Politics of Entitlement will not take Rahul Gandhi anywhere
Just when the nation was beginning to tire of demonetisation-ATM jokes, came along Rahul Gandhi to put the universe on a new spin with his “earthquake” prediction. Not just trolls but even neutral cartoonists — who do not miss an opportunity to lampoon the Government – found it too tempting a subject to resist a jab.
For the sake of argument, let us accept that it was the BJP which did not allow Parliament to function because they did not want Rahul to speak. The BJP’s own venerable marg-darshak, LK Advani, has pulled up the Speaker and the Parliamentary Affairs Minister for poor management of the House, a view that has brought much cheer to the Opposition. Rahul Gandhi saluted Advani for upholding democratic values. But, what did the Congress MPs do in return to get their say?
Let us not fault Rahul Gandhi for not speaking outside Parliament, forsaking legislative immunity. But, there is enough TV footage showing several opportunities which Rahul Gandhi could have used to make his apocalyptic allegations against the Prime Minister. Instead, what we saw was an impromptu press conference by Rahul Gandhi on the penultimate day of the Winter Session with rest of the Opposition in tow, who later admitted that they were taken by surprise at the sudden decision and had no clue about what he was talking about.
The next morning he went with a bunch of his party colleagues to meet the Prime Minister, leaving behind members of other Opposition parties. It was an anti-climax, when on coming out Rahul Gandhi announced to the waiting media that he had asked the Prime Minister to waive loans of the farmers.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had his say at the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting where he accused Rahul’s grandmother of shying away from demonetisation in 1971. Pictures of the meeting released by the PMO showed a smiling Rahul staring at the PM. As per reports, the PM told Rahul as he was leaving – “Milte rahiye” (keep meeting or stay in touch). The rest of the Opposition, feeling left out, chose not to accompany Rahul on his next scheduled outing of the day to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
If it was such an explosive piece of material, Rahul could have easily instructed his MPs not to make a big issue of Agusta Wetland choppers and instead make way for him to table the Modi masala. But, either they were not interested (perhaps, for the lack of material) or did not know how to manoeuvre their way through the ruckus in the Lok Sabha.
In the process, if it was indeed the ruling party’s strategy to turn the session into a washout, they succeeded eminently. Normally, Rahul has come to be associated with a “shoot and scoot” strategy. But, this time it looked more like “scoot without even trying to shoot” act.
It is well known that Rahul Gandhi loves to speak in metaphors and he probably has a retinue of speech writers who provide him with a steady supply of quips, which even if not the public the media dutifully laps up. Undoubtedly, the highpoint of this personal genre was his “suit-boot sarkar” swipe, of which he has only grown fonder over time and keeps adding it like Tabasco in every dish. Subsequently, he got a little bolder with “khoon ki dalali” and now to a smarter sounding “Modi-made disaster”.
Consummate communicators know aphorisms provide a hook for the listener but it has to be backed up by substance for the message to register. This is where Rahul’s tutors have failed him. His narrative has seldom progressed beyond the opening shot. He routinely outsources the substantive arguments to senior colleagues like Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram who have limited mass impact.
As the Congress president in waiting he is expected to lead from the front – not just by providing star value but also thought leadership. That is where his advisers probably let him down. While he certainly knows his “Dadima” dismembered Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971, no one educated him on her views about demonetisation. Had he known that, he could have waylaid Narendra Modi with the same quote – citing how Indira Gandhi rejected the suggestions of bureaucrats for demonetisation.
Critics may say Narendra Modi too is more rhetoric than intellect. He also relies on colleagues like Arun Jaitley to settle the theoretical scores. But, Modi is able to capture the imagination of his constituents with pithy examples and tales in which satire and sarcasm become just the icing on the cake.
While the Congress and Rahul Gandhi regularly critique Modi for not taking the advice of others, one wonders if any of Rahul’s cronies provide him feedback about his style and actions.
One does not doubt Rahul’s resolve and confidence about unseating Modi Sarkar. He may have reasons to believe Narendra Modi is an unlawful usurper of the Delhi Durbar – who has unfairly deprived him of the takht that family faithful Manmohan S ingh had kept warm for ten long years. But, even the most ardent loyalist of the Gandhi family would not bet on the Congress coming to power on its own.
In such a situation, Rahul would need the support of allies. Unlike Congressmen, they are unlikely to accept Rahul as the leader of their pack simply because of his surname. He will have to treat them with respect and at the same time earn their respect by developing a little depth and maturity.
For that, he will have to first shed his sense of political entitlement and start focussing on content as much as photo-op and smart sound-bytes.
Article first published in @abplive.in