<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shortly after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a three-time chief minister of a Congress state told me that the Gandhis have become a liability for the Congress. What sounded shocking to me then seems like a cold reality today. Post 2012, every election where Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi campaigned intensively has been lost by the party. Congress has only been able to retain or regain those states where state leadership has been strong. This development has been co-terminus with the rise of Modi’s brand of politics and Rahul’s elevation in the Congress Party. The rise of BJP also became the rise of Narendra Modi, which not only electorally marginalised the Congress but also damaged the Gandhi brand. His campaign model ran down Gandhi, hence its capacity to attract and electrify the voters.This happened when Narendra Modi had more political baggage than young Gandhi. Despite the disadvantage he faced, Modi managed to turn it around. He did this through opportunities inadvertently handed down to him by the Opposition and by projecting himself as an outsider to the corrupt world of Delhi Durbar. In the process, Rahul Gandhi was successfully projected as a lazy leader who was a product of power and pelf in front of an aspirational India, which to date, he has not been able to shake off.Rahul Gandhi not only squandered away the opportunity to understand the humbling process of government work but also proved organizationally inept. Not only did his Youth Congress programme come under tremendous criticism but his transition forced by his mother Sonia created deep fissures in the party. Married to the defeat of 2014 and 2017, one can safely say that Rahul Gandhi today is turning into a liability for the Congress as he fails to draw the voters out on his own account. The truth is that the dynasty is in decline. The truth is that majority of Indians aren’t taking Rahul Gandhi seriously. It is failing to connect to a new India on its own accord. It is a difficult truth but stares Congress in its face and it should worry everyone in the Congress a lot.The sum and total of 5 polls is that Narendra Modi today stands as the only pan Indian leader who possesses the ability to move and mobolise multiple social constituencies. Even if concession is given to Rahul Gandhi that Congress wrested couple of states, its overall vote share continues to decline and victories never gave him the legitimacy of a mass leader as people gave credit to the state leaders. This time the family bastion in UP was again swept away despite the alliance whereas all seats in Varanasi went into BJP’s pocket indicating that even the home turf of the Gandhis is in tatters.To top it up is the issue of perception that no leader comes close to Modi. This image has been buffeted further by the economically contested demonetization which he used to the party’s political advantage in Uttar Pradesh. This not only enhanced his stature, but also made all adversaries look small, limited and regional in nature.The UP results also made Rahul Gandhi fall into the trap of sectional politics. In the 2012 elections, he spoke about the issue of backward Muslims which failed miserably. This time also the same mistake was repeated but in a different avatar.Despite appealing to the developmental issues, the dog whisper campaign of SP-Congress was that the Muslim-Yadav combined with the Congress upper caste vote would do well. This was politically countered by a majority discrimination campaign by BJP which was spearheaded by the Prime Minister himself. Not only did it derail the alliance, but it also created a united Hindu vote which should worry Congress a lot.Bluntly putting it, PM Modi has become the biggest Hindu mascot who makes his intention of not running after the minority votes very clear to the electorate. To say that the post-Godhra baggage of the PM has been forgotten by India as he speaks more on development would be to fool oneself. Modi represents a skillful combination of Hindutva and right-of-centre economy of the world. So, to say that UP results showcases booth management skills or caste management would be to fool oneself. The vote represents a majority vote against a minority veto which has resurfaced in a much more powerful manner after the 1990s. This is the reason why not a single Muslim candidate was fielded by BJP in UP and similarly in Assam where the Muslim population touches 30 percent of the total votes. This is not limited to India. Throughout the world, a churn exists where the majority not only asserts itself but also wears it cultural and religious symbols dynamically in the political field.It is in this contrast that Rahul Gandhi comes across as a perpetually struggling leader who has neither defined his idea nor politics. It is this reality that Rahul Gandhi needs to deal with. It will not resolve itself by visiting temples or talking about Saivism in public because it doesn’t look organic.Congress under Rahul Gandhi can either continue to fight the BJP to preserve its past and the family or can call for internal elections to embrace fresh leadership. Who knows, a tough fight to take over the party might reinvent Rahul Gandhi himself. It did wonders to Sonia Gandhi when she was challenged by Jitendra Prasad. It gave her the legitimacy in front of workers and from there she went on to challenge the BJP. She challenged them state by state and in the process rebuilt a broken party. Congress will have to walk the same road again, but will have to start the process by addressing the issue of the family first. There is not much of a choice. Fix it or replace it with an outsider.

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Brand Modi reigns while the Gandhi family faces decay