As soon as he returned after a two month-vacation at some undisclosed destination early this year, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi donned the war paint of a combative and invigorated politician and went for the jugular of the Prime Minister. No less. After all, he is the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, which seems to believe it is the only Indian family vested with the privileges to rule the nation.
Rahul had, in fact, chosen his adversary even before the fateful Lok Sabha polls of 2014 by scoffing at and heaping scorn on BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. How could a measly tea boy who had the “dubious” distinction of hobnobbing with the RSS, become
India’s Prime Minister, he asked in a querulous voice.
Wasn’t Narendra Modi a Hitler and a merchant of death? How could the good people of India repose faith in such a person who lacked the right pedigree and was eminently unsuitable for the job? He interposed such questions with regard to Modi’s credentials and eligibility for the highest political office of the land. Rahul then decided to travel far and wide and tell people of the nation about the “evil lurking around the corner” aspiring to become India’s next Prime Minister.
Travel he did and told the people of the “impending disaster” too. But what he failed to do was to tell the people who UPA was proposing to anoint as the next PM. According to him, people should simply vote for the UPA. Once UPA returned to power for the third time straight, the Congress parliamentary party would decide who is to become the PM. Simple and straight. As for himself, he would not mind shouldering any responsibility that his party deemed fit to offer him, which is how he presented it to the Indian voters. What was left unsaid, but was clearly understood by the people was that the next PM would be decided by the Congress High Command, a euphemism for the mother-son duo of the ruling family, as had always been the practice in the past. In all probability, it would likely be a fall guy like Manmohan Singh who would be foisted by the Sonia-Rahul duo, who was happy calling the shots from behind the scene.
The electorate did not, however, fall for his gambit and preferred the more direct and forthcoming approach of the BJP, which had named its Prime Ministerial candidate. Modi had already arrived on the national scene in a big way, having captured the imagination of the people of the nation with his Gujarat model of development and pan-India vision vis-a-vis the other regional satraps who lacked a roadmap for the country’s progress and a blueprint for the development of its economy.
All that the UPA had to offer against NDA’s development-based program of action was a moth-eaten one-point agenda of their traditional “Secularism” plank. The people saw through their game and accorded the UPA at the General Elections of 2014 the contemptuous cold shoulder that they richly deserved.
UPA versus NDA
A downright rejection by the people, first at the Centre and then in a series of state-level elections, did not, however, deter the Congress Party for far too long from making it difficult for the NDA to have a free rein at the Centre, despite the latter’s humongous majority in the Lok Sabha. The UPA in general, and Rahul Gandhi in particular, focused on the NDA’s Achilles heel of inadequate numbers in the Rajya Sabha and started making it virtually impossible for healthy parliamentary debates to take place and some of the crucial legislations to be passed. The Congress Vice President led the shouting brigade from the front and did not flinch from leveling personal attacks on the Prime Minister.
Rahul dubbed Narendra Modi’s hallmark quality of self-confidence as vanity and narcissism. Instead of taking on the government on its policies upfront, he went for the soft option of character assassination of his favourite bugbear. He conveniently forgot that Modi had risen to dizzying heights of political power from less than a modest social background by sheer dint of hard work as a disciplined party worker and with determination that had lasted over four decades coupled with exemplary developmental work as the Chief Minister of a State which scored over several others in economic and social developmental indices.
Rahul criticised Modi of grabbing power by means of a publicity blitzkrieg, purportedly funded by corporate houses, which had allegedly sidled up to him in the hope that he would return them favours after coming to power at the Centre. Based on these flawed premises, Rahul’s strategy was to take potshots at the Prime Minister, dent his pristine image, which was unmatched by any leader of the current crop. He thus tried his best to pull down Modi from the pedestal of high moral grounds, make him nervous and lose poise, which would have probably resulted in the latter making a faux pas, much to the glee of the Congress Party.
