The Gandhis: From ‘Kennedys Of India’ To The Political Wilderness – Explained!

The Gandhis: from 'Kennedys of India' to the political wilderness


He has about 2,500 kilometers to go till his journey is full. But the good-grandson of India’s first prime minister seems decided.

Dressed head-to-toe in white, Rahul Gandhi is strolling 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) throughout India to fulfill voters and revive curiosity within the Indian National Congress, a as soon as highly effective political celebration now struggling to win votes.

Each leg is documented on dwell feeds and social media, however Gandhi is not the celebration chief – and received’t be taking his followers to the following nationwide election in 2024.

That can be right down to Mallikarjun Kharge, a Congress veteran, who was appointed to the highest position on Wednesday, in a transfer which means for the primary time in additional than 20 years the celebration can be led by somebody apart from a Gandhi.

That a Gandhi is just not going to be the face of India’s oldest political unit is nearly unthinkable to many – a member of the household has been answerable for it for 40 out of its 75 years of independence, and concerned within the management for a lot of the opposite 35 years.

But analysts say because the nation shifts into a brand new period, using on a wave of proper-wing, nationalist politics, the household and the Congress has little significance within the nation’s political current, pushed partly by quite a few corruption scandals and mismanagement throughout the celebration.

“The Gandhis today are completely dwarfed and overshadowed by Narendra Modi,” mentioned New Delhi-based political commentator Arati R. Jerath.

“It’s hard to predict the future, but for a family that ruled much of independent India, it is unlikely we will see a Gandhi leader of the country again.”

As a robust political dynasty, some have likened the Gandhis to the Kennedys, having for many years rigorously navigated a collection of non-public tragedies alongside a troublesome energy balancing act.

The household doesn’t take its title from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the nation’s famed independence chief.

Instead, they’re the descendants of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was instrumental within the nation’s independence motion from British rule and in 1947 grew to become its first prime minister. Nehru’s daughter Indira adopted the Gandhi title by her marriage to Feroze Gandhi, one other celebration member unrelated to its chief.

Indira would later succeed her father, earlier than handing the management to her son, Rajiv. Later, his spouse, Sonia Gandhi, and son, Rahul, would take over.

Nehru dominated for 17 years after independence from British rule, ushering India into a brand new period after its bloody partition, that led to the creation of Pakistan, induced the deaths of two million folks and uprooted an estimated 15 million extra.

Nehru united the impoverished nation by planting the seeds for many years of financial, social and political improvement.

“He was part of the freedom struggle, and so he wanted to ensure that India reach her potential and grow,” Jerath mentioned. “He wanted to lead his people into a brave new world.”

Throughout his time in energy Nehru promoted democracy and secularism, invested in science and expertise, constructed main instructional institutes, and promoted gender equality within the deeply patriarchal nation.

When he died whereas in workplace on May 28, 1964, tributes poured in from all around the world. Two years later, his daughter, Indira Gandhi (who adopted her husband’s final title), would fill his sneakers because the nation’s first – and to this point solely – feminine prime minister.

Groomed for the place from an early age, Indira Gandhi was thought of an astute, sturdy-willed, and to some, autocratic chief.

She was elected prime minister from 1966 to 1977, and once more in 1980. But her years in workplace had been marked with each private tragedy – her son Sanjay died shortly into her second stint – and turbulence, owing, partly, to a conflict with Pakistan, droughts, famine and an financial disaster.

Faced with rising discontent, Indira Gandhi proclaimed a controversial state of emergency in India for 21 months in 1975 – suspending primary liberties, imposing press censorship and imprisoning opposition members.

Her years in energy got here to a tragic climax when, on October 31, 1984, she was shot lifeless at her house in New Delhi by her Sikh bodyguards, 4 months after she ordered Indian troops to storm the Golden Temple – one in every of Sikhism’s holiest shrines – to flush out separatists.

“The mood of the nation changed following the assassination,” mentioned Rasheed Kidwai, writer of “Sonia, A Biography” and visiting Fellow with the Observer Research Foundation. “But the tragic part of it is, it has a law of diminishing returns. These days, not a lot of our young children know of the sacrifices and tough decisions that were made by her.”

