the future. I would say that it's a prerequisite (and a very important one) for anyone who thinks of becoming a PM. It's like studying calculus before studying advanced physics. Besides, it would only help him to get established among the masses (read voters) - a good political move - and at the same time get some real 'experience'. In today's cynical world, we expect everyone to doubt his motives........and abilities . It's all natural. The original Mr. (Mahatma) Gandhi also did something very similar. No one doubted him then.
    Keep writing.

  2. Awesome post.......I sincerely appreciate the work you have put in and the seriousness you are showing in your blog.Great job.I enjoy reading your posts so keep going.

    Pradan .:)