Instead of waiting for a major policy goof-up, Rahul unveiled a three-pronged strategy of provoke, shoot and scoot. So he just kept on looking for a chink in the armour. How could US President Barack Obama’s second visit to India, which was directly attributed to a diplomatic coup by Modi, be allowed to be uneventful? So he decided to pick on Modi’s suit, which looked distinct with his name embroidered all over and unleashed a tirade, including the following.
Rahul called it expensive in terms of cost, but cheap in terms of taste. What a vain person had the suit made the PM! Such narcissism! Such audacity on the part of the leader of a nation which had still not attained the stature of an equal participant at the high table of the world’s economic power blocs! Such folly on the part of a man who dared to believe clothes made him and paraded around in cheap, vulgar clothes which reflected poor taste, like a proud peacock! How did he afford the expensive suit in the first place?
How could the people trust their money with such a man who shamelessly splurged money on symbols of vanity? If it had been presented to him, it must be by some industrialist or businessman with an axe to grind. Dig deep enough to find muck. In any case, let us not lose time in charging him of impropriety and lack of transparency before coming up with evidence or proof to make the charge stick.
Then Rahul creatively came up with a ballpark figure of Rs 10 lakh as the cost of the suit and accused Modi of misusing public money on acquiring the symbol of his vanity, narcissism and megalomania. Till date, Rahul has neither come up with proof or evidence to substantiate his charge nor had the decency to own up to the baseless charges he made against the Prime Minister. That is so much for his intellectual honesty and credibility as a leader.
Sobriquet for the Government
Taking part in a debate on the agrarian crisis in Parliament in April this year, Rahul told the BJP representatives, “Yours is a government of big people, a suit-boot sarkar”, in an obvious reference to Modi’s suit that was the eye of a political storm during President Obama’s visit in January this year. On protests from the BJP, he added, “The suit matter has ended, you have auctioned it, I will not talk about it. Happy?” So, Rahul officially declared his party position that the sordid suit matter had ended! Not because his charge made earlier that the Prime Minister had misused public money to the extent of Rs 10 lakh could not be substantiated, but apparently because the suit had subsequently been auctioned off.
Rahul was solicitous enough to ask the BJP representatives if they were happy with the ending of the matter! How very gracious of this ignoramus and needler! If there indeed had been a misuse of public money on the part of the Prime Minister as he had charged, should Rahul have not pursued the matter to its logical conclusion with all the tenacity and resources at his command instead of magnanimously letting it “end” with the suit’s auction? Whether the BJP representatives were “happy” or not about the closure of the matter, was Rahul not responsible for having caused a slur on Modi’s name?
Was it all, at the end of the day, a simple matter of smoothening the ruffled feathers of the BJP with nary a thought about Modi’s image and reputation? Did he not owe the people an explanation for announcing suo motu the “end” of the matter which involved the “stealing” of a large amount of public money? Was a quid pro quo involved here? Is this how the Prime Ministerial aspirant of Congress proposes to wind up his investigation into all the scams and scandals and make the Opposition ranks “happy”, in case he ever lands up in his dream job? That is a scary thought, indeed!
Accusations and Allegations by Rahul
Rahul accused the NDA government, which he derisively referred to as the “acchhe din government”, of failing the people and held it squarely responsible for pursuing an anti-farmers policy. And he made a series of other allegations and accusations including the following. The NDA government simply did not concern itself with the misery of the farmers in regions across the country, languishing under monumental debts owing to droughts, famines and hailstorms and driven to committing suicide. The Prime Minister was on a perpetual spree of foreign tours. Why was Modi not spending more time at home, to meet the farmers, hold their hands, commiserate with them and enact welfare schemes for their upliftment?
Rahul has been vehement about his party’s determination not to allow the passage of the Land Acquisition Bill in the Rajya Sabha. In a bid to sound sympathetic with regard to the plight of poor farmers of the country, he falsely accused the government of first “weakening” and then trying to smite by grabbing their land—all for the benefit of the influential industrialists, corrupt corporate houses and big businessmen and alleged that these are the very people who had funded Modi’s pre-poll publicity campaign.
