Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi appears to be a transformed leader after his 56-day sabbatical. Not only has he surprised his critics, but also his admirers by his newfound aggression with which he has been targeting the NDA government at the Centre in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular. His "suit boot ki sarkar" barb has become a talking point in political circles and the manner in which he has been challenging Modi to meet farmers all over the country to understand their problems gives ample indication that he has come back well prepared to stay put at the political crease for the next few years until the 2019 Parliamentary polls.
It is also obvious that Rahul is now being coached by an experienced set of advisers and not those who themselves need to be advised on many matters. His political idiom looks more realistic and his actions on the ground reflect that he was willing to make a fresh start in order to resurrect his own image as well as that of his party. It is a do or die moment for him and the Congress, and its vice president is, this time around, responding with renewed energy and vigour in order to connect to the common people. The farmers' issue has come handy as a vast majority in this country have rural roots or are well acquainted with the problems the farmers face and the raw deal they get at the hands of the government and middlemen.
The farmers' issue is such that it has resonance even in BJP dominated areas and leaders belonging to the saffron brigade may not openly talk about their discomfort with the government's stand, but they know that any attempt to not keep the farmers' interests in mind shall boomerang on the party in future elections. Therefore, it is an issue which touches us all. While there has been a frivolous spate of jokes concerning Rahul Gandhi and the kisans doing the rounds in the social media, the fact of the matter is that the farmers' issue is no laughing matter. Successive governments including those of the Congress have failed to address it and the time has come that it has to be taken care of collectively.
Poet Iqbal, during his progressive phase, had come out with a heart moving poem dedicated to the farmers. He had said, "Jis khet se dahkan ko myassar na ho rozi, us khet ke har khoshai gandum to jalado, utho meri duniya ke garibo ko jagado (If there is a ploughed land which cannot feed those who have ploughed it, burn every inch of that crop and help in waking up the poor of my world)." The poem was written in the last century and has an ideological line to it, but it conveys the message loud and clear.
It is evident that Rahul has somehow discovered that once he champions the cause of the farmers, it shall help him connect with the masses in this country. He is conscious that the general perception about the BJP is that it has been a party of traders and shopkeepers, which graduated during the Vajpayee-Advani era to be an outfit which started getting patronage from industrialists as well. The party had a kisan wing, which was very marginal and by and large had nothing much to do with rural India, being primarily a party confined to urban areas. Though Narendra Modi was successful in breaking many barriers for the BJP in the course of his determined campaign in 2014, the party has not been able to deliver much on its promises so far.
There is certainly time for Modi to make amends, but the expectations from him have been so huge that the BJP wave seems to be on the decline unless the Prime Minister, who continues to be the tallest leader in the country at present, pulls out a rabbit out of the hat and changes the political theorem which is emerging. The BJP is going to face the stiffest test of its economic policies during the elections to Bihar Assembly later this year. The Bihar polls shall also be an acid test for Modi. For if he wins, he shall be back right on top, but if he loses, the BJP shall be a party that shall have a lot to worry about.
The Congress has reached its worst figure so far so Rahul has nothing further to lose. His strategy at the moment seems to be the one to weaken the BJP all over the country even if it means to allow regional parties to become stronger. The target for the Congress is 2019 and not the elections that are going to take place in the near future. It is a long haul and Rahul has to realise that without consistency and grit, he shall not be able to overcome the challenges. Between us.