Congress's problems are that it had always depended on the Gandhis' wrongdoings or rightdoings for its electoral performance. The party went into an election without any Gandhi at the helm in the 1967 elections and fared poorly. And that was a watershed for had the party, which was experiencing an end of the post-independence honeymoon period and a collapse of the party's root-level organisation, had decided to invent an alternative ideology to nationalism and strengthen its organisation then, the story would have been different.
While the rest of the country was undergoing a socio-economic and political decentralisation, the Congress chose for a way towards centralisation by strengthening the hands of the Gandhis. Since 1967 till 1984, the Congress thrived on the Gandhi factor in each election (the 1977 result was also influenced by Indira's flirtation with dictatorship).
Regretting the wrong move?
In 2012 looking towards 2014, the Congress might be ruing the fact that it had made some wrong choices way back. The 'direction' less comment is not without a basis. The Congress has no clear ideological or pragmatic direction today apart from the nostalgia of Nehru and Gandhis while it comes to appeal to the voters. But the fact is the nature of India's electorate has changed, as I said earlier. Rahul Gandhi neither has any sympathy wave that his father had 1984 nor a grandmother-like charisma to run a show individually. He needs to work on substantial issues like reforms, good governance, viable policy-making and above all, leadership. But for that he requires a support, a reliable and useful one, but such assets were removed from the party long ago.
A non-Gandhi can help the Gandhi
Rahul today can, however, take a leaf out of a non-Gandhi Congress leader, rather to invent a way to curve his own brand of politics. The leader is none other than PV Narasimha Rao, the only Congress PM who worked with a pragmatic style and reached enviable heights. Rahul can reflect back on PV's days, how the latter brought the Indian economy from a dead-end back to the track or what Rao could have done on the issue of right-wing politics.
Building on PV's experience will, among other things, help the young Gandhi to fast discover a political stand of his own from where he can call for a command. Just hurrying up things and try for temporary efforts just ahead of elections to revive the Congress's electoral base will never help the party in the long run. People like Salman Khurshid know it very well. And the fast Rahul responds to the emerging vacuum at the highest level of the power centre in the party, the better. Or else, leaders like Narendra Modi will run over him in the near future.