So according to him, India currently has a government that had come into being in the first place using the money power of the rich; a government of people who had sympathy and concern only for the rich; a government that worked for the rich and enacted laws to benefit them at the cost of the poor farmers of the country. Hence the sobriquet “Suit-Boot ki Sarkar”!
Rahul has ever since been haranguing the government by castigating it with the sobriquet in his party meetings across the country to the amusement and titillation of the workers of his party and bemusement of the people at large—bemusement over such a bankrupt obsession with “Suit” by the Vice President of the oldest political party of the country while there were any number of crucial issues, ranging from terrorism at home to external threats, which begged urgent attention. Meanwhile, Rahul’s sidekick Raj Babbar added “Loot” to his litany of charges and made the sobriquet “Suit-Boot-Loot ki Sarkar”.
Failure of Congress
If in the eyes of Rahul, Narendra Modi and his political party were guilty of accepting financing from corporate houses and rich businessmen for their poll campaign in 2014, would he come forward and declare that he and his party were never beneficiaries of such a largesse from either the same or a different set of sources this time around or any other elections in the past? If both the NDA and the UPA had accepted funding from corporate houses, why should the latter pick on the former?
In any case, why had not the Congress Party which had been in power at the Centre for a total period of almost 60 years not done anything with regard to prohibiting political parties fighting elections from accepting funding for their campaigns by corporate houses? Why is Rahul finding fault with the system of the
functioning of political parties now, when his own party is playing the game by the same rules and is fully drenched in corruption, patronage, favouritism and abuse of power? Is it merely because of his party’s loss of face in the elections?
Why not a Suit?
Now, at the face level of it, what is wrong or evil about a suit per se? Is it something which only rich people are supposed to wear and not meant for poor people? Is the Prime Minister of India expected to represent only the poor people and not industrialists and businessmen as well? Are those people who are clad in a suit, children of a lesser God? Is it wrong for a poor man to aspire for riches and be seen wearing a suit? Have the members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, starting with Jawaharlal Nehru down to Rahul and his brother-in-law, not been wearing suits?
Is it an unwritten law that the quintessential Indian politician should be only seen in a crumpled pajama-kurta and not in a crisp suit, whatever the occasion? In any case, when English has been adopted as an Indian language, why can’t a suit be considered an Indian costume? Why the derisive urge on the part of Rahul to portray either the Prime Minister or the industrialists or businessmen as a butt of criticism for the mere act of wearing a suit?
Pro-farmers and Pro-poor Policies and Programs
Notwithstanding the merits of the Land Acquisition Bill and the benefits that will accrue to Indian farmers, what about the following pro-farmers and pro-poor policies and programs of the current NDA government, which Rahul has conveniently chosen to ignore?
- Enhanced Compensation for distressed Farmers due to crop damage
- Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana
- Soil Health Card Scheme
- Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana
- Jan Suraksha Schemes (PMJJBY, PMBSY, APY)
- Rashtriya Gokul Mission
- Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (World’s largest Financial Inclusion Program)
- Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Shramev Jayate Karyakram
- Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya Yojana
- Mission Housing for all
- Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Bank (MUDRA Bank)
Time for Rahul to Reflect
Will it ever occur to Rahul Gandhi that the right thing to do would be for him to study these programs and policies with a critical eye for possible flaws, shortcomings or inadequacies and lack of dedication or commitment, if any, on the part of the NDA government in their implementation? Such a course of action that calls for extensive research, analysis and objective assessment on his part would fetch him the stature of a serious politician whose primary concern is for the development and progress of the nation and the welfare of the people.
Will Rahul Gandhi rise to the occasion and seize the opportunity to become richer in stature as a serious politician and thereby present the people a viable alternative to Narendra Modi as a people’s leader or will he be merely contended with causing ripples in murky political waters with his provoke-shoot-and-scoot strategy? In any case, calling the government funny names for a strategy will only win him a few claps from his merry men and far from endearing him to the people make his stature not worth a picayune.
(The article was published in weekly magazine Uday India in August 9-15, 2015 edition on page 10-13)