I have often compared Rahul Gandhi to Sarah Palin. During the 2008 US election campaign, out of the blue, a curious third-grader asked VP candidate Palin: “What does a Vice President do?”. Predictably, Palin didn’t know and gave a funnily inaccurate reply. One by one the skeletons of Palin’s ignorance on various issues started tumbling out. She backed it up by silly statements too. Sample this one: “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans…..”. So, just like Palin discovered two Americas, Rahul Gandhi discovered two Indias. He stated: "There exists two Indias -- one in towns and cities with highrise buildings, computers, cars and modern gadgets, and the other in rural areas still underdeveloped for lack of facilities and opportunities.." So I am naturally tempted to wonder if RG derives some secret inspiration from Palin. The major difference between these two people being that Palin was a relative unknown whereas RG comes from the ‘dynasty’.I also wonder if any college kid ever asked RG what exactly a PM does. It would be interesting to hear his answers.
The media had generously crafted RG as the next PM of India. Poll after questionable poll showed he was way ahead in popularity as the choice for PM. India Today and CNN-IBN, in particular, repeated these polls. And crediting him with revival of Congress in UP, CNN-IBN even bestowed upon him the title ‘Indian of the year’. It wasn’t the fawning media’s support that RG lacked. What comes about repeatedly is that it’s his own lack of vision and skills. In the face of a severe crisis with the Anna fast RG rushed off to Pune to console the farmer families who were victims of police firing. While his thought and sentiment would have been genuine there wasn’t one word to condemn the indiscriminate police firing. Quite understandable, his own party was involved in that crime. Next came his disconnected speech in Parliament on August 26. When a crisis begged for solution RG was propounding theories. That speech was like lecturing people severely hit by drought on the technology and long-term benefits of rain-harvesting. Wrong speech, wrong time. I even doubt if RG wrote it himself.
The media was desperately hoping that RG will finally wave that elusive ‘magic wand’ that the PM often refers to and bring the crisis to an end. Instead, he turned the old saying “Cometh the hour…” on its head. It was now “Cometh the hour, cometh the loser”. RG didn’t deliver anything except a phrase which the media played out over the next two days. He termed his own speech a ‘game-changer’. Tavleen Singh wrote: “This was his second chance to lead. Instead, he read out a speech so filled with banalities it could have been written by a political science professor. Whispers of ‘Pappu fail ho gaya,’ filtered out of the chambers of Parliament afterwards but the truth is that Rahul could not have done better.”
These are not particularly good times for Rahul Gandhi. His mother is down with illness and civil society activists are up against the Congress on corruption. His Congress cheerleaders were just the other day suggesting he was ready to become PM. His sycophant, Digvijay Singh, was the most vocal among them. His cheerleaders in the media were supporting that belief. If not publicly at least privately many in the Congress may now be acknowledging RG is not PM material. Many in the public already know that. The media never reported the slogans being chanted against RG and others outside Tihar jail during Anna’s detention. The media never posed serious questions to or about him. The media refused to analyse the man properly. And just like the third-grader’s question to Palin, the most probing questions to RG came from university students. But what the media and politicians may not reveal eventually comes out through social networks and that latest enemy of politicians called Wikileaks.
A Wikileaks cable credits noted journalist and Gandhi family friend Saeed Naqvi thus: “Naqvi claimed that it is increasingly common knowledge that Rahul suffers from ""personality problems"" of an emotional or psychological nature that are severe enough to prevent him from functioning as PM.” Psychological problems, really? A few weeks back I wrote the post titled ‘Rahul & Digvijay - The Narcissist& The Sycophant’. A dynastic heir is always tempted to have darbaris and sycophants surround him. This is the problem with RG. He needs to have people around him that will tell him a few blunt truths. His speech writers seem to further remove him from the truths and context of situations. These are the bad choices that RG makes that renders him unfit for bigger leadership roles, like that of a PM.
In other reports from Wikileaks the headlines read “Rahul proposed NREGS for Afghanistan, Assam model for Palestine”. Nobody seems to have had the wisdom to warn RG that NREGA is failing in India and currently the govt itself is considering closure of the scheme. And Palestine? Well seriously, if RG can advise on Palestine I can any day give a 3 hour lecture on the mating habits of insects.
And we now have a term that describes his coterie well – ‘Rahul Brigade’. You can usually find them sitting next to him. The Scindias and the Prasadas. This snippet from the Sunday Guardian makes an interesting observation: “Rahul brigade wanted TV muzzled… Ambika Soni came under attack from the Rahul brigade for failing to muzzle the television channels that were reporting on Anna Hazare's fast. When some of Rahul's associates asked Soni why she was letting the TV channels have a field day supporting the Anna movement, she told them that she could not do anything as they were independent. Soni was under pressure to speak to the owners of the TV channels. Soni is also in the firing line of AICC leaders for allowing three pro-BJP TV journalists join the Accreditation Committee. Deepak Chaurasia, Navika Kumar and Bhupendra Chaubey are known for their proximity to the BJP. Navika Kumar is supposedly close to P. Chidambaram as well, on whose recommendation she is said to have been taken on the panel.”
Well, well that brings the media to a full circle. For years now the servantile media that has carefully crafted RG’s image as a ‘youth icon’ now had to be forced to move elsewhere to cover some ‘real’ events. The crowds were unstoppable and the drama impossible not to cover. As much as RG needs to learn, media outlets like NDTV, CNN-IBN and their partners also need to learn that even electronic sycophancy will not help to cover up the truth. The Congress tried everything, even getting someone like Imam Bukhari to announce muslims are against the Anna movement. They even tried the anti-dalit card. Nothing worked. Regardless of the merits of the movement the Congress proved rudderless and leaderless.
It’s not over yet. Post the agitation the Congress is now on a witch-hunt. Privilege and IT notices have been served to Team Anna members. ED is making vague statements against Ramdev. And RG’s mentor Digvijay is on the loose again making communal and foolish statements. This is one more chance for RG. He can step up even now and put a stop to the witch hunt and set the national debate on a different course. But will he? Does he have what it takes? He once again has the chance to show he can be a statesman. Will he? I seriously doubt, because I haven’t seen anything of a leader or statesman in him.
Even as this is being written, his cronies have made an extra-ordinary statement. “The Anna Hazare movement is not really against corruption. It is not even against the Congress. It is aimed at undermining Rahul Gandhi’s growing youth base, a Congress party office-bearer has alleged.” as reported by DNA newspaper. There maybe two Indias but there is only one Rahul Gandhi. He epitomises the new idiom I thought I’d never hear – Cometh the hour, cometh the loser..”