Bottom Line: After having weathered unfair criticism, mockery, and personality assassination, Rahul Gandhi still seems to be determined to make humility in politics his calling card. Will it work in a hostile political environment?
Rahul Gandhi is yet again in the news following his back-to-back speeches in the US, said a friend. I just wondered when was Rahul Gandhi not in the news. Let us face it! Rahul Gandhi is and will always be in the news – for right reasons or wrong, for making a mistake or being labeled to have made one, for admitting that he is not perfect or to be blamed for not being a perfect politician.
Thanks to a generation of BJP politicians in general and BJPâ€™s man-of-the-moment and best orator Narendra Modi in particular, Rahul Gandhi is always in discussion. Rahul knows it. Having weathered back-to-back personal tragedies of losing grandmother in early childhood and then losing father in early adulthood, the man knows that what it takes to be the first family of a political party in a country like India. For him, power is hence an illusion.
This is what has shaped his personality, something that gives ammunition to the critics to allege that Rahul is a reluctant politician. That may or may not be true but the humility of Rahul Gandhi today definitely makes him a mystery wrapped in an enigma. No one knows for sure whether he intends to be heir apparent to the legacy of Prime Ministers in family or he would just be the head of the party.
It is easy to dismiss Rahul as a man who despite of pedigree lacks the charisma. But then had this been the case who would have known it better than the BJP. And if the BJP knows it, instead of pretending to know it and mock around, they would not have invested so much (money, material, manpower and machinery online) to discredit Rahul as and when he opens his mouth.
It is indeed a peculiar case study of Indian politics that when Rahul opens his mouth (alleged by BJP to be kiddish, pappu as they say) the BJP has to field a battery of spokespersons, including top ministers and functionaries, to run from one TV news station to another to repeat that no one takes Rahul Gandhi seriously.
Having invested so much into the personality assassination of Rahul Gandhi, the BJP knows the advantages of managing the personality profile of Rahul Gandhi in the collective consciousness. Even the Prime Minister Modi himself has mocked Rahul so many times with distorted statements of what he actually said.
When Rahul says Pineapple, Modi mocks it as coconut just to mock Rahul Gandhi and cold storage for potatoes is referred as Rahulâ€™s ignorance to call factory to produce potatoes. It is a different matter that Modi can never take on Rahul in a face-to-face debate, as the BJP knows about the educational background of Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. BJP is also conscious of the fact that being an excellent orator Modi is a heavyweight to Rahul as long it is monologue and not dialogue.
Rahul Gandhi has still never boasted that he is superior in terms academics or the intellectual depth. He has also never invested in mocking at Modi or any other opposition leader. No one has ever heard any abusive slang coming out of Rahul. He seems to believe in introspection and can go to the extent of criticizing his own government if he finds fault. Remember UPA II when he criticized ordinance to save the tainted lawmakers.
His public statement in admitting that Congress needed to learn the art of grass root campaign from Arvind Kejriwalâ€™s party also reflects his humility to give the devil his due. But no! In todayâ€™s high voltage media orchestrated reality show called politics, these traits were termed as childish jibe of a man who does not understand politics.
Rahul has weathered all the criticism, fair and foul, but has never lost his cool or patience. He is also conscious of the fact that with a legacy of being ruling class, he has a heavy baggage of past mistakes committed by the party men, unlike Modi who does not have the weight of any such baggage at the national level. Modi is also more street smart than Rahul to manage his baggage of Gujarat in the public perception.
Rahulâ€™s personality reflects all this and much more. He is hence a mystery wrapped in an enigma for the large section of Indians whose ideas & opinion are goaded by what is served to them through the information over-dose on TV News and social media.
Isnâ€™t it a time to decode the myth and reality of Rahul Gandhi? Letâ€™s first look at some of the myths created around him:
Rahul Gandhi is a reluctant politician and heir apparent who simple doesnâ€™t know what he wants for himself
Rahul Gandhi is too kiddish to be labeled as Pappu
Whenever Rahul opens his mouth Congress loses public sympathy & votes; even facts are wrong with him
He often reads his speeches in the Parliament
He leaves country for vacations as and when there is some serious debate in or outside Parliament
In contrast to the above allegations, the coin of reality has another face as well. Some of the striking pointers:
Greedy to be in power & position has more often than not given the world dictator kind of rulers, India at present being no exception
Rahul might not be as good orator as Modi but has never misled the nation with distorted facts or statistics
Rahul Gandhi publicly admits that he is not perfect and makes mistake, unlike Narendra Modi who makes mistakes and repeats that like a stubborn despot
Rahul does not have journalists on his side to term every blunder as next masterstroke
Rahul doesnâ€™t lose patience even when criticised; nor has he ever left a debate/interview just because he has been grilled
Rahul takes it with humility even when vested interests in media are unfair to question him for the failures of the Modi governmentÂ
There are enough instances to suggest that Rahul Gandhi is more democratic, has better idea of inclusive society, and has more humility than the man who has come out of humble background but nevertheless behaves like a â€˜Royal Monarchâ€™.
Why is the real Rahul Gandhi not taking the center stage then? The answer probably lies in his humility to not ruffle the feathers of a coterie of â€˜vested interestsâ€™ around him. It is not in the nature of these old timers in politics to let Rahul come out of the closet and mix with the grass root workers. And it is also not in the nature of Rahul to throw out people around him that easily.
It would be interesting to see whether Rahul changes a bit and becomes less democratic within the Congress Party at the top to be more democratic at the bottom. That is something that will define the destiny of grand old Congress Party and the future of India. Till then Rahul Gandhi remains what he is – mystery to many, pappu to critics and a man that seems to be struggling within self to become what probably is not there in his temperamentâ€”assertive, authoritative and ruthless.
By: Ravi Sinha