Does Rahul Gandhi, the fourth generation Indian politician of the Nehru-Gandhi family, who on Saturday took over as president of the Indian National Congress, the nation’s main opposition party, have a good chance of becoming the prime minister of India in 2019? Can the Congress, which has become the dominant political party since India’s independence, stage a comeback? Observers from both India and the world are keeping close watch on the party.
The new leadership of the Congress may pose a challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
One of the primary reasons for Modi’s landslide victory in 2014 was that he fanned the flames of Hindu nationalism to woo supporters. After assuming office, Modi continued supporting the rise of Hindu nationalism, given all the difficulties he confronted in economic reforms, hoping to use it as a tool to promote his reforms. But nationalism is a double-edged sword, abusing it would end up hurting the user itself. In most cases, nationalists or populists attach too much significance to personal gain and loss. In India, for example, people all want reforms, yet no one wants to cut down the slightest bit of their own interests.
How to attract more voters by not only promising them benefits through reforms but also persuading them to make sacrifices for the reforms is a dilemma in India’s electoral system.
For instance, Modi carried out the demonetization of high-value bank notes in November last year in a stunning move to purge black money. So far, there has been no sign that the policy has achieved its goal. But according to reports, around 1.5 million jobs were lost from January to April this year due to the hasty move, which has become an object of public denunciation.
Furthermore, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign is also losing momentum. Against that backdrop, his reforms failed to make a dent on the lives of ordinary Indian people, but only brought controversy and disappointment. In the meantime, the Congress is striving for support from the working class and urban poor, that’s why Rahul Gandhi’s rise is highly anticipated.
And yet, Rahul Gandhi has his own obstacles to overcome, including the lack of political achievement and contradictions within his party. Whether he can establish his prestige and leadership by his own charm and ability rather than simply being a tool of eminent politicians will be the key to his chances against Modi.
Gujarat, Modi’s home state, is widely considered as a stronghold of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Will the Congress defeat the BJP in the Gujarat assembly election? The result, which will be announced on Monday, may be an indication of what could happen in India’s general elections in 2019.