Cover Story

The Rising Son

Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a ray of hope for the people of India in general and for the Indian National Congress in particular.

By Syed Jawaid Iqbal | November 2023

When the Indian National Congress (INC) party, succinctly known as Congress, nominated Rahul Gandhi as the President of the Congress, many people objected to his nomination over more senior and prominent political figures representing India’s founding political party. Some said Rahul is a political minor, inexperienced, and lacks political experience, while others said he does not understand India’s internal politics.

However, the party’s head honchos had decided to introduce a fresh, young leadership to offer an alternative to the current leadership. Before the ruse of Rahul Gandhi as the Congress president, India’s oldest political party was grappling with scores of internal crises. To make things worse, the frequent defeats of the Congress because of the political magic of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the charismatic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had left the party alone in the political field across the country.

Then came the watershed moment when it was finally concurred that the Gandhi family had no political future. Not very long ago, until two months ago, many political pundits were not ready to take Rahul Gandhi very seriously and believed that the Congress had no strong leadership vis-à-vis Modi. However, the recent election results of five states proved that Rahul Gandhi can be a new ray of hope for India in general and Congress in particular since he has proved that he can be an alternative to Modi.

Recently, the Congress party defeated the governing BJP by a sizable margin in a crucial provincial election in the southern state of Karnataka. Regaining the political ground it lost to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a few decades ago, the recent win for Congress portends quite a positive direction back to the path dotted with secular values, forbearance, and tolerance. Even though the recent Congress victory may seem like a drop in the ocean given the formidable political clout exerted by the BJP, led by the two-time Prime Minister Narendra Modi. From the word go, Rahul Gandhi is determined to bring back the egalitarianism and democratic values that India was once renowned for in the international community.

Since the BJP became the dominant political force in India, democracy has been at an all-time low across the country. At the same time, press freedom and the closely related freedom of speech have taken a terrible hit with no sign of improvement in the near future. As a corollary, the rising tide of majoritarianism and fascism inspired by the Hindutva movement is turning India into an increasingly illiberal society that now boasts far-right rhetoric, violent ethnocentrism, xenophobic sentiments, one-party rule that delights in crony capitalism, as well as pervasive nationalism and state-sponsored and ethnic cleansing of vulnerable minority groups. As things stand, India is at an all-time low when it comes to women’s rights, freedom of speech, and the treatment of religious minorities, particularly Muslims that too in a country whose constitution was established on the guiding fundamentals of secularism, equality, and respect for all religions.

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