Dear Rahul Gandhi...

Dear Rahul Gandhi...

by Mayuresh Didolkar - Oct 3, 2017 03:25 PM +05:30 IST
Dear Rahul Gandhi...Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi (Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
  • Rahul Gandhi recently gave an interview to Huffington Post in America where he equated Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte saying both leaders “thrive on hatred and disrespect institutions”.

    Here is an open letter addressed to the Congress scion in response.

Dear Rahul Gandhi,

Late Dev Anand, in his super-hit film ‘Asli Naqli’, where he plays a rich man’s grandson, complains “no sooner I drew a line on paper, everyone claimed no painter ever had shown such imagination’. As the scion of India’s first family, perhaps you must have had similar experiences all your life. The praises heaped upon you for your talks across two American campuses and your interview with Nicolas Berggruen in Huffington Post are two latest examples of such fawning. So, I thought you might find a contrary view point refreshing. I know, as the vice president of a party fighting for survival, you have a lot of demand on your time and even though you think all of us who are supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are without jobs, actually, I run two businesses full-time. So I will try to be as brief as possible.

Before we analyse your interview with HuffPost, I must say the choice of Nicolas Berggruen as an interviewer, while curious, was not altogether inappropriate. The so called homeless billionaire is, like you, the descendent of a rich and famous family. Berggruen was most recently in news for paying over $300,000 (Rs 1,96,93,500) to the French ex-defence minister Sylvie Goulard through his United States of America (USA) based think-tank. Goulard has now resigned over her party’s use of assistants in the European parliament. I wonder if at any time during your chat, you asked Berggruen for tips on how to use the platform provided by successful parents to build your own success story, something you have failed to do so far.

Your interview itself begins with a very worrying answer where you said -

The central difference between the United States and India’s system is that India is composed of 29 states with completely different cultures and languages. In that sense, our diversity is more like Europe’s. If you look at states like Tamil Nadu [in the south] and Mizoram [in the northeast], the differences between them are greater than between any two countries in Europe.
Rahul Gandhi in an interview

I think, you will forgive many people like me for wondering why the leader of India’s oldest party is voluntarily comparing his country, one of the oldest civilisations in the world, with a political and economic union of 28 states that came into existence officially only in 1992. In light of attempts made by American educationists to de-recognise pre-independence India as ‘South Asia’, it sounds like you too feel India would be better off as a bunch of autonomous states only coming together for certain core economic and political activities. As a leader of the Congress party, if you want to push for a similar structure, then your voters are entitled to know this clearly. I think a follow-up statement on your part is needed.

In the same answer, I found your comments about economic insecurity especially amusing. Amusing also, were your views on how the right is supposedly exploiting the anxieties over identity since it is your party’s government in Karnataka that is at present engaged in most aggressive form of identity politics over language, even going to the length of not allowing Hindi language signboards in prominent locations that might help the non-Kannadiga migrant population to navigate in the state.

Even as I write this today, I read that the Karnataka government is mulling over 100 per cent reservation for Kannadigas for blue-collar jobs in the private sector. All of this is happening with your full knowledge and implied consent and I think it is duplicitous of you to bring your opposition’s identity politics without acknowledging that your own party suffers from the same problem.

The most shocking part comes next when you say –

Tribals, Dalits and Muslims are simply being told by the ruling party that they cannot be part of India’s vision. Journalists are being shot dead.
Rahul Gandhi

Anybody with even rudimentary knowledge of Indian discourse would know this to be not true. In fact, the first part sounds hilariously similar to Kerry Washington’s rant at last year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) where she talked about the then Republican nominee Donald Trump taking away women’s right to vote. She is not in politics per se, and earns her living as an actress. I don’t know what your excuse is.

Just to cite a few examples – the Prime Minister himself comes from the Other Backward Class (OBC) community. Even in his first cabinet close, to 50 per cent posts were held by Scheduled Caste (SC)/Scheduled Tribe (ST) /OBC community members. The President, nominated by the BJP, belongs to the Dalit community.

