Until recently, party insiders pejoratively and mockingly compared Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to the protagonist of the film Taare Zameen Par – the eight-year-old Ishaan who is depicted as a slow learner and fails every school test.
But increasingly the joke is more on these family retainers who, without any political bases of their own, are sure to lose their perches of power in the months to come. Gandhi, only 43, has many years to make a comeback but it is likely to be curtains for many others. People close to these leaders, bureaucrats and office assistants, joke how it isn’t Taare Zameen Par any longer but Saare Zameen Par soon.
The frustration among these leaders has reached a crescendo. Most now don’t think twice before openly criticising the first family, particularly Rahul. They believe the party is unlikely to cross 80 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha election – its worst performance ever.
Unfortunately, such is the dynastic nature of the Congress party and its durbaris that those who owe their careers to nothing but serving the dynasty are now mocking the scion. The rats are eager to leave the sinking ship.
“When I meet him I feel like offering a Ferrero Rocher and assure him that all will be well,” is what a woman spokesperson says about Gandhi. Another woman functionary says Gandhi bring out the motherhood in her and she feels like giving him a motherly hug. A veteran spokesperson who is a retired academic openly calls Gandhi “slow” and other unprintable expletives.
A chief minister openly claims that he has no access to the Congress vice president. “Why don’t you advise him,” he tells any journalist who asks why the Congress and its scion doesn’t arrest what is now looking like an interminable slide into an electoral abyss.
Many others are convinced it will be their last Lok Sabha election for some years to come. Kapil Sibal is said to be reluctant to contest. Others like P. Chidambaram are unlikely to win.
A minister from a former principality in Uttar Pradesh says he is done with politics. Sure to lose his Lok Sabha seat, the man jokingly tells his journalists close to him that after May 2014 he will let loose a tiger at his palace who would eat up any who would come to him for political work.
The UP Congress party is convinced that it is unlikely that Gandhi would retain his Amethi Lok Sabha seat. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is believed to be leaving no stone unturned, including fielding a weak SP candidate against Gandhi, if the BJP’s Sanjay Singh could defeat him.
In the midst of all this criticism, not all is well within team Rahul. His aide of nearly a decade Kanishka Singh, son of former foreign secretary S.K. Singh, is said to be out of favour. His place having been taken by Alankar Sawai (@alankarsawai) and Kaushal K Vidyarthee (@vidyarthee).