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Posted at: Sep 13, 2017, 12:18 AM; last updated: Sep 13, 2017, 12:18 AM (IST)

A different Rahul

For a change, he plays the Opposition leader
A different Rahul
It is not often that Rahul Gandhi is taken seriously. But on Monday at Berkeley University he played the role expected of him. Credit partly goes to government blunders that seem to have infused a new life in Rahul Gandhi’s otherwise flagging political career. It was not the Congress vice-president as seen before, reading a prepared script with manufactured indignation. He appeared relaxed. Shedding past inhibitions, he said he was ready for the job of Prime Minister, subject to “organisational elections”. With an image persistently smeared through a campaign of calumny run by the “BJP abuse machine”, it has not been easy for Rahul Gandhi and the Congress to do the repair job, reignite passion and reinvent a winning work culture. 

The Modi government has made mistakes, yet the Opposition looked too slow and sleepy to politically exploit them. For instance, the GDP has taken a 2 per cent hit because of demonetisation. This is what Dr Manmohan Singh had predicted. Yet the Congress did not go to town with it. Congress leaders were content with a few routine statements. At Berkeley, Rahul did mention Modi’s “top-down” work style but how is the Congress different? Its “high command culture” has often come in for criticism. Intra-party democracy is not exactly throbbing in the Congress. Rahul’s initial efforts to broaden the Congress base and break the stranglehold on it of a handful of established political families raised hope but were resisted and finally laid to rest.  

Once again it was a surprise at Berkeley to see Rahul candidly accepting that the Congress had become “arrogant” after 2012 and stopped conversing with ordinary people. He also admitted that Modi was a better communicator than him and even praised the PM’s “Swachh Bharat” and “Make in India” initiatives. Then he articulated the ruling party’s failings as never before: revival of the Kashmir problem, creeping violence in society, the killing of independent journalists, ill-effects of demonetisation and lack of jobs — issues befitting an Opposition leader. Berkeley could mark a new beginning both for Rahul and his party provided the Congress scion snaps out of his erratic approach to public and party responsibilities.      

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