Kommineni Srinivasa Rao

Rahul Gandhi's anointment as Congress Party president is a natural development in that party. Whether he is mature enough to lead the party would become clear in the days to come.

Sonia Gandhi stepped in as the party chief in 1998 when the party was in chaos and confusion. Though she was responsible for making PV Narasimha Rao prime minister, there was trust deficit between the two. But, that's another issue.

Sonia Gandhi's stars were on the ascendent when the Congress came to power in 2004. She went on to become the most powerful leader in the country. Though Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, it was either Sonia Gandhi or the coterie she presided that took every decision.This made the likes of Venkaiah Naidu to heckle 'the PM presides and Madam decides.' Sonia Gandhi was then all powerful. In 2009, the Congress romped back to power comfortably. This made her coterie more powerful. During the UPA 2, they made lot of mistakes and when the scams became public knowdege, they axed their own trusted lieutenants. The general perception that gained ground was that Sonia had failed to rein in the corrupt. Then there were several wrong decisions, including the arbitrary removals of some chief ministers. All these led to the downfall of the Congress.

During this period, Rahul Gandhi too was erratic, diffident and confused. Occasional appearances in Parliament, incoherent comments, refusal to join the cabinet, insulting the PM on some occasions and refusing to don the PM's mantle have done a lot of harm to the party and to himself. When Manmohan tried to bring a bill that sought to debar those convicted in criminal case from contesting elections, Rahul mindlessly tore down the documents in public. All this have gone on to show him in poor light.

But, there has been a perceptible change in Rahul ever since he made his 55-day foreign tour. His comments and speeches have shown clear improvement. He is making a serious effort to regain the lost ground. Though he failed to wrest Gujarat from the BJP, it is clear that his speeches there were reasonable and rational. Some of the Modi comments too helped him in regaining some lost ground. Rahul's criticism of Modi at the time of his taking over reins of the Congress was both degnified and reasonable.

Rahul's real test lies in bringing back Congress to power and winning back the people's trust. Politics are dynamic and volatile. Till a year ago, Modi looked invincible. Today, his decisions are turning out to be controversial and actions questionable. Rahul needs to present himself as a viable alternative to Modi and convince the people about it. Then alone the Congress will have some future. Whether this happen five years later or ten years depends the course that the politics will shape up in the days to come.