Rahul Gandhi can become India’s prime minister not because Digvijay Singh says so or because he has turned 41, but it is time to come out of the closet. Even as frontman, Dr. Manmohan Singh had only a ‘clean’ image to show. We are not looking for detergent leaders. If it is a known fact that Sonia Gandhi and son run the party, then the pretence must stop. And they should realise it before it is too late and we end up with another NDA-like grouping, which seems likely given the scams and the people’s movement that has gone haywire.
It is a pathetic state of affairs where even Anna Hazare writes post-it type notes to Sonia and expects replies each time he gets these hunger pangs to fight corruption. Rahul Gandhi does not have the “right qualities, instincts and experience”, but who defines right qualities? What is the role of instinct – something like emotional quotient, connecting with people, the Third Eye, sixth sense? Experience, too, is relative. Is the heavy metals portfolio good enough? Is being elected from a constituency adequate? A few padayatras, a few speeches, a few humble meals – do they work?
First let us get some fundamentals out of the way. Rahul is not a youth leader; he is middle-aged. Monarchies around the world have either crowned kings when they were babies or when they were well in their dotage, so age is not a factor. Rahul comes with an advantage that is a disadvantage. The Gandhi family name brings with it a degree of arrogance. I am not worried about the sycophants; low-level bureaucrats have them too. The problems will arise later when they advise, offer their expertise.
Rahul may have travelled by train and gone to villages, but so do backpackers. Touring India is not the best way of knowing it. He is in the worst phase post-Emergency in India. The PM is replaying Egypt by acting like the Sphinx, a title that Sonia Gandhi was once anointed with. The chi-chi class wants answers even though they do not know the questions. He may have shown some love for Dalits and one farmer’s widow but this group is in a hurry. The sheep are looking for a shepherd. They want an India that is a cross between royal regalia and the Modi operandi, something like Lakshmi Mittal replicating Indian excess in a Paris palace. They want a mix of tradition and modernity, much of the stuff on daily soaps although they do not watch those. They watch ‘different’ cinema that is dark and edgy and has no message except that you can show your middle finger. This is the new revolution.
It’s funny. India is surrounded by all failed states and we are chuffed about it. We do not notice that we are failing and the walls crumbling beneath the fresh coat of paint. The reason is quite simple. These countries make us look good in comparison. It is pertinent to point out here that we have historical problems with some of them that are part of our contemporary baggage.
One may find fault with the structure of ‘failure’ as envisioned recently by Foreign Policy magazine, but not the fact of such failure. Our neighbour’s description is true to stereotype: “Pakistan has long been dubbed the world’s most dangerous country in Washington policy circles…yet it isn’t just dangerous for the West – it’s often a danger to its own people.”
India has to deal with Pakistan’s equation with the West (help in its war on terror) and its internal problem (the RAW/ISI jugalbandi). Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar are the others mentioned.
The problem with much of the older leadership is that they have tangible memories. Rahul does not. Does anyone know what his views are on relations with these countries? He can use his ignorance to his advantage. As Lao Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
It seems like a difficult task when visibility is not only important but over-rides everything else. In a democracy people like to hear speeches, to be spoonfed information, anachronistic as it may seem. He can do that. Provide appetisers and keep the main course simmering. Let the work happen in the background. Make sure the judiciary and the armed forces have enough teeth to manage on their own. Don’t have a coterie and let the ministers of the different departments be the true advisers.
A major step would be to end all ritualistic activity at the political level. Vote banks will exist; even a guitar-strumming, gum-chewing candidate will get his rock band loyalists, so let us not cringe over other vote banks. But together with sops and rights come responsibilities.
I am no supporter of Rahul Gandhi (click the RG label and you'll see) and admit that this is a case of TINA (there is no alternative). Think of the others. Manmohan Singh? Pranab Mukherjee? A.K.Anthony? Sharad Pawar? This is the UPA. Outside of it we have Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Narendra Modi.
And please do not mention Priyanka Gandhi. A resemblance to her grandmother does not count as experience.
Veterans have made boo-boos and so has Rahul. I think it is time to check him out, which is what Indian democracy is about anyway. And his first major job should be to send off Digvijay Singh on a gubernatorial posting to some unpronounceable country and make Anna Hazare the sarpanch of Ralegaon Siddhi.
Finally, he should take that remote control from his mamma and surf the channels himself.
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Also published in Countercurrents