By Sujata Anandan
March 30, 2020
Every time I hear something like this about Rahul Gandhi, I am convinced that family and upbringing really matter. The latest in his series of good deeds is his support to the family of the gang rape victim whose rapists were finally hanged recently, seven years after the crime. Jyoti Singh’s father revealed that throughout their ordeal, Rahul had supported them emotionally and financially but asked them not to reveal that fact to anybody. He also made sure that Jyoti’s brother could stand on his own feet by sending him to the flying school in Rae Bareilly and paying for his training as a pilot. All without fuss or turning his good deed into a public relations exercise.
Now this gesture was beyond any politics and I wonder how many leaders of this day and age could resist deriving political mileage from such a compassionate act of belonging to the fellow citizens of India? Recently, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh described both Rahul and his sister Priyanka as very courageous but equally polite. He was right. It takes rare courage for someone to be unfairly subjected to the kind of ridicule and scorn that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT cell has poured upon Rahul Gandhi and still continue to stand on your feet. Anyone with less courage would have run away and abandoned the battlefield much earlier. It must be highly frustrating to the BJP that Rahul doesn’t and continues to battle the RSS ideology with undiminished ferocity.
When Jyotiraditya Scindia, his closest aide, recently abandoned the Congress and joined the BJP, a Lutyen journalist tweeted that at this rate Rahul Gandhi would soon be joining the BJP himself. I disagreed. I think Rahul Gandhi will be the last man standing in the Congress even if every leader or every party worker abandoned the party to neck with the RSS. And that is what is so frustrating to the BJP IT cell – Rahul does not break and is fiercely committed to his fight against fascism. A Congress worker recently told me the Congress ideology of anti-fascism was alive and thriving among the people but it needed a proper leadership to channel it fiercely in a direction that would take on the fascist forces in the country. Speaking in Hindi, he said: “Unke naak mein dum karne layak neta ki zaroorat hai.”
He is convinced Rahul Gandhi is that leader and I agree with Captain Amarinder Singh that Rahul should not have quit the presidency of the party after the Lok Sabha defeat. The very same journalists and public intellectuals who bay for Rahul’s blood even after he quit as president are the ones who supported the likes of Scindia for Congress president and that should tell him how wrong they are and why he should not cave in to their constant and needless haranguing. The Indian National Congress is certainly not a party that belongs to the Nehru-Gandhis in the manner in which the Shiv Sena belongs to the Thackerays, the Nationalist Congress Party to the Pawars or even the Samajwadi Party to the Yadavs. But today it is their bounden duty to rescue both party and nation from the clutches of the fascists because no one else can.
I also agree with Captain Singh that one or two electoral defeats should not be a setback for anybody. That is also Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s advice for Rahul Gandhi. Both said at separate times that if they had allowed their earlier defeats to put them off politics, they would never have got where they are today. I think Rahul should take that advice seriously.
Captain Singh’s statement about Rahul’s politesse also struck the bull’s eye. I certainly don’t want to see him rude and abusive like some other leaders in the country are today but sometimes I do wonder if that politeness and refinement is mistaken for weakness and incompetence. During last year’s Lok Sabha elections, Rahul did run a scintillating campaign which, however, did not match up to Narendra Modi’s boorish aggression. When I mentioned this to a friend, she said, “He needs a pinch of salt. But too much garam masala will burn the mouth.”
Asked to explain, she said, “If Rahul Gandhi were my son-in-law, he would leave nothing to be desired. He is very well brought up and making his mother very proud today, I am sure. But he does need more of that quick, pungent repartee like ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’. And the one-liners should be as punchy as Winston Churchill’s repartees who was many times startlingly abrupt without being quite the boor that one can name.”
Having thought about what she said for some time now, I have come to the conclusion that she is right. Rahul Gandhi’s politics does lack that tad bit of salt and his ripostes often times are not quick or punchy enough. That does not mean he is not ahead of all the politicians most of the times. When he raised the issue of the drug menace in Punjab, the BJP scoffed at him but today no one doubts it is a major problem facing that border state. When he spoke of escape velocity needed to alleviate poverty, the BJP IT cell mocked him as spaced out and never seemed to have heard of the term used by western economists frequently in this very context. He also warned about the devastating effects of demonetisation on the poor ahead of everybody else and he was also first off the mark with regard to the Coronavirus at a time when Modi and US president Donald Trump were busy shaking hands in Gujarat and mocking all warnings about the pandemic.
So, yes, this is who and how I would like the leader of my nation to be – compassionate, caring, intelligent, polite, refined but a tad more consistent and combative in politics. We have given enough time – and rope – to certain others who have brought out a dark side of India, turned the nation toxic, set communities and people against each other and almost destroyed our democracy.
Rahul Gandhi is a self-professed Shiv bhakt who would be familiar with the legends around the destroyer of evil. It is time for him to draw away the poison stirred up in the country by certain asuras and rescue the nation from sure decimation. And this time he must turn a deaf year to his critics and not let down those party workers who still vest faith in him.
Sujata Anandan is a senior political analyst and author writing across multiple media platforms. This piece first appeared in Lokmat Times and National Herald