Your late father, on the other hand, in spite of having a brute majority in both houses of parliament, refused to stand up for a helpless Muslim woman get her rights. It is the current ruling party that unequivocally took the stand against the archaic and unfair practice of triple talaq. These are not arguments Rahulji, these are matters of history and when a senior leader like you chooses to lie blithely about it, it reflects very poorly on your credibility as a future leader. Your recent episodes of lies during your tour of Gujarat, point to a pattern that ought to worry a lot of voters.

Equally worrying is, you talking about “journalists shot dead” where the hyperlink in the interview leads to the news of the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh who was killed in the capital of Karnataka, a state ruled by your party. The last time I read the Constitution of India, law and order was a state subject. Instead of taking the moral responsibility of not being able to safeguard the states you are ruling, you have indulged in blatant misrepresentation of facts.

Merriam Webster defines the phrase ‘talking a good game’ as – to say things that make people believe that one can do something or that something is true about oneself even though it is not true. A large part of your interview, especially on the economy and policy issues is an example of you talking a good game. For example, about centralisation of power you say – “The main problem in India is overconcentration of power. Almost all important decisions in India today are taken at the Prime Minister’s level. And at the state level, they’re taken by the Chief Minister”.

Anyone even faintly acquainted with the history of your party would notice the hypocrisy of a Congress leader speaking about centralisation of power at once. For nearly seven decades, essentially one family took all the decisions about the party, and consequently about the country itself. In my own state of Maharashtra, Congress had as many as 18 Chief Ministers in a total period of just over 27 years. Converting the chief ministerial seat to some form of musical chair doesn’t sound terribly decentralised, does it? Rajiv Gandhi, when he was the general secretary of the party, had once called a sitting CM of Andhra Pradesh a ‘buffoon’ because the latter had failed to show up at the airport to receive Rajiv. Charity begins at home Rahul ji, so why don’t you start working on the decentralisation thing in your own party before talking about it as a system of governance?

Your example of the Mizoram insurgency as a model for dealing with insurgency is worrying as well. Especially your statement “not by stamping them down and trying to crush them, but by pushing power out” seems to come out with the assumption that all insurgencies are essentially a result of some form of wrong committed by the state. I wonder if you feel the same way about the Islamic terrorism in the valley of Kashmir that was responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990s.

Your concern over burgeoning population and the job market is well founded and shared by all of us. However, I fail to understand if you think this problem started in 2014? You talk about Modi coming to power with promises of jobs but fail to mention that such a promise could appeal to the large electorate only because of your own government’s dismal track record at producing jobs in the previous two terms.

Similarly, I think you conflate disrespect for power structures (like the infamous Lutyen’s) for disrespect for institutions. Narendra Modi and his team have taken power through democratic (institutional) means. What Modi, however, has done is refused to co-opt the multiple power structures your family/party have built over the years. There is a difference between the two.

The truth is, you rose to the top of your party without ever fighting an election, you have not been blamed for a string of electoral failures since late 2013. You call the parliament ‘a debating society without any power’ whereas Modi calls the same parliament a ‘temple of democracy’. I don’t wish to split hairs Rahul ji, but tell me, who is really disrespecting the institutions?

Ironically, as you were waxing eloquent that the central fight between the BJP and the Congress party is about caste, your mother and the party president were sacking Bihar Pradesh Congress committee president Ashok Choudhary, a Dalit leader.

You closed your rant by saying Modi is a status-quoist in guise of a reformer. If you leave the politics aside for a minute, the idea that the son of a poor OBC family, who served tea on India’s railway station before rising to the highest office in the country would be a status quo-ist while the scion of a family who was elevated to the top post of his party, and whose fortunes are not dependent on the party’s electoral performance is a reformer, are beyond ludicrous and needs no rebuttal.

Frankly speaking, the people who should truly worry about this interview are your own cadre. While I was growing up in rural India, Congress was considered as the party of the common people and the BJP/Janata were considered somewhat boutique parties that attracted only special interest groups. Nearly three decades from the time your late father swept to power with unprecedented majority, we have come a full circle and the Congress is increasingly sounding like a boutique party ruled by an unelected dynasty who is advised by page 3 types with no connect to India’s masses whatsoever.

The electoral results are a mirror Rahul Gandhi. So, please stop blaming the fractures in the glass and find out why the image looks so bleak.

The writer is a investment services professional and novelist. His latest novel The Dark Road was published by Juggernaut Publications.

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