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Monday, September 26, 2022

Beware the Raul lurking inside Rahul

There are good reasons to address Rahul Gandhi by his Italian moniker, Raul Vinci. Not that there is the slightest need to highlight his Italian parentage from the distaff side. The blood-mix coursing through his veins is as well-known as the fact that the MPhil degree he obtained from Cambridge in 1995 was also in the name of “Raul or Rahul Da Vinci”.

The Christian cognomen suits Rahul’s persona because there is nothing Bharatiya about his worldview, pronouncements, or loyalties. He is Indian by birth but not Bharatiya, and only superficially Hindu, claims of being a janeu-wearing Brahmin notwithstanding. His temple runs are tied to voting schedules in poll bound states or national elections. The fakery is palpable.

No one knows the Congress’ ruling clan better than the maverick Subramaniam Swamy who keeps outing its secrets from time to time. A month before the 2019 LS poll he told a Zee conclave that Raul follows his mother Antonia’s religion, and that his Hindu identity was a convenient umbrella to safeguard his political interests. Nestled in his home, informed the Rajya Sabha MP, is a mini chapel where services are performed by a Malayali priest every Sunday to atone for his sins. None of these postulations have ever been denied or countered by anyone on behalf of the family or the party.

The fortune of being born into the prosperous Nehru-Gandhi clan and the prospect, howsoever remote, of becoming the country’s prime minister compel us to heed Raul’s dimwitted utterances inside and outside Parliament ever since he entered its hallowed portals in 2004. Raul’s commitment to the national interest is not entirely above suspicion. This is in sharp contrast to his father or grandmother whose commitment to the country was unexceptional whatever their other shortcomings.

Raul’s latest piece of articulation aimed at sowing the seeds of a North-South divide while addressing a public gathering at Thiruvananthapuram on February 24 was among the most viciously divisive even by his own perverse standards of public conduct. Behind it was the swirling seethe of rejection by voters at his traditional family bastion, Amethi, in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll. The move to simultaneously contest from Wayanad, a minority dominated seat in Kerala, was obviously made because he had sensed the headwind well in advance.

“For the first 15 years,” said the former and future Congress chief, “I was an MP in the North. I had got used to a different type of politics. For me, coming to Kerala was very refreshing as suddenly I found that people are interested in issues and not just superficially but going into detail in issues.”

Verily driven was the point that voters up North were a bunch of rustic nincompoops with no understanding of electoral issues. Showing the door to the grandson of Indira Gandhi and great-grandson of J. Nehru after three straight wins from his home borough and puncturing the party’s hopes of making a comeback in the North, especially Uttar Pradesh, was tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Raul first betrayed his anti-North (read anti-Hindu) mindset 12 years ago. The contents of the famous August 3, 2009, cable released by Wikileaks of a conversation with the American ambassador Timothy Roemer was an early intimation of his political inclinations. This during the high noon of the UPA era.

It is doubtful if any other party leader (barring Mani Shankar Aiyyar) would have had the nerve to poison the ears of US interlocutors against the country’s majority community despite the Congress’ pernicious record of Muslim appeasement. And that too during an official dinner hosted by the prime minister for the visiting US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Raul told Roemer that “radicalised Hindu groups” may be a “bigger threat” to India than support to some Islamic terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba from within the country’s Muslim community.

Bile revealing his monumental ignorance and derision for national institutions, the armed forces, select corporates, Narendra Modi, keeps dripping from his lips almost every other day. The business acumen of Gujaratis gets his goat because the prime minister and home minister belong to the community.

Earlier this month during a visit to poll bound Assam Raul tried pitting its denizens against their brethren on the west coast by flinging an absurd charge. The state’s tea workers, he said, get a daily wage of Rs 167 while “traders in Gujarat get the tea gardens.” Dangled was the promise that should the Congress return to power in Assam, workers would get a daily wage of Rs 365.

Raw imbecility was on display late last month bang in the midst of raging tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. The self-avowed janeu-dhari trained his guns on the prime minister for using the army, air force, and navy to protect the country’s borders from Chinese incursions when dispatching farmers and laborers to the front would have done the job without a single bullet being fired. Even his great-grandfather whose aversion for the army was no secret had never said something so egregiously original and ridiculous.

Throwing his weight behind any agitation and movement hostile to the current dispensation lies at the core of Raul’s politics. The thought of weighing the pros and cons, its impact on the national interest or on the party’s electoral prospects is given scant attention. He opposes because he must.

Raul sided with the tukde-tukde gang at the height of the JNU agitation. He congratulated the prime minister for the 2016 surgical strikes on Pakistani terror launch pads, but later charged him of doing khoon ki dalali by hiding behind the blood of soldiers who sacrificed their lives in J&K.

The Cantabrigian made a spectacle of himself during the run-up to the 2019 LS poll by casting aspersion on the Rafale deal and calling chowkidar Modi a chor despite nothing by way of evidence. His harangues in Parliament are high on theatrics but low on substance. He hugged the prime minister after one such tirade to show he had nothing but love even for his political enemies. That the gesture was an elaborate charade was proved the very next moment when the TV cameras caught him winking to Jyotiraditya Scindia seated next to him. It showed his utter insincerity.

Many Congressmen in the Club of 23 agree in private that Raul is a political liability but cannot bring themselves to say it. Ousting the Gandhis from the leadership is seen as an anathema in the absence of a second line of leadership.

Barack Obama assessment of Raul in his memoir, A Promised Land is accurate but misses the point of his lack of commitment to the national interest. Indeed, there is “a nervous, unformed quality about him, as if he were a student who’d done the coursework and was eager to impress the teacher but deep down lacked either the aptitude or the passion to master the subject”.

In the end, however, slack loyalty to Bharat and its civilizational past that will keep Raul on the margins of national politics. Voters in the North are unlikely to elect him again. And even though he has put his faith in the South, it is unlikely that the Congress has much of a future beyond Kerala. His own election to Parliament from minority dominated Wayanad is assured in the coming years.

The BJP, on its part, will have to be on its guard against the Raul inside Rahul.

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Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh is an independent journalist who has worked in senior editorial positions in the Times Of India, Asian Age, Pioneer, and the Statesman. Also a sometime stage and film actor who has worked with iconic directors like Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha.


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