By Sushil Kutty
Who is ‘Panauti’ for which political party will be known on December 3 when votes are counted and the results of the assembly elections are out. And if the 2024 general election favours the INDI-Alliance, the Election Commission, which has issued a show cause notice to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his anti-Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarks, will forget ‘Panauti’ and ‘pickpocket’, both.
The EC has set a November 25 deadline for Rahul Gandhi to reply to the show cause notice. Actually, calling somebody ‘Panauti’ is superstition. Can one person be another person’s bad luck? Can a person bring bad luck to an event? In the northeastern states, governments are punishing people for branding some women witches. Calling somebody ‘pickpocket’ is defamation and requires proof, hard evidence.
The fact is, Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium can hold about 1,32,000 spectators, but to pick one out of 1,32,000 and labelling the person ‘Panauti’ is highly egregious. This is one more occasion when Rahul Gandhi’s guileless image has taken a direct hit. Suddenly, Rahul Gandhi is the shrewd, cunning politician.
For crores of Indians, Rahul Gandhi, after the Bharat Jodo Yatra, was above the petty wrangling of petty politicians. Scoring brownie points was not Rahul Gandhi style. That image has taken some knocks. That being said, elections bring out strange quirks in politicians, even serious politicians. And Rahul Gandhi is now a serious politician whose words count.
For Indians to consider a person as bad luck or bad omen, a ‘Panauti’, comes quite naturally, like a second thought. Rahul Gandhi was not being un-Indian when he called Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘Panauti’. It is a thought which came to him. Point is, what does the Election Commission expect from Rahul Gandhi with the show cause notice?
Rahul Gandhi has the right to believe somebody is a bad omen for somebody else. What’s the crime there? Rahul Gandhi believes India lost to Australia because Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the stadium, so what?
Why should somebody, anybody, lose his shirt over that? Somebody else must be blaming Rahul Gandhi for India’s defeat by being in the stadium. There is no law against believing whatever one wants to believe, is there? Forget the “Modi is a pickpocket” slur, but calling Modi a ‘Panauti’ is pure belief, for which Rahul Gandhi cannot be issued a show cause notice, much less punished. Definitely, the show cause notice serves BJP’s election campaign in Rajasthan where Modi was called a ‘Panauti’.
The ‘Panauti’ remark was made on November 21. “Our boys were going to win the World Cup, but Panauti got them defeated. TV channels will not say this but the public knows,” said Rahul Gandhi. The EC now says, the use of “Panauti” is corrupt practice per the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
So, Rahul Gandhi believes Modi is “ill omen” and “harbinger of bad luck” and the Election Commission intends to do something about Rahul Gandhi’s belief. Will the EC rule him guilty and hang him from the rafters? Is Rahul Gandhi guilty because ‘Panauti’ is the name of the Goddess of Troubles? What is the punishment for comparing somebody with the Goddess of Troubles?
Haven’t politicians been compared with Ravana? The Election Commission should first specify what’s the ‘Panauti law’, and what is the punishment for calling somebody a ‘Panauti’? What is the punishment for an unverified allegation, for that is what the EC calls ‘Panauti’, the breach of the Model Code of Conduct with an unverified allegation.
Don’t forget Rahul Gandhi is a serial offender. He keeps calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi names. Like “Chowkidar Chor Hai” and now “Pickpocket”, but “Panauti” is not on the same picket-line. It cannot be proved for what it is for the simplest of reasons that nobody can be proved to be a harbinger of good or bad luck. Rahul Gandhi believes Modi brought bad luck to the stadium, but does that make Modi “bad luck”?
Rahul Gandhi was made to apologise for his “Chowkidar Chor Hai” remark. Then, the Congress leader was warned to be “more careful”. But in April 2019, Rahul attacked Modi again with “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?”, for which he was convicted and lost his Lok Sabha seat for a brief time.
Rahul Gandhi is not going to stop calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi the weirdest of names. And he will keep targeting the Modi-Adani “friendship” — which is a Congress strategy and the mainstay of Rahul’s “two Hindustans” allegation against the Prime Minister — one Hindustan for the likes of Gautam Adani and the other Hindustan for the poor folks.
Rahul Gandhi is nobody’s fool. He knows exactly what he’s saying, and calling. “Panauti” is about hard times that come in everybody’s life. For the last one decade, the Congress has remained caught in the grips of “Panauti”, the Goddess of Troubles. And 10 years is a long time in politics. Both the Congress and Rahul Gandhi could do with a break from “Panauti”. (IPA Service)