I shrugged for a moment when the thought came to my mind: What If I were Rahul Gandhi?
A cold wave ran down my spine and my heartbeat doubled. The idea of being the most powerful guy in the grand old party of India itself is unfathomable. And when you are considered as the only shining lamp post by the entire party, the burden becomes unbearable. The thought of being a failed messiah made it further difficult to assimilate the thought.
So, I gathered loads of courage and tons of conviction and placed myself in the shoes of Mr Rahul Gandhi and tried to visualize what I would have done if I was in his place from 2004 to 2014.
Here is what I could think of:
Shunning Dynastic Symbols:
- Shutting down SPG: SPG was created established in 1985 (After IG’s assassination) to protect the PM and former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members.
- The annual budget of SPG is Rs 279 Crore (FY2011). I would be saving around 300 crores per annum if I close this unit that has become a barrier between me and the people of India. I will rely on normal security measures taken for protection.
- SPG has 3000 personnel who are being utilized to protect 5 people, when majority of Indians are unsafe
Shut down the Coterie: The Gandhis have always been known to be surrounded by a coterie who are primarily the Consigliere of the family (like the Tom Hagen from the famous movie Godfather). The fact that the coterie surrounding IG played a key role in declaration of Emergency in India is undeniable.
- This coterie doesn’t allow me (RG) to meet the grass root leaders of party and that ultimately results in sycophancy and concentration of power in the hands of very few.
- Since I believe in internal democracy of the party, its essential for me to be accessible to grass root workers
- I will create a helpline for party workers where they can call and report any issue related to their local Congress leadership. This will be a deterrent for local leadership in case they are not working in the interest of the party
Stop Misuse of Govt Money for TV or News Paper Ads related to the family:
- An RTI revealed that approximately 39 crores of rupees were spent on News Paper Ads from 2008 to 2012 for Ads related to birth and death anniversaries of Gandhi Family. Around 3.5 crore rupees were spent on TV Ads for the same period.
- If these Ads are stopped, I would be saving around 100 crores from 2004 to 2014. This money can be used for publicizing the RTI Act and its benefits.
Pass a resolution to stop naming popular schemes after the Gandhi family:
- a. I will pass a resolution in the AICC meeting to stop usage of family name for any of the schemes/infrastructure/awards/fellowships etc. A lot of criticism has come from various corners about this naming after the family.
- Nehru-Gandhi family names have been used for 450 difference schemes, projects and institutions. There are 12 Central and 52 state schemes, 28 sports tournaments and trophies, 19 stadiums, 5 ariports and ports, 98 educational institutions, 51 awards, 15 fellowships, 15 national sanctuaries and parks, 39 hospitals and medical institutions, 37 institutions, chairs and festivals and 74 roads, buildings and places that are named after 3 members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Working at grassroots:
- I would have refused to take any ministry in UPA-1. As I do not have the relevant experience of administration, I would choose to work at grassroots and try to understand whats happening in the country
- I will choose a total of 50 constituencies (10 each from north, South, East, West and Central India) to work at grassroots and make them “Model Constituencies” in the country and a symbol of party’s commitment to take the country forward
- I will create a mission called “The 5-E India Mission” I would choose the following areas to focus on in those 50 constituencies. Those 5-Es for this country would have been:
- Focus on strengthening education system in these constituencies at village/town/city level at all strata (primay, secondary, College and University education)
- The Govt schools and colleges across India lack the necessary infrastructure and quality teachers. I will work with the local administration to fix the issues related to the needs of school
- The aim will be to ensure that these 50 constituencies are 100% literate in next 5-10 years with zero school drop-outs.
- The rural and semi-urban India has huge untapped talent and potential that goes waste due to lack of employability skills
- I will work with the administration to ensure that the benefits of existing schemes related to Skill improvement reach the target audience
- The target will be to have 100% employment (organized or unorganized) within next 5-10 years
- Focus on ensuring strict compliance to existing environmental laws
- Ensure all the existing schemes related to environmental protection are implemented with 100% compliance.
- Tree plantation will be taken up on a massive scale to create more green zones in these 50 constituencies.
- The target will be to have a million trees in each of these zones (North, South, East, West and Central zones). This means, there will be additional 50 million trees in next 5-10 years in India.
- Meet all the agitating parties that are against construction of dams and address their concerns before the dams are built.
- There are numerous schemes of government to encourage alternative and renewable sources of energy like solar energy
- I will work with the local administration in Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to ensure that the benefits of these schemes reach the target audience and there is no siphoning of funds by the corrupt officials/politicians
- Women Empowerment: Our party will pass Women’s Reservation Bill within 100 days of coming to power to ensure that we reserve 33 per cent of all seats in the Lower house of Parliament of India, the Lok Sabha, and in all state legislative assemblies for women.
- Since the party is committed to empowering the common man of India, I will ensure that our party comes under RTI within 120 days after RTI Act is passed in 2005. Our party will appoint a PIO and ensure complete transparency in the party’s funding and functioning
- Our party will pass a strong Janlokpal bill even if it means half of our ministers go to jail. This will go a long way in taking the country forward
Issues of National Concern: I will force my party to push the following reforms:
- Electoral Reforms: Work closely with Election Commission of India to push the electoral reforms suggested by Election Commission to ensure strengthening of democracy.
- Judicial Reforms: Push law ministry to create additional courts and fill the vacancies in courts to clear the backlog cases and ensure speedy trial. Push the Law Ministry to create Fast Track courts to clear the millions of backlog cases pending in various courts.
- Police Reforms: Push the Home Ministry to work on the recommendations submitted by various committees to reform the police system. This will ensure reduction of crime across country and an efficient law and order system.
- Defense Reforms: Push the defense ministry to bite the bullet and go for necessary defense reforms. We cannot ignore the millions of soldiers who are fighting for our safety.
- Women Safety: I would have worked with ministry of Home to ensure that women safety becomes their key focus area as long as our party is in power. I will ensure that all the necessary steps are taken to ensure that women are safe. This will prevent incidents like Delhi Gang rape and mass uprising of people.
- Push the concerned ministries to work on territorial disputes – both external and internal
- Work with neighboring countries to resolve external territorial disputes
- Address the demands for state bifurcation in a fair and judicious manner to ensure that the demands of all the concerned parties are resolved amicably.
- Work towards rehabilitation of displaced Kashmiri pandits
- Address issues related to misuse of AFSPA
- Address issues of Kashmiris and create an atmosphere for their assimilation into Mainstream India
The North East India Conundrum :
- Work closely with administration in North-East India to ensure that the region doesn’t remain neglected
- Address issues of NE Indians and take necessary measures to ensure their assimilation in mainstream India
I might have missed many other important issues of national concern that could have been addressed by Rahul Gandhi. I think even if he had addressed all the issues that I listed above, this country would have been kind to him and history would have not called him an incompetent leader. Indians would have happily voted for Congress Party again and would have loved to see him as a PM. I consider it a failure of him that the Indians are left with no choice but to look for an alternative to Congress.
What Rahul Gandhi and Congress Party failed to understand in last 10 years is that Indians voted them to power because they trusted them. Indians believed that Congress Party can take India to the next level in this century. But Congress party has let them down. And Indians will make their choice, just like they did in every election.