Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, Rahul Gandhi a victim of lies and distortions

If he hits the streets, he is too aggressive or dramatic. If he doesn’t hit the streets, he is not aggressive enough! The Internet is full of half-truths and lies about him

Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, Rahul Gandhi a victim of lies and distortions

Neeta Kolhatkar

Undeniably the BJP and its WhatsApp University have made a huge difference in creating and distorting the public persona of Rahul Gandhi. In any other country or at least in Western democracies they would have been sued and stopped. But in the absence of strong laws and a weak judiciary and with the complicity of the world’s largest party and the world’s largest NGO, the mission has been spectacularly successful.

BJP’s IT Cell has also been very pro-active in using the social media to sustain a vitriolic campaign against Rahul Gandhi based on half-truths, lies and selective phrases and sentences from his public statements. Many video clips mocking RG have been found to be doctored but even after independent fact checkers have pointed them out, there has not been a squeak from the ruling party and the government.

Just search his name on the Internet and it would reveal a degree of obsession with Rahul Gandhi that is fascinating and frightening at the same time. There are endless speculations about his personal life—who is his wife, who is his latest partner and about his latest foreign jaunts.

Even journalists seem to be obsessive about him going abroad, snidely asking if he has a wife or partner hidden abroad or whether he goes for de-addiction and therapy. Last month they asked if he had obtained permission from External Affairs Ministry (MEA) before going to Europe and addressing meetings there. It was pointed out that he needed no permission.

The role of the media in portraying him as a non-serious or reluctant politician cannot be overstated. His forays into colleges and doing push-ups at the request of students or showing martial art moves or jumping into the sea for a swim are all cited as frivolous pursuits. Ironically, the same set of journalists and media go gaga when PM Modi does Yoga or feeds peacocks.

It has baffled several observers who keep wondering why the BJP and the media are so obsessed about RG if he indeed is politcally naive, or as they say, he is doing a favour to the BJP by staying on in politics. The longer he lasts, they snigger, the safer and more secure is the future for BJP and Modi. Yet they blame him for not doing enough to oppose the BJP or not being aggressive enough or not spending enough time in the country!

Unlike most opposition leaders, and the usual suspects who the media are fond of projecting as ‘PM material’, Rahul Gandhi seemingly is always on the move. He is not just in poll bound states but in Mandsaur with the farmers or at Hathras with the family of the rape victim, in Telangana addressing rallies or in Punjab or Gujarat. He was seen sitting on the footpath talking to migrant workers.

No, he does not flinch from facing inconvenient or even rude questions. He doesn’t mind addressing press conferences. But hey, he is the dumb dude while PM Modi, known for his one-sided monologues, is so totally in control that he is the only world leader who has not addressed a proper press conference even once in eight years.

Every time Rahul Gandhi says something—like his recent statement in reply to a question that European leaders complain that Indian diplomats are more arrogant than ever--Union ministers rush to diss him. He doesn’t know anything about international relations. When he warns about growing unemployment or inflation, the finance minister sniggers that Rahul Gandhi knows nothing about economy. When he warns about the pandemic, he was mocked.

The media coverage of his speech in Parliament during the Budget session, and the PM’s reply to the debate, was a classic study in contrast. While Rahul Gandhi’s clinical examination of the challenges before the country was mentioned briefly, mostly on inside pages, the PM’s reply, rather his rant, was on the front page. Instead of answering the questions raised by the opposition during the debate, the PM spoke of everything under the Sun except responding to those points.

As is his wont, Modi delivered a political speech, as if he was addressing an election rally, and spoke of the Congress, Nehru, dynasty—and even more amusingly, quoted from Nehru’s speech to justify the government’s stand that domestic price rise was because of global issues rather than due to failure of governance or economic policies. While it was mostly sound and fury signifying nothing, the media not surprisingly again went overboard. PM tears Rahul Gandhi to pieces—kind of headline— dominated the front pages as if it was a wrestling bout.

When BJP loses elections, the media rarely, if ever, blame Modi or Amit Shah. There are always local scapegoats as in Bengal. But God forbid, if Congress loses an election—as in Punjab—it is all Rahul Gandhi’s fault. Didn’t he ‘foist’ Channi and Navjot Singh Sidhu? Modi or Shah did not foist anyone in Bengal, see?

But with every passing day we see Rahul Gandhi in more positive light than pundits in the media care to admit. Here is wishing more power to you, Rahul Ji, and wish you many happy returns of the day.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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