It is now seven years since Rahul Gandhi made a formal entry into national  politics after successfully contesting the elections to the Lok Sabha from Amethi Constituency in 2004. Three years later, he was formally inducted into the Congress `high command' when he appointed a general Secretary of the party. Over these years, Mr.Gandhi has been trying to find his place in politics, but has met with limited success. Unlike his father Rajiv Gandhi, who caught the imagination of the nation with his "Mr.Clean" image when he entered politics, the response to Rahul Gandhi's political forays in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere has been nothing more than lukewarm.

Though Mr.Gandhi continues to hit the road and undertake regular political yatras, the political dividends accruing to the party do not appear to be commensurate with his labours. There could be many reasons for the absence of the `Rajiv Gandhi magic' and the indifferent public response. For example, the present political environment is extremely hostile to the Congress Party and this could be reducing his chances of success. But, apart from the external environment, for which he is not wholly responsible, Mr.Gandhi's own personality is also be contributing to his limited success thus far and two attributes that that could be impeding his political growth are lack of conviction and lack of courage.

Let us take a look at Rahul Gandhi's conduct and utterances over the last seven years and see whether he scores on any of these points - commitment, sincerity, courage - qualities that endear politicians to people. Mr.Gandhi betrayed his insincerity and complete disrespect for truth when he declared some years ago that if a member of his family had been the Prime Minister in December, 1992, the disputed Babri Masjid structure would not have been razed to the ground. He was being downright dishonest because it was his father Rajiv Gandhi who ensured the opening of the locks to the Ram Janmabhoomi when he was Prime Minister and again, it was his father who sent Home Minister Buta Singh to Ayodhya to participate in the `Shilanyas' for the Ram Temple, just weeks before the Lok Sabha election in November, 1989.

In other words, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi got the temple unlocked so that Hindus could offer prayers at the RamTemple. Thereafter, he put his government's stamp of approval to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's idea of building a `Bhavya Mandir' for Lord Ram at that site by sending the Home Minister of India to the `Shilanyas' ceremony. After having done all this to appease the Hindus and to encourage them to build the temple, Rahul Gandhi wants us to believe that if Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister in December, 1992, the Babri structure would not have fallen! This is an attempt by the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family to fool the Muslims, to portray P.V.Narasimha Rao, the Prime Minister in 1992 as the villian and to pretend as if members of his family had no role whatsoever in the events leading to December 6, 1992. This is a crude, dishonest attempt to falsify history and nobody is taken in by it, least of all the Muslims of Uttar Pradesh.

More recently, Rahul Gandhi's response or the lack of it to the mounting allegations of corruption against the Manmohan Singh Government has once again showed that he is wanting in both sincerity and courage. The scams relating to the Commonwealth Games surfaced in August, 2010. Thereafter we had the Adarsh Society Scandal and the 2G Scandal, the loss from which was estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General to be a staggering Rs 1.76 lakh crore. Citizens across the nation were horrified at the extent to which public servants could go to feather their own nests and to rob the nation of its wealth.

Among citizens, the youth were particularly exercised over these scandals and became vocal participants in the anti-corruption movement spear-headed by Anna Hazare. While all this was on, the nation's "youth icon" and the Congress Party's heir apparent virtually went off the political radar. Nobody knew what his views were on a matter that was of utmost concern to every citizen. Mr.Gandhi said nothing because he was obviously mulling over his options. He was reluctant to speak up against corruption because if he did, he would be seen as speaking against his own government. Second, if he spoke up, he would fall foul of the Congress Party's allies like the DMK.  Also, if he did speak up against corruption, he would have to face uncomfortable questions vis-à-vis Bofors and other issues. If he sincerely desired a clean administration, Rahul Gandhi would have mustered the courage to attack the scamsters and take the issue of corruption head-on. In the initial phase it would have disturbed the incumbent Prime Minister and even the coalition, but it would have catapulted him to the top of the anti-corruption movement and he would have naturally become the youth icon of India. Seeing his success, the Congress Party would have clamoured for a generational change and the allies too would have fallen in line. Alas, all this is not to be. Anna Hazare is now the "boss" in so far as the anti-corruption movement in concerned and Rahul Gandhi is reduced to reading a written speech during Zero Hour, much against parliamentary norms, hailing Anna Hazare and demanding the establishment of a strong Lok Pal.

Apart from lack of sincerity and courage, he is given to making some banal statements when he is caught off guard or when he strays away from the written text. Recently, while addressing a youth congress rally in Delhi he claimed that 'the biggest corruption is in our political structure". What does he mean by it? How does he propose to correct this political structure? Is'nt this worthless rhetoric?  This insincerity and falseness comes through again and again. Some years ago, when a correspondent of a weekly magazine caught up with him in Amethi, he claimed that he could have become Prime Minister when he attained the age of 25 but he had chosen not to because he "did not want to shout at his seniors"! These comments were so embarassing that the Nehru-Gandhis got the magazine to issue a retraction of sorts in its next issue. In recent times, he has strayed off the script and landed himself in trouble, like when he asked his audience at Phulphur as to how long the people of Uttar Pradesh would go to Maharastra "to beg". Much to the chagrin of his supporters and hangers-on, he returned to this theme at public meetings he addressed a week hence in the same state, drawing more flak from his opponents and from residents of Uttar Pradesh who felt offended by these remarks, which were largely untrue because a majority of those who migrate out of the state are skilled workers who pickup well-paying assignments in other states.

Apart from insincerity and lack of courage, Mr.Gandhi is also given to making strange claims about his interventions. For example, after reading out a prepared speech in the Lok Sabha on the Lok Pal issue that was devoid of boldness and commitment, he told the media outside Parliament that his statement was "a game changer"! - Is it not strange for someone to make such a claim about his own statement? Is he naïve or disingenuous? The jury is out.
Another aspect of his persona, which has now come to notice is his disrespect for parliament. Although he is one of the younger MPs, he seems to take parliament for granted, something which even parliamentarians of the stature of Indrajit Gupta or Atal Behari Vajpayee never did. Rahul Gandhi's disrespect for this institution came through when he set off on a five-day yatra of Uttar Pradesh beginning November 22, the opening day of the Winter Session of Parliament.

Finally, a word about sycophancy. It must be admitted that sycophancy has come down substantially after Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the Congress Party in 1998. Compared to the sycophancy one saw during the heydays of Indira Gandhi in the 1970s, when Congress President Dev Kant Barooah declared "Indira is India and India is Indira", the times have changed. Yet, there is no shortage of people within the Congress Party who try to push the Nehru-Gandhis into a fool's paradise. At the recent Youth Congress convention, a member of the Congress Working Committee hailed Rahul Gandhi for raising the biggest youth movement, the kind which has not been seen even in China or Russia! One only hopes Rahul Gandhi remains firmly on terra firma and is not taken in by such praise because this will only further deplete his political strength.