By Sushil Kutty
The cat (Rahul Gandhi) is among the pigeons (BJP). The day after Rahul said he is ready to become “Prime Minister”, sitting PM Narendra Modi spoke of the “impudence of the immature”, of the “naamdar with the temerity to betray his own alliance”. Is the BJP rattled? Did Rahul unleash a masterstroke on Modi? For, once again, after taking the lead in setting the agenda from the day (May 1) Modi addressed his first election rally in Karnataka, the BJP is not setting the terms of rhetoric.
Asked point-blank at a meeting with prominent Bengaluru citizens if he is ready to become PM, Gandhi replied, “Well, it depends on how well the Congress does in the election. I mean, if it emerges as the biggest party, yes.” But is that what got PM Modi’s goat? Maybe this is what got Modi’s hair up: “I’m pretty convinced that Modi is not going to be the PM. I can see it in his face. He knows it.”
The media was not in the building when these critical words of consequence were spoken. But by the time the Congress president left the building a video was already made. And out in public domain the next day (May 8, 2018). Rahul in the video proclaimed he could angle for the post of Prime Minister of India if the Congress emerged as the party with the most Lok Sabha seats in 2019. By evening, those who don’t like Rahul (of whom there are a legion) went to town with “Is he qualified?”
Somebody retorted with “What qualification? All you need to become PM is be an MP.” Gandhi is already an MP and if the people of Amethi keep faith in him, with him, he will remain an MP come post-polls mid-2019. But those who consider Rahul short-term comic relief and nothing more, they wouldn’t relent. “He jumped the gun. Nobody can nominate himself PM candidate,” they spoke with a conviction born of not ever bucking convention.
“No man or woman who became PM has done such a thing, unprecedented,” they ruled with a headmaster’s shake of head. But then, isn’t this a year of the ‘unprecedented? The press conference of the four senior most Supreme Court judges; the impeachment motion against a CJI and, now, Rahul Gandhi declaring that he “will be PM” without first sounding alliance partners – all of them “firsts”, unprecedented!
Of course, Rahul nominated a couple of caveats to go with his big hope: One, the Congress wins the most number of parliamentary constituencies in 2019. Two, the Congress along with its allies overshoots the BJP’s total number of seats. With that, all of a sudden, people got to know that these are a few of Rahul’s favourite things!
“Suddenly” because it looks like Rahul Gandhi has broken free of mum Sonia Gandhi’s sari-pallu, become his own man. The last time there was a whiff of ‘Rahul for PM’, Sonia sat him down and told him that ‘politics is poison’, better left to trusted non-family Congressmen. Now, politics has potential. And it is not a nightmare to be ambitious!
I&B minister Smriti Irani whose ambition is to beat Rahul Gandhi in Amethi says she’s okay with Rahul’s proclamation because everybody has the “right to dream” and Rahul Gandhi can dream, too, but, but…what does he have to show besides the “pathetic 40% attendance record in the Lok Sabha” and “no questions asked”? That heard, Irani will have to be a really good ‘bahu’ to beat Rahul in the Gandhi pocket-borough. With Rahul saying he wants to be PM who in Amethi will want mere MP Smriti Irani?
Arnab Goswami, who sits on the laurel that he’s the only journalist who got Rahul to answer questions one-on-one, looked like he couldn’t believe his ears after hearing Rahul’s declaration of intent. Speaking in his best-man voice, the anchor who shouts questions on behalf of the nation, expressed disgust that ‘Rahul for PM’ has left the “nation distraught”. Asked how’s that possible when the people have the choice to reject Gandhi, Goswami shifted gears and corrected to likely alliance partners Mayawati and Akhliesh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu are distraught.
In that too he is wrong. The likely allies must be more likely angry, pissed off. Mamata and Mayawati must have also had a good laugh, giggling like schoolgirls at the thought of “PM Rahul”. And Naidu Garu must have shaken his head, like being bothered by a mosquito, and must have debated whether to place a call to Telangana counterpart K Chandrashekhar Rao who has been hectically travelling to cobble up a Third Front.
Rahul Gandhi’s big hope rests on these and other regional eminences, a highly disparate group of individuals, ambitious politicians, a couple of them likely harbouring dreams to at least become deputy PM if not PM. Not Mayawati, though. She has set her eyes on becoming PM and probably has already bought a handbag to go with the salwar-kameez on inauguration day – the first Dalit PM of India, unprecedented! But Behen Mayawati will face stiff competition from Mamata Didi who is convinced that not just the people of Bengal, the people of all-India need her calming hand!
Trouble for Rahul is that not just the BJP and Modi (and Goswami), there are lots of people in the country who think he’s not qualified for the job, is “immature”, lacking the mojo to steer a country like India to heights unprecedented! The dynast-tag that 10, Janpath bestows on Gandhi is also a cross to bear.
But for some to say that Rahul is “half-Italian” (as one female RSS voice went on and on) is so much hoo-ha. Born to a true-blue Indian father, Rahul is every bit Indian as Modi is. He speaks Hindi and English, doesn’t break into local lingo on the election campaign, has a dimple on his cheek and carries a stubble well. Besides, unlike an Italian, he is janeoudhari and goes to the gym. Yoga is for the old and the potbellied!
Point is, if Rahul Gandhi wants to become PM, who are we the people to stop him? Unless we really want him stopped! Rahul’s innermost desire is out in the open now, and ‘Hey Jude, if he wants to take the song and make it better’, what’s the complaint all about? (IPA Service)