There are any number of problems to be solved, any number of new initiatives to be taken. On balance, it is a job for a young team led by a 41-year-old and not for a bunch of septuagenarians
Yes, the Congress should make Rahul Gandhi the prime minister as soon as possible. I am not Digvijay Singh writing under a false name; I am a concerned citizen applying his mind to a question that every Indian should be asking himself.
We have to accept it: Rahul Gandhi will become prime minister, now, or in the next few years. Why not now?
Some senior party members shushed Digvijay into temporary silence, but the whole of the Congress Party, from Pranab Mukherjee to the woman who sweeps the floor in the Akbar Road headquarters, wants Rahul Gandhi to occupy the seat in the South Block office of the prime minister.
He has the pedigree and his mother and his family desperately want the dynasty to rule again. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi--with this ancestry, any man deserves a chance to rule, whether he makes a beggar's breakfast of the job or not.
He is young and has the physical and mental energy needed to be a dynamic prime minister who will solve India's most pressing problems and take initiatives that will make life easier for all of us, industrialist or upper division clerk.
Take the economic problems; inflation, for instance. Till now, the government has been sticking to stale, decades-old solutions touted by the Reserve Bank of raising the repo and reverse repo rates "n" times in "n-1" weeks. Rahul could do something imaginative to sharply increase supply, like his grandmother did.
In 1974, inflation was running at 36% per annum. In one unbelievable nationwide swoop, she arrested tens of thousands of smugglers and within weeks prices started dipping. (That the swoop on smugglers provided the grand rehearsal for the overnight arrest of thousands of opposition party members in 1975 is neither here nor there.)
Take infrastructure. The ports are clogged and imports and exports are moving at a trickle. Rahul could do for the ports what AtalBehari Vajpayee did for the national highways. The Golden Qaudrilateral and its offshoots are a pleasure on which to drive, trucks move much faster, diesel is saved and goods reach consuming centres much more quickly.
The stock markets, mutual funds, financial institution, SEBI and even the RBI need a bit of a shake-up. There are a large number of suggestions and plans from any numbers of experts--not least of them the founder-editors of Moneylife. Rahul could look at all of them and bring in reforms that will make our financial system stronger than ever.
Rahul has been spending a lot of time among the poor in Uttar Pradesh. He talks to them, eats with them and sleeps in Dalit houses when on tour. If this experience has not taught him many lessons about making life better for the poor, nothing will.
So, there are any number of problems to be solved, any number of new initiatives to be taken. On balance, it is a job for a young team led by a 41-year-old and not for a bunch of septuagenarians.
This UPA government has another two-odd years before it faces the electorate. What better time to apprentice a young, fourth-generation scion?
The bigger question is: Will Rahul Gandhi be a success as prime minister, or will he bury the Congress so deep that the party will not be able to lift its head for decades?
Since he is the fourth in the dynasty, it all depends on what he has inherited from his father, grand-mother and great-grandfather. Jawaharlal was great, Indira was brilliant, but flawed (she was the fount of corruption in India) and Rajiv was dumb and flawed. So, which one does Rahul take after?
It all comes down to genetic dice, doesn't it? You or me, or Sonia, or Rahul can roll the dice. If the number that comes up is 10, he will be like Jawaharlal; if the number is six, he will be like Indira; if the number is two, he will be like Rajiv. Whatever the number, we the people have to accept the roll of the dice, the result of the gamble.
If Rahul fails, there's always Priyanka.
Let me leave you with a Tamil proverb which translates as: "Whether the king rules or the beggar, the people's lot will not change". Best of luck, India.
(R Vijayraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at [email protected].)