The Tragedy of Being Rahul Gandhi

Just when you think Rahul Gandhi cannot outdo himself, he comes out with another gem.

On December 5, amidst one of the several Parliament gridlocks over the use of abusive language by a minister (as if it has happened for the first time ever), Rahul Gandhi stood next to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi placed outside the Parliament House, and sported a black band over his mouth, accusing the government of muzzling the voice of the Opposition, a charge that he has been repeating for a while now, as exemplified by his rushing into the well of the house on August 6, 2014. This protest was over the issue of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, who was caught using the word haraamzaada (illegitimate child) in a public rally in Delhi. Of course, he seems to have forgotten how his own henchman from Uttar Pradesh, Imran Masood, threatened to chop Narendra Modi to pieces among other many gems that dot the internet.  

Not just that, Rahul Gandhi had also found the time and gall to dare the government to run a bulldozer over him (meri chhati par se bulldozer chalana hoga) in an attempt to create a storm about the razing of slums located over land that belonged to the Delhi city’s forest department. Of course, it was convenient to forget that court orders were what prompted this action by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, but the empowerment was targeted, which was staunchly opposed by Rahul Gandhi.

It is easy to be critical of Rahul Gandhi for theatrics. Of course, one must remember that every politician tends to be theatrical in their mannerism when the cameras are turned on (the best example being the gaggle of Aam Aadmi Party these days). However, the problem of being Rahul Gandhi tends to compound the problems of Rahul Gandhi among other things. Often it has been discussed, as did even a biographer, of how Rahul Gandhi is just not made for politics. As The Economist observed back in 2012 from Aarti Ramachandran’s book,

“The overall impression of Mr Gandhi from Mrs Ramachandran’s book is...a figure who has an ill-defined urge to improve the lives of poor Indians, but no real idea of how to do so. He feels obliged to work in politics, but his political strategies are half-baked....”

This was further compounded by his disastrous performance at his interview with Arnab Goswami for Times Now in the run up to General Elections of 2014, where he came across as misguided, naive and unaware of the problems that India faces. The very fact that he repeated the phrase ‘women empowerment’ as a solution to everything at least forty times did not help his cause either. The interview spun off so many spoofs that it became impossible to keep track of them, with each progressively deriding Rahul Gandhi for being among other things, being dumb. I would stick my neck out and say that it was this interview that did more damage to the All India Congress Committee (AICC) than all of Narendra Modi’s rallies put together, since transcripts of the interview went viral across newspapers in various languages. What did not help matters were rumours that Priyanka Vadra and Jairam Ramesh were prompting him from behind. And this, when the ever raucous, permanently outraged Arnab Goswami was at his feeblest ever.

Subsequently, Rahul Gandhi seems to have been absent post the debacle of 2014. He seems to be stuck in a political system that treats parties and outfits as personal fiefdoms, where the entire universe legitimizes untold acts in the name of this sunny son, who becomes no less than god for the outfit members. His sincerity seems to be always under a cloud of suspicion not just by the media but even by laymen and some sections of the Congress, who are now demanding that Priyanka Vadra, her sister, be brought into the scheme of things so as to revive the sagging fortunes of the party. His own party seems to have made him a pariah of sorts when it comes to campaigning in state assemble elections, evident by his conspicuous absence or low key appearances in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir, for he is believed to cause ever more harm to the party by his campaigning than the campaigning of Narendra Modi by many within the Congress. Moreover, Rahul Gandhi as a politician seems to be even more prone to gaffes than Smriti Irani as a minister is these days.

Much like business, in politics two kind of people tend to flourish - the leader and the manager. The leader is a natural at it, able to generate debate, discussions and deliberations not just within the organization but also outside, and is often a first mover on many things, setting the trend. (S)he has the gift of the gab, and is intellectual but conveys ideas in terms others understand easily. In contrast, the manager is a fast second mover, who is able to see the bigger picture, spot the trend, and mobilize resources quickly to enable smooth transitions, sans which the organization would go bust in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the voters, Rahul Gandhi seems to be neither. He seems reluctant about everything, and all his attempts at best seem half-hearted and ill-thought. His agenda seems to be often insipid and uninspiring for his own party workers, forget the people on the street. Moreover, leaving aside general elections 2014, he just gives mere soundbites instead of interviews or writing op-eds, thus removing himself entirely from the fickle consciousness that is collective memory. Plus all his efforts to reach out to the masses are construed as nothing more than political stuntbaazi, and is often reduced to a topic meant to provide much sought after comic relief.

Laymen on the street often make the telling remark that Rahul Gandhi should just quit politics because he has neither the wit nor the intelligence to be a part of it. Unfortunately, it seems that Mr. Rahul Gandhi is not going to heed to their request any time soon. Till then, enjoy the political clownery.


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