After years of clamour from adoring Congress leaders, Rahul Gandhi is finally poised to take over the reins of India’s oldest political party and shoulder the hopes of its rejuvenation. The 47-year-old was elected unopposed today as there was none to challenge his elevation. His mother Sonia Gandhi, who has led the party for 19 years, was the first to nominate him.
Mr Gandhi’s elevation comes amid a cloud of allegations about “dynastic rule” in the Congress, a party hard-wired to expect generations of Nehru-Gandhis to lead it. On the eve of the nominations, some opposition came from a party leader in Maharashtra. Shehzad Poonawalla alleged that the party’s organisational election was a sham, since Rahul Gandhi enjoys an “unfair advantage” and he should resign his post as the party’s vice president to level the field.
Rahul Gandhi is the great grandson of India’s first Prime Minister, the grandson of its first woman Prime Minister, the son of its youngest Prime Minister and also of the party’s longest-serving chief, Sonia Gandhi. Congressmen expect him to head the party and be India’s Prime Minister one day.
Even so, Mr Gandhi, since his since his political debut in 2004, has been perceived as a reluctant politician. Critics have attributed the Congress’ debacle in the 2014 national election, when it could win only 44 Parliament seats, the least ever, to what they called Mr Gandhi’s lack of leadership skills and he has also been blamed for the party’s loss in state after state election since. His frequent vacations and absence during crucial moments for the party have been highlighted by the BJP, whose members and supporters have also lampooned Mr Gandhi on social media.