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What Does Rahul Gandhi Have Up His Sleeve?

Rahul Ghandi

India will hold elections tomorrow for the Legislative Assembly in Karnataka state, and Rahul Gandhi’s Congress Party is seen as likely to prevail over the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This could be a boon for young Gandhi as he looks ahead to the general elections next year. Voters in Karnataka are reportedly viewing this regional election as a choice between the two big political personalities in India, Reuters reports:

Some voters in Karnataka see the election in terms of [Narendra] Modi and Gandhi, who have emerged as the leading personalities in their parties in the countdown to the general election, even though under India’s parliamentary system there is no guarantee either would become prime minister. Modi is the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat.

Modi is known as a business-minded reformer, while Gandhi has gotten a ton of criticism for his lackluster speeches on India’s economic future. But an insightful piece by Hindol Sengupta on argues that there’s more to Gandhi’s economic program than meets the eye. The author starts by discussing by 2010 speech Gandhi gave to The Confederation of Indian Industry:

Rahul Gandhi is clever enough to see that his party runs a deeply corrupt government which itself is a by-product of a deeper rot in Indian society. But in a sense he is arguing like Mandeville that it is only a state with clear laws and punishment that can hold peace in a nation and not lofty ideals of virtue. Therefore, the once-upon-time employee of the Monitor Group seeks structure amid chaos and names in his speeches his technocrats like Nandan Nilekani and Sam Pitroda and not his ministers.

The author then goes on to pick apart Gandhi’s other recent speeches in depth and try to piece together his economic program:

One recurring theme since Gandhi’s entry into politics is employment for all. For the last five years, he has been crisscrossing the country to understand first-hand what ails India’s development. His father went on a similar journey between 1980 and 1984. Ashok Tanwar, former Youth Congress president and now a Congress Member of Parliament, is a handpicked member of Gandhi’s entourage. He says job creation is his leader’s core belief. “I have travelled many, many times with him. In each place he asks people what their job is. What do they do? Where do they work? How much money do they make?” says Tanwar.

Read the whole thing. India’s elections next year will be hugely consequential well beyond India’s borders, and getting insight into Gandhi’s thinking is a good idea for anyone at all interested in world affairs.

[Rahul Gandhi image courtesy of Getty]

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  • Akshay Kanoria

    Deeply disagree with your (or rather, Reuters’) comments on the Karnataka election. It has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Modi or Mr. Gandhi. It is entirely about the corruption of Karnataka’s government under the BJP for the last 5 years. The Congress isn’t winning through any effort of its own, rather it is riding on a wave of anti-government feeling in Karnataka. This is a generally accepted statement, and to speculate on Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi’s influencing this election is highly irresponsible journalism. Because of the BJP’s problem being entirey local, many commentators also think that the BJP could do better in next years parliamentary election than it is expected to do in the state level election this year. That makes it even less important for the national level so it has less relevancy to RG and Modi.

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