Rahul Gandhi no more the mama’s boy

March 25th, 2008 - 11:01 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Monobina Gupta
New Delhi, March 25 (IANS) For a man who had wrapped himself in silence for years, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is finally moving into high gear. The first time MP has come of age. Both Congress insiders and political analysts increasingly see him as a man working to a plan, ahead of Lok Sabha elections due next year.

The 40-year-old is independently taking an active interest in the affairs of the country’s oldest party. He also meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regularly to seek government intervention on the side of the poor.

And while his supporters deny that he is dreaming of being prime minister one day, it is clear that ‘Prince Charming’ is building up an image of a messiah of the less privileged - traditional Congress voters who have drifted away.

In recent months, Gandhi has plunged headlong into a feverish campaign to give teeth to two voter-friendly policies of the Congress-led government: the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the loan waiver for farmers announced by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

“It shows (Rahul’s) will to work continuously in the interest of the public,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told IANS.

Until last year, Gandhi junior walked under the overwhelming shadow of his mother Sonia Gandhi. Unlike his more popular sister Priyanka, Rahul Gandhi was widely seen to be lacking charisma.

Not any longer. Of late he has been casting off the knots of reticence and wading through the political slush.

Congress leaders say it is unfair to state that Gandhi is doing all this with an eye on the prime minister’s job.

But others admit that it is clear that the mantle will sooner or later fall on the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

Not everyone praises him though. There are those in the party who feel he is more of a computer boy, out of touch with ground realities. It is a view loudly echoed by opposition leaders.

Gandhi does not care. The NREGA, his favourite talking point, guarantees 100 days of employment to one ‘able bodied’ person in every rural family. If implemented properly, the political dividends are obvious.

Nothing can suit the Congress better, especially in these troubled times.

Travelling to the depths of the states, pinpointing the loopholes in the NREGA and taking up problems on a war footing with Manmohan Singh are fetching him maximum publicity - and keeping him eternally busy.

In the process, he is doing what his mother did in the National Advisory Committee (NAC), pushing for poverty alleviation, education and health policies.

Gandhi is more radical than his own party government. He has suggested that there should not be any landholding ceiling or single cut-off date for farmers’ loans to be waived.

He is also pressing the prime pinister not to allow the opposition to take undue electoral advantage from the schemes.

Not so long ago Gandhi was one of the most silent young Turks in the Lok Sabha. Immersed in a world of his own, his voice would rarely be heard.

That quiet spell has been broken.

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