Last fall and winter, Rahul Gandhi, a 52-year-old member of India’s parliament, led thousands of people on a 146-day, 2,500-mile walk across India. Along the rural highways from southernmost coastal Kanyakumari to the foot of the Himalayas, parliamentary colleagues, election strategists, and local party hacks and gofers jostled bloggers and issue activists and plain old hikers. Though scarcely noticed outside of India, the Bharat Jodo Yatra—the “Unite India March”—was one of the great feats of mass mobilization in our time. It was a logistical triumph: preparing three square meals for an army of thousands; pitching camp in a new place each night, sometimes in the middle of big, run-down cities, sometimes in rural communities with untrustworthy water; setting up mattress-crammed tents where hundreds of marchers could nap en route, with party donors snoring away next to outstretched feminist intellectuals and recumbent Bhil tribal leaders; and above all keeping order and avoiding violence. Funny though the spectacle sometimes appeared to a non-Indian, it involved exactly the sort of organizing that a well-informed electorate looks for in a ruling party.

Rahul Gandhi is heir to one of the democratic world’s great family dynasties, and to the party that it long controlled: the Indian National Congress, known colloquially as “Congress.” He has for much of his

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