A son following in his father’s footsteps can hardly be equated with the prime ministership of the world’s most populous democracy being passed on from one generation to another, and yet another: with a fourth generation creating an impression of being entitled to the high office. In contending this is the way things work in India, Rahul Gandhi has betrayed a very narrow perception of political life. In fact he has confirmed the very shortcomings in the Congress party that he highlighted when speaking at Berkeley.

The “arrogance” and lack of “conversation” (he has been using that term rather frequently of late) would testify to why nobody questions his being the undeclared heir-apparent after his mother, and there being virtually no debate on his terribly poor steering of the party to a series of electoral reverses. The “reluctant politician” image has gained ground by the frequent deferment of his “coronation”, and his going AWOL in times of political crisis. And his claim that the party elects its leaders and he was ready to shoulder any responsibility borders on the jocular ~ though the “election” nonsense applies to most major political entities. T

he healthy line that “ability not pedigree” mattered would be erased by the Congress backing off from looking to fresh leadership ahead of 2019, even while Rahul admits that the earlier game-plan had come apart. So much for the diagnosis, the prognosis is what matters more. Rahul has been party vice-president long enough to attempt to arrest the decline in the Congress’ fortunes but has done little that suggests he is capable of leading a fight-back; indeed there is increasing danger of MLAs etc switching affiliation, politicians go with the winning side.

Others like Jairam Ramesh and P Chidambaram have spoken against a collapsing organisational framework but that has not convinced the Sonia-Rahul duo that drastic measures are needed if the party is to have any kind of impact in the next elections.

Maybe like Indira and Rajiv. they only listen to those who say what they like to hear. To be fair Rahul did try to inject new faces, they flopped and Sonia reverted to loyal spent-bullets. There are some who perceive considerable merit in Rahul being somewhat candid in California, if only he opted to be as forthright at home. The domestic audience is what needs attention, not academics across the oceans.

There is little point in arguing over whether a foreign platform is to be used to articulate domestic differences, that nicety has long been abandoned. Our netas wash their dirty linen everywhere. It is a trifle ironic that the BJP should “field” confirmed Rahul-baiter Smriti Irani to counter the Congress vice-president. Her own qualifications are not wellestablished, yet they sufficed to cut Berkeley’s academia to size.