Reluctance to resilience: Kya Pappu pass ho gaya?


Vikrant Shandilya | Jan 3, 2018 12:02

Video Alert: In a Dialogue @ Nation Next, Maharashtra legislators evaluate Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s performance in Gujarat elections 2017. Has Rahul Gandhi passed or failed in his Gujarat exam? 

Rahul Gandhi, the underdog of the Gujarat assembly polls 2017, had become a serious challenger to hitherto seemingly invincible Prime Minister Narendra Modi, just before the last round of the state’s electoral bout began. 

After the political massacre of Congress by Modi’s cult campaign in 2014 general elections, many political analysts prophesied imminent political oblivion for Rahul Gandhi, underscoring the “Pappu” tag given to him by the BJP. Then came the decimation of Congress by the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in 2017. The defeat didn’t seem to be recuperative for Rahul Gandhi, who had taken upon himself the mammoth task of resurrecting his party in UP. Subsequently, while a few Congress leaders made their disapproval of Rahul Gandhi’s leadership public, quite a few closeted critics were being vocal about this “reluctant” politician’s incapacities and inefficiencies in off the record briefings to us.

Then, as it’s intrinsic to politics, one election changed it all! The disapprovers became loyalists and the closeted critics assumed the position of Rahul’s staunch supporters after Gujarat assembly polls.

Instead of Rahul, the “Pappu” tag went into the oblivion. The election results did what The Election Commission couldn’t do – absolving Rahul of the “Pappu” tag in public domain – despite having barred the BJP from using the tag during the election campaign in Gujarat.

Rahul Gandhi’s performance in Gujarat elections resurrected him as Modi’s  main contender for 2019, after he made it to a close finish by bagging 80 seats against BJP’s 99 in the Gujarat assembly of total 182 seats. Rahul clearly spoiled BJP’s victory party. BJP not only missed the 150 seats target, which was heavily propagated by its president Amit Shah, the party also couldn’t retain its 2012 tally of 117 seats in the sate. Rahul, on the other hand, got the best results for Congress in last 35 years by not only increasing the party’s tally in Gujarat, but also enhancing the party’s vote share in the state.

The cliffhanger climax of high-octane Gujarat elections results, besides swelling the TRPs of news channels, gave brand Rahul Gandhi an image makeover: A reluctant politician became a resilient leader! But. Romanticisation apart, the fact is Rahul lost and Modi won. And about the close finish, political pundits also put the curser on 22 years of BJP’s incumbency in Gujarat and ganging up of Congress with trilogy of Patel leader Hardik Patel, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani.

As Maharashtra readies itself for the general and the state elections in 2019, Nation Next embarks upon its series of curtain raisers to 2019. In a ‘Dialogue @ NATION NEXT with Maharashtra Legislators’ at the recently concluded winter session of the state legislature, Nation Next’s Assistant Editor Radhika Dhawad spoke to the senior leaders of the leading parties of Maharashtra on whether “Pappu” passed his Gujarat exams? Or is it too soon to party for Congress? Two diverse opinions sum up the debate: On Modi’s victory, while a BJP loyalist, said, “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar,” a Congress supporter complimented Rahul Gandhi by calling him “Baazigar!” Kyonki Haar Ke Jitne Wale Ko Baazigar Kehte Hain!

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