Indira Gandhi’s son, Rajiv, took over from her after her demise.

Rajiv Gandhi and his Italian-born wife, Sonia, during a campaign trip.

Known because the “unwilling” prime minister who by no means needed the job, Rajiv Gandhi grew to become the youngest chief on the age of 40. But he served lower than a decade, dropping the 1989 common election following a corruption scandal, and was assassinated two years later by the Sri Lankan separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

During his tenure, he signed peace accords with rebel teams in states the place non secular tensions had been excessive, and is credited for growing India’s science and expertise sectors, giving him the moniker “Father of Information and Technology.”

With no Gandhi on the helm, and the emergence of the BJP within the Nineteen Nineties, the Congress struggled. In the years that adopted, India’s management swung between events.

It wasn’t till Rajiv’s Italian-born widow, Sonia, took over as chief of the Congress in 1998 that they made a political comeback.

Six years later, she led the celebration to victory within the common election – however stopped in need of taking the highest place and as an alternative appointed economist Manmohan Singh as prime minister.

But with the ascendance of a brand new wave of proper-wing politics, their celebration now lurks within the political wilderness, analysts say. In 2014, Modi was elected prime minister with a roaring majority.

“(The Gandhis) exude the tragic glamor of the Kennedys,” mentioned Jerath, the political commentator. “This was a family that built India’s education, health care and technology institutions. Their legacy is still felt today.”

On July 3, 2019, following a humiliating and crushing defeat within the Indian common election, Rahul Gandhi publicly resigned as chief of the Congress.

Modi’s BJP had simply received a historic majority within the decrease home of parliament, cementing the antithesis to Gandhi’s Congress as probably the most formidable political power in Indian politics in a long time.

“Modi has perfected the narrative that the Gandhis are the liberal elite, the dynasty that shouldn’t be in power,” mentioned Kidwai, the writer. “And as the country shifts towards the right, his politics are proving tremendously popular.”

The BJP has its roots in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a proper wing-Hindu group which can be adherents of Hindutva ideology – to make India the land of the Hindus.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives a victory speech after winning India's general election, in New Delhi on May 23, 2019.

Nearly 80% of the nation’s 1.3 billion persons are Hindus, and analysts say Modi’s populist politics attraction to the plenty.

“India is changing. As democracy has deepened, we have seen the rise of a new class of people – and this class really is not schooled in the Nehruvian principles of democracy,” Jerath mentioned. “They are willing to buy into Hindutva politics of the Modi-led BJP. And this is something that this generation of the Gandhis have not been able to counter.”

Moreover, analysts level to a long time of infighting and mismanagement throughout the Congress celebration, which have weakened its place within the nation. Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have additionally been accused of corruption – allegations they deny.

The second time period of the final Congress prime minister to manipulate India was riddled with allegations of corruption and bribery scandals working into tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars}.

Modi’s humble beginnings because the son of a tea vendor, versus the Gandhis’ privileged and Western-influenced upbringing, additionally makes him extra relatable to an rising center-class inhabitants, Jerath mentioned. Nehru, like Rajiv and Rahul, was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. His daughter, Indira, at Oxford University.

“Rahul Gandhi kept looking for success but it was rather elusive,” Kidwai mentioned. “That’s why he’s taken on a different role and gone on this campaign across the country.”

As Rahul Gandhi continues on his journey to unite the nation, he might reach rebuilding the picture of the Congress. But it appears unlikely he’ll ever grow to be prime minister of the nation, like his father, grandmother and nice-grandfather earlier than him. He by no means married and has no kids. His sister, Priyanka, additionally a member of the celebration, has two younger kids – however it’s unclear if they are going to ever foray into political life.

All eyes can be on the following chief, as he makes an attempt to get sufficient votes to unseat Modi in 2024.

“Modi certainly has a grip on power,” Jerath mentioned. “But if the Congress can get their act together, then we may just see a comeback.”

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