“I have not come here as a politician. I’ve come here as a brother, as a son, as a friend.” Thus spake Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Wayanad, soon after taking a call that he needed to look beyond Amethi, for whatever reasons. During the thick of campaigning in the sweltering heat of April, the oft heard refrain was whether the Congress president would actually let go of the decades-old Gandhi bastion of Amethi. The flip side, of course, were posers about how comfortable he would feel in a place so far-flung from the centre of all political activity in the country.
Those who had then peddled ‘inside’ information about how RG would give up Amethi for his sister are hard-pressed to come up with viable plans about their leader’s plan to lead the single largest Congress block in the Parliament – the Mallu brigade. But all those intangible quotients get evened out when it comes to explaining how ‘Rahulji’ ran away with a winning margin of over 4.3 lakh votes. The most bullish of leaders who was in the thick of running the campaign from ground zero and had difficulty looking at anything beyond the 2,80,000 – 3,00,000 winning margin is now nonchalant as he gives a knowing wink as if he knew all along it would be nothing less than four lakh votes.
For the next two days, the juggernaut called team RaGa would roll on through the seven Assembly constituencies of Wayanad, covering three districts. In the din of mutual congratulations and back slaps, physical and virtual, the Congress president would get a feel of what could have been, had his party approximated even half of what the Kerala unit could achieve. And as a few pundits have been saying over and again on the social media, RG will be forced to consider what he and his team did right in Kerala. As it would be much more complex and time consuming to try and take a grip on what went wrong in most other parts of India.
More than as rhetoric, it would indeed be the harbinger of the much-needed change in Congress if Rahul could actually ask this question to the gatherings he is scheduled to address over the next couple of days. Perhaps it will not match the findings of any survey but some candid answers will come through if he is willing to listen. Surely, if this is not a time for him to listen, then God save the party. Truth be told and given the dispensation of the typical Congress party men where there are more leaders than workers, it is more likely that he will be forced to listen to the echoes of his own words. Or find solace in words that are crafted for him by his well-wishers.
If it was all about taking responsibility for his party’s loss and speaking the R word as part of shouldering the same responsibility, the Wayanad visit will be all about savouring sweet success – both his and that of his running mates in 18 out of 19 other constituencies in Kerala. No one can seriously fault him in the coming two days for ad-libbing the words ‘God’s Own Country’ while referring to the state. Just as no one should begrudge him the chance to sound victorious – a state of mind that has unfortunately become quite rare for the Congress party these days.
A potential source of worry is the number of receptions he is being accorded as the victorious MP of Wayanad – 13 or 14. The danger lies in the fact that by the time he returns to Delhi, he would be in an euphoric state of mind vastly removed from the big picture that depicts Congress as a political force in India.
Now, getting back to the political script that is ready to play out in Wayanad, For the 7.06 lakh people who voted for RaGa, about 4.31 lakh more than his nearest rival PP Suneer who could manage only 2.74 lakh votes, it may have been about discovering a brother, a son and a friend from the Gandhi family when they cast their votes on April 23. But those variables ceased being relevant soon after the results were announced on May 23. Now, Rahul Gandhi is their elected representative in Lok Sabha, one who does not enjoy the luxury of falling back on the family seat in Amethi.
If it is overwhelmingly Wayanad for Rahul, then it will also have to be Rahul for Wayanad, up to a level the electorate finds acceptable. Therefore, high up among the questions that the RaGa team would have to find answers to would be this – how often would he visit Wayanad. The natural corollary would be, will he rent out a house/ villa/ bungalow or stay in a temporary facility. And for the lasses of Wayanad, the moot point would be about how India’s most eligible bachelor is now a Wayanadan!
(Vinod Mathew is a senior journalist based in Kochi)