In what could be seen as a significant development in political landscape, the changes in both the Congress and the BJP at the level of their national leadership ahead of Budget Session of Parliament augur well. During Jaipur Chintan Shivir, Rahul Gandhi was elevated to the post of Congress’ vice president and he is now de jure no 2 in the party.  On the other hand, Nitin Gadkari, who was serving as the BJP chief since 2009, was denied continuing as the party president for second term after a dramatic twist a day before election for the top party post. Voices against Gadkari were already getting louder in the party, but the circumstances just before his appointment as party chief for the second term took a significant turn and baton of the party was handed over to Rajnath Singh for the next three years. Rahul’s elevation in the Congress was a predetermined move whereas change in BJP leadership witnessed much topsy turvy. Rahul Gandhi admitted that he was hesitant to accept bigger role in the party owing to certain reasons that were manifested during his emotional speech delivered after being crowned with Congress vice president. In his address, he mentioned the advice of his mother, Congress president Soinai Gandhi, that power, which means a high rank, is like a poison and it happens to be very difficult to ward off its impacts while discharging one’s duties. Nobody can deny this reality which Sonia Gandhi advised to her son Rahul Gandhi as given the characteristic of our national politics, it seems almost impossible that a person holding high rung post could discharge his duties without getting influenced by his stature and power.

Rahul Gandhi is of the view that flaws in governance and the functioning of political system are glaring and he wants to bring some changes in the system. In his speech, it was however not clear whether he wanted to incorporate such changes after joining the government or while serving as the leader of the party. This question bears significance as in his speech he stressed on the need of bringing major changes in the functioning of the Congress party. It is yet to be clear if Rahul Gandhi likes to become Congress’ next prime ministerial candidate or he engages himself in revamping the party and giving it a new shape. What role Rahul Gandhi would select for himself in future is not yet obvious, but at present the nation awaits such a person as its Prime Minister who could act in accordance with the promises made to the people and take bold decisions. Amidst mounting challenges for the country, the ruling establishment is required to take bold measures.

It is the need of hour that all political parties should come forward to incorporate radical changes in their working styles. If the internal structure of political parties gets robust and vibrant, several shortcomings in the functioning of government will naturally get rectified. If Rahul Gandhi succeeds in bringing expected changes in the party, it will be good shine for the country. By highlighting the need for major changes, Rahul Gandhi has hurled monumental challenges for himself. It is pretty good that he is well aware of the loophole in the party. Some of such flaws were mentioned in his speech at Jaipur conclave. Now he needs to display strong will power to iron out these wrinkles. A positive thing going in his favour is that he wields the support of whole party and even Sonia Gandhi herself has stressed on the need of coming up to the expectations of youths and putting a check on corruption earnestly. Now the people of the country wait for taking concrete measures in consonance with the viewpoints expressed by both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi at Jaipur conclave.

As far as the main opposition party BJP is concerned, its internal bickering is obvious and everyone is well known about it. With RSS back up, Gadkari was bound to get a second term as the party president but his prospect was marred after the charges of irregularities in his firm and ongoing probe by I-T department in this connection. Both the BJP and the RSS felt that Gadkari’s appointment as the party chief for the second term would not only invoke scathing attacks from his detractors but also dent party’s image. Though, the charges against Gadkari have not been proved, it was realised that his tainted image would imperil the poll prospects of the party. It is surprising that why the BJP did not take similar decisions on Gadkari at the time when charges of irregularities in the firms promoted by him had surfaced. Possibly both the BJP and RSS might have felt that removing Gadkari from party president’s post would have spelt a wrong message about party’s image, but the fact cannot be overlooked that many of the top leaders of the party were against this view. Finally on account of the opposition from these leaders, Gadkari was asked to relinquish his position. Whatever the reasons for Gadkari’s removal may be, but it was a right decision, which will enable both Gadkari and BJP to clean their images.

Gadkari’s successor Rajnath Singh has to face many serious challenges. Rajnath Singh, who could not get big achievements as party chief in his first stint, has to make situation favourable to the party. Undoubtedly, the present political scenario is apparently against the ruling Congress, but it is also a fact that the BJP does not seem to be capitalising the anti-Congress mood. BJP is going to face serious electoral challenges in the poll-bound states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Karnataka. These elections will prove to be a litmus test for new BJP president Rajnath Singh. If he fails to lead his party in these elections, it will be very difficult for the party to bounce back. Presently, it is difficult to claim that the party would stand firmly behind its new president Rajnath Singh. With elections coming round the corner, a stiff fight at the time of ticket distribution is bound to happen. It will be interesting to see whether Rajnath Singh succeeds in maintaining a proper coordination among party’s national leaders. Palpably, general election is going to be very challenging for both Rahul Gandhi and Rajnath Singh. The BJP has made its intentions clear after reacting aggressively over Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s ‘Hindu terror’ remarks. Upcoming budget session of Parliament would offer do or die situation for Rahul Gandhi and to some extent for the UPA dispensation.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on January 27, 2013 translated by the English editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)