By Aditya Aamir
One dare invites another. That is the order of dares. And the gods were no different. What, the challenge set to win the hands of Sita and Draupadi were itself dares! Then again, everybody worth a tongue and a slight to complain dares. Yellow-bellies walk away from a dare. Those with fire in the belly follow through. ‘You just wait…’ are the most famous three words associated with dares and counter-dares.
The other day, in Karnataka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi propped up Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s ’15-minute Parliament Rafale face-off dare’ and threw back at Rahul a counter-dare. You couldn’t have expected anything less from a 56” chest. How dare Rahul stick his hand in a beehive and walk away without a sting to his ring finger, so crucial an index for a 47-year-old eligible bachelor.
Rahul Gandhi – like the Sheriff in ‘Rambo’ who drew first blood – threw the first dare. At a Congress rally, he challenged Modi to sit through a 15-minute verbal onslaught from him on the Rafale deal. “Modi is afraid to stand in Parliament. If I am allowed to speak for 15 minutes on the Rafale deal in Parliament, Modi will be out of the Lok Sabha before it’s called time-up,” Rahul told the rally.
“Bah!” snorted the BJP. “What’s that again?” And Social Media exploded with Rahul’s dare posted and retweeted ad infinitum. May 1, Modi went to Karnataka to address his own rally. There he returned to Rahul his dare ‘soodh samaith’, with compound interest. “I challenge you (Rahul) to speak for 15 minutes on the achievements of your government in Karnataka without reading from any piece of paper. You can speak in Hindi, English or your mata ki matra-bhasha,” Modi told the crowd at the rally in Chamrajnagar. “I doubt if Rahul ‘naamdar’ will be able to even speak for the full 15 minutes.”
Modi’s counter-dare was in your face and scathing; very personal, too. He put a question mark on Rahul’s ability to speak and left it to Rahul to reply. BJP storm-troopers drooled at the prospect of seeing a helpless tongue-tied Rahul Gandhi in a dare-dare debate. Congress leaders sprung to their party president’s defence and rescue. Renuka Chowdhury was first off the block. “I challenge Modi to debate with me for 15 minutes,” she told media.
Second was Divya ‘Ramya’ Spandana, Rahul Gandhi’s Social Media organizer. She struck at Modi’s “lie” about “people like me who don’t dress well”: “@narendramodiji so fancy! I love the Loro Piana jacket on you! Only 17,000 euros! Very cheap. Whose credit card was used to pay for this Modiji?” We’ve heard of people getting under the skin of somebody they don’t like. But this was a first, Diya ‘Ramya’ worming into PM Modi’s jacket to read Loro Piana. Splendido!
But both Renuka and Divya ‘Ramya’ did a disservice to Rahul Gandhi. With their quickly rising to the feet feats, they underlined Rahul’s lack of confidence and oratorical skills. They spoke like Modi spoke even as the Congress laboured on Labour Day to contain the fallout of Rahul’s dare. “What dare? Modi is scared the BJP is losing. The BJP has nothing to say about Karnataka. So he’s made it personal, a Modi versus dynast battle, what’s ‘naamdar’ got to do with Karnataka?” Congress spokespersons asked TV show anchors. BJP spokespersons on the same shows laughed: Rahul’s Rafale will not fly!
But Modi made a mistake. Granted Modi is second only to Socrates in oratory, but that doesn’t mean he should get mean! Mocking Rahul Gandhi’s incompetence smacked of an arrogance not fitting in a statesman-politician. Modi is addicted to theatrics but the confidential whispers he peppers speeches with will not cut ice in a one-on-one dare-debate if ever one were held.
And, what is this ‘no look at a piece of paper’ condition? Presidential debates in the United States are all about ‘preparation’. Candidates hire entire teams of experts to keep them up-to-date. Some even pull out a piece of paper. Rahul Gandhi, if he accepts Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s counter-dare, will come prepared, tutored to answer Modi answer for answer! So shall Modi, for that matter. And what proof Modi has a cutting-edge memory and Rahul doesn’t?
Fact of the matter is everybody loves an underdog and PM Modi with his unassailable ego has marked Rahul Gandhi as the underdog. But with that comes the projection, of a dark-horse. In a dare-debate between the two, Rahul Gandhi is an underdog as well a dark-horse. And if the journalist in the middle posing questions is not Arnab Goswami, there is more than an outside chance that Rahul wins! (IPA Service)