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With smoke and mirrors

Author: Udayan Namboodiri
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: July 28, 2012
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/item/52084-with-smoke-and-mirrors.html

Rahul Gandhi is part of a larger game of deception. Seized by governance confusion and cornered by disgruntled allies, the Congress believes that it’s time — no, not to bring baba upfront — but confuse all with pretense of new imagination

Rahul Gandhi is like a football star willingly sitting on the substitute benches. His team is conceding goals every few minutes and the score increasingly looks irredeemable. The supporters are anxious, upset, and expectant of a replacement so that their star could run in and dramatically alter the course of the game.

But Rahul is grinning. The team manager, by prior understanding, will not make the change. There is this overarching wisdom that no crisis is big enough to warrant Rahul Gandhi, heir to the Nehru-Gandhi throne, taking a direct role in government and party.

But, for a few hours, on July 19, we saw Rahul himself end the equivocation that has surrounded his role in the party and government for eight years. He announced that a “decision has been taken” of his taking up a “pro-active role”. Whatever that meant.

But before long, the Congress’ senior leaders scotched speculation that the hour of the arrival of Yugpurush is nigh. In another well-known political outfit, such shooting-down of decisions are interpreted as conflict between party and ideological reservoir. But the Congress is judged by entirely different standards. Its internal affairs are probed with awe and respect. Even the most courageous commentators of the land end up appreciating the interests of the first family and they analyse developments with loyalty blinkering their vision.

Therefore, the surfeit of opinion pieces that followed over the week was nothing but exercises in inanity. Some actually reasoned why the Congress’ interests would not be served by Rahul taking the

centrestage. It was all “Congress should hold back Rahul” and “Congress shouldn’t hold back Rahul.” They focused on the advantages the Congress may nor may not derive from fielding Rahul at this point in time.

But nobody talked of the country.

Has anybody asked this simple question — what is India to get from this Rahul Gandhi? What outstanding contribution is he about to make to improve life for the 1 billion Indians untouched by the “growth” which some Indians are so proud of?

Why are we avoiding clearing a major confusion that marks us Indians out in the world community of democracies — our obsession with family rule?

Cautious crusaders

If promises were fireworks, then quite a few displays have been staged by Rahul Gandhi already. Just a few days before Rahul Gandhi made that announcement, an attractive woman with a West Delhi accent burst on to the national limelight. Alka Lamba is her name.

This former National Students Union of India activist is known to be a prominent member of Rahul’s cheerleader squad. She may lack a single minute’s experience in

upholding the cause of oppressed womanhood, but such is the long hand of Rahul Gandhi that she was send shooting up to the status of “special investigator” when the Guwahati molestation happened.

She was dispatched by air, at the exchequer’s cost, to Guwahati as the de facto head of a National Commission for Women (NCW) delegation, which should normally have been led by a Member of the body. But no, Alka Lamba strutted around Guwahati for a day like she was the King’s emissary, and destroyed the life of the hapless victim by blurting out her name on national television. The Member of the NCW who went along, another political appointee, acted as her dutiful private secretary.

The media went ballistic over her indiscretion, with the upshot that Alka Lamba was dismissed from her assignment. But even, the deference of the national media elite was apparent. Not one of the fiery editorials that flowed in print and on TV asked the key question — how did this upstart woman dramatically rise above her station? At whose urging was this utterly gender-insensitive person given the important job of investigating such a complex crime against womanhood?

Rahul Gandhi of course. It’s not that the commentators didn’t know it. If it’s argued that they were innocent of this fact, then they failed in their duty to dig out the truth. And, before July was out, just as we were secure that Alka Lamba’s career as the face of the Congress party was over, we saw her on one of the TV channels giving lectures on the great legacy of another great Congress achiever — Pratibha Patil!

The channel’s owners and crusading journalists seemed to have made up with Alka Lamba. To recall LK Advani’s famous words,

“crawling” is what the Indian media elite excels in when asked to bend.

Of course one could argue that there is no Emergency on. Here, a scene from Sound of Music, one of the all time great movies, flashes in my mind. The young postulant, Maria, was always making mistakes for which the Mother Superior of the nunnery was pulling her up. In one scene she laments, “Whenever I see Mother Superior coming, I start kissing the ground, just to save time”.

A national insult

Rahul Gandhi and his uncles in the Congress high command want the people of India to believe that he is yet to play a direct and pro-active role in running India.

Actually, Rahul, along with a handpicked bunch of cronies, interferes in every aspect — whether manipulating the selection process of an arms deal or posting a favoured bureaucrat — and nobody can do a thing about it. Unlike his father and uncle Sanjay who at least made public displays of their unsuitability for high office, this young man operates from the shadows. Those who are in the know of his operations have their lips sealed.

He is the antithesis of accountability. One hears of scandalous levels of tinkering with rules and regulations in order to satisfy the power-lust and greed of Rahul Gandhi, his friends and near relatives. There are so few people in the know of things that even the slightest hint (leave alone a leak) in the media would expose the source. Besides, in an environment where Rahul Gandhi’s wish is taken as command, we would have to wait till a Deep Throat emerges.

Since 2004, the affairs of India are being guided by a band of cynical men and women whose minds flow in cold, cruel directions. During their eight years out of power (1996-2004), the supreme leaders of the Congress party made a solemn promise to themselves. Never again should they lose power. Every rule, institution, tradition, dignity and cherished value of nationhood has been demolished just to keep this band in power.

It’s ironical that Rahul Gandhi’s name should be breathed in connection with the youth of India. The second decade of the 21st century is one which should have seen India making proper use of the demographic dividend that Mother Nature has handed this nation. It’s seldom that this manna of having a nation where under-35-year-olds make up more than 80 per cent of the population. Our government, indeed the entire polity, should by now have put proper programmes and schemes into action to give the youth of India the chance to channelise their energies and creativity to useful purposes.

Rahul Gandhi and his friends ensure that the opposite happens. He, Alka Lamba and the rest are actually echoes from the past. They are co-optees of the same rotten political culture in which Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi thrived. They ensure that the good are driven out of public life, even prevented from hoping for a fair chance to have a go in politics. And yes, it makes no difference whether they function in the open or in the shadows.

(The writer is Senior Editor, The Pioneer)
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