Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi turned 47 today. He is celebrating 47th birthday in Italy where he has gone to meet his grandmother. While many in the Congress believe Rahul Gandhi has everything takes it to lead the grand old party of India and is a prime ministerial material. But the Gandhi scion has been struggling to make a mark in public life with perpetual media snub and drawing room political pundits belittling whatever he does in public life. He is not taken seriously by his opponents at a time the Indian National Congress is passing through the worst time, especially after it lost everything during Lok Sabha polls in 2014, making Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for Congress-Mukt Bharat a reality.

At this juncture, the party and its patron the Nehru-Gandhi are facing an existential crisis as the popular sentiments in India are against them. The 47th birthday is an opportunity to ask: Can Rahul Gandhi turn the fortunes of the grand old party or will he succeed his mother Sonia Gandhi as the party president?

After the Congress was decimated in Lok Sabha polls in 2014, commenting on his ability and leadership, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said that Rahul Gandhi was underestimated and misunderstood. “Time will prove that the nation will one day appreciate the alternative style of leadership he represents — one that is inclusive, consultative, democratic and empowering rather than top-down one-man rule,” Tharoor said. Sam Pitroda, an internationally respected telecom engineer and policymaker, also echoed similar views about Rahul Gandhi. “He is a misunderstood man,” said Pitroda in an interview.

Rahul Gandhi may not be the best leader but the way media and political pundits ridicule him, it looks like a conspiracy against him. His speeches in Parliament and other public forums are not highlighted. His holidays and sabbaticals get more attention than his works.

Same Rahul Gandhi was a leader par excellence when the Congress Party had come back to power in 2009 with it winning 25 seats in Uttar Pradesh where its then general secretary had campaigned extensively. Now, he has been turned into a butt of jokes with all negative coverage. Isn’t it an attempt to discredit the main leader of the main opposition party of India at a time when we need a strong Opposition. As a parliamentarian for third consecutive term and vice president of the main Opposition Party he deserves a better deal. Being son of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi is not his crime. He didn’t choose his dynasty.

However, to change Congress’ fortunes and emerge out as a credible leader, Rahul Gandhi needs some good electoral victories in his books. His grandmother Indira Gandhi was once ridiculed as “goongi gudiya”, but she is considered as one of the strongest prime ministers India ever had. But he is no Indira. As of now his political career is at stake with little time at hand. He may not win Lok Sabha in 2019 but certainly can emerge as main figure and a rallying point for all opposition parties for the INC is still a pan India party and much larger than then fragmented regional opposition parties ready to get together to under one roof to face the Modi juggernaut. Coming months will be a test for his leadership. Will he able to become a central figure in Opposition camp? As of now Wait is the answer it seems.

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