16 July 2019 11:56 AM

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SEEMA MUSTAFA | 5 MAY, 2019

Take Another Close Look At Rahul Gandhi

Lok Sabha 2019 showcases Rahul Gandhi for those care to see


NEW DELHI: It is a little tiring to sit in a Delhi drawing room and discuss politics. As the level of knowledge is directly proportionate to television reality shows--- well they call it news-- every evening, with little effort being made by the supposed educated elite to acquire information with effort, instead of accepting the tutoring in hysterical tones that is dished out every evening.

So the refrain remains largely, even amongst those opposing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP ---mind you for reasons that do not include the lynchings and attacks on innocent citizens---”well what is the alternative?” And invariably someone says with a snigger “well there is Rahul Gandhi”. And the group laughs, smirks and one or the other invariably remarks “Pappu” as if the word is his invention. And not a term done to death by the strong propaganda machinery of the BJP, that the Congress did not even bother to counter in the first years after Modi came to power.

I do not like the word. As it has nothing to do with politics. It is impossible to believe that this term can actually describe a politician in India today. To be there, to run a party, to fight an election, to survive is in itself a feat that those running media houses, or corporates might find difficult to understand. There is nothing ‘pappu’ about being a politician, there are at best grades of intelligence, peaking at authoritarian craftiness that make up the archetypal Indian politician today.

Rahul Gandhi defies the norm. He had a simplicity of approach when he entered the field, a diffidence that clouded his attitude, levels of ignorance that impacted on his confidence, making it easy then for his powerful adversaries to chew him for breakfast. Which Modi did, with a crassness that falls below the belt even in Indian politics.

But then who cares about good politics in the ruling dispensation right? After all the current mascot is the Malegaon terror accused Pragya Thakur, who is the BJP candidate from Bhopal for the Lok Sabha. And just yesterday the PM dragged late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi--- a victim of terrorism --into his attack on Rahul Gandhi in a campaign that is getting increasingly personal and vicious.

Yes, Rahul Gandhi was rather unimpressive in his initial days. And one wondered what he was doing in politics, when his interests did not appear to lie here. He was at best a reluctant politician, more abroad than in India, playing hookey like the recalcitrant college student with a frequency that a country like India found unacceptable. That he was in the line up of an established political Dynasty did not help.

But in my view there are two categories to a politician. Apart from the usual slugs of dishonesty, deviousness, that is. One, the politician that evolves (to higher and not lower unpalatable levels) and the other who sinks further into the abyss of his or her own limitations. Rahul Gandhi is amongst the few who belong to the first category. He has, after the initial hesitation, worked hard on himself -- to overcome the earlier defined limitations, to reach out, and to convert what the ruling dispensation described as weaknesses into his strengths.

And he has metamorphosed into this leader with a heart. The embrace, the pause to listen to a story, the mingling with the crowds in the villages has been turned into a personality hallmark. Along with this comes a certain crusading style of campaign where he does not flit from issue to issue but keeps himself focused on what he wants to drive home. Like Rafale. Like joblessness. Like the agrarian crisis. And then the solution to the last two :NYAY that despite the poor Congress machinery has got some resonance in rural districts of north India.

The package is tied with a ribbon of grit, with Rahul Gandhi refusing to give up despite a personalised, constant attack on him and his entire family by Modi as well as all BJP leaders and trolls. It cannot be forgotten that he did lose his grandmother and his father to targeted assassinations.Even now when it was made out that he was apologising about calling the ‘chowkidar’ a ‘chor’ he made it very clear that he had not backed off from this at all, and that his apology was for attributing a similar remark to the court, and not for the statement itself.

In a recent interview to Srinivasan Jain, the Congress president came across as steely, determined, with good, crisp responses to penetrating questions. And this was not a rehearsed interview, but on the campaign trail where Rahul Gandhi stopped long enough to answer Jain’s questions. With aplomb.

This Lok Sabha campaign has showcased the Congress president without appearing to. He has been out in the public arena, and is now causing grief in his opponents camp. In the process of finding his feet in politics, Rahul Gandhi has built himself into a perfect foil for his main opponent Modi. He comes through as humble --I have come to learn from you; democratic where he insists on interactions with his audience --industry, students, stopping to hug a teacher in tears or an old villager in dire straits; responsive--he answers every question meticulously, in detail; and plays on love, peace, humanity as against hate, aggression, war. The smile against the wagging finger; the embrace against the threat-- it is all now part of a persona, natural and yet crafted.

There is a certain casualness of dress, the kurta, pajama dressed up with a Nehru jacket now and again; with a Tshirt and jeans being the other preferred mode of attire. A ‘call me Rahul’ attitude that has college girls blushing, but adds to an all around comfort zone.

His strategy might be flawed, but then this is also because he is still having to accommodate sections of the Congress. As he told Jain, in his view disorganisation was one of the main drawbacks of the party. But he knows where he wants to go, and makes a pretty good case of going back to the drawing board and starting afresh.

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