It is time for Rahul Gandhi to reply in kind to the half-pundits and to half-politicians

He has come so far on the strength of his courage and fortitude; and while he has been incessantly trolled and mocked for last 10 years, he has maintained a dignified silence. That now needs to change

It is time for Rahul Gandhi to reply in kind to the half-pundits and to half-politicians

Sujata Anandan

Last year RSS was passionately appealing to Rahul Gandhi on his 50th birthday to dissolve the Congress. It was an unwitting admission that despite the best efforts of the BJP and its IT cell, they had been unable to rid the nation of the Congress or Rahul Gandhi. The appeal undoubtedly would be renewed this year as Rahul Gandhi turns 51, and the refrain would be picked up as usual by sundry politicians, half-politicians and political pundits and half-pundits.

There is a tinge of desperation as they advise, cajole, hector and even appeal to him to step aside so that someone else may lead the Congress and revive it. Behind the attempt to hold him exclusively responsible for defections, electoral defeats and flagging of the party’s strength and fortune is another unwitting admission that it is Rahul Gandhi who runs the show and has kept the party alive and kicking -hard– and they need him to quit to ensure that even the kicking stops.

What RSS and the BJP know for sure is that he is the only political leader, not just from the Congress but from the entire opposition, who has will never compromise with the RSS and the BJP. There is only one other political leader in the country who can lay similar claim and that is Lalu Prasad Yadav, broken by age, illness and imprisonment for allegedly acquiring disproportionate assets, and who is no longer a very active threat to the BJP at the present moment. Every other party and some of the chief ministers in the opposition have dealt with the BJP at some point of time or the other, even when they avoided Narendra Modi like the plague.

An RSS ideologue once confided that the Sangh had communication lines open to many top Congressmen and given the absolute powers appropriated and enjoyed by the current regime, can get them to compromise their party's interests at any time. “Only Rahul Gandhi and his mother will not talk to us," he complained.

RSS is also aware that despite the propaganda and trolling to mock Rahul Gandhi over the past 10 years, a growing number of people have begun to appreciate Rahul Gandhi's decency, intelligence, commitment to the nation, compassion towards the people and ability to call a spade a spade-and that worries them no end.

In a recent conversation this writer had with a Congress leader- much before the BJP toolkit asking Rahul Gandhi to step aside to allegedly revive the Congress went viral, he repeated what the Sangh has been pleading, that Rahul Gandhi should stay in the background and allow someone else to lead the party. He named a particular Congress leader, who has already been publicly compromised by the BJP, as a potential party president. “If you were promised a position and not given it, would you not quit your job and join up the rival company,” he said while defending the leader’s dalliance with the BJP.

Some of these Congress leaders clearly look upon politics as a job and are not driven by any commitment to the nation or ideology. As senior Congressman Jairam Ramesh said the other day joining a political party is not like joining a bank as an employee. But then that is precisely the kind of politicians RSS and BJP love to have and that is why they hate people with principles other than their own.

BJP’s social media and propaganda assault on Rahul Gandhi will continue in the hope that something will give but Gandhi continues to be the immovable object that frustrates his critics so much. Having come this far all on his own steam, on the strength of his courage and fortitude, the only chink in Rahul Gandhi’s armour has been his refusal to dignify his critics with his response. While he had borne the barbs stoically, his silence has both emboldened and frustrated his critics and possibly confused his admirers.

There are several Congress spokespersons who have made a mark with their sharp and spirited rebuttals to the sustained anti-Congress and anti-Rahul Gandhi propaganda and campaign. They have also raised uncomfortable questions to speak Truth to power. But party spokespersons are generally handicapped by the questions framed for them, which often require them to reply in the affirmative or in the negative.

One recalls the savage response from TMC Member of Parliament Mohua Moitra to the Prime Minister’s juvenile cat call during the West Bengal election, Didi-o-Didi, aimed at the state’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Moitra rightly called out the Prime Minister’s cat call for what it was. Mamata Banerjee herself could not have responded as effectively. Protocol and dignity would have prevented her, if not anything else.

Congress needs someone as feisty as Moitra, as quick witted as her to respond to the barbs in kind. Half pundits or half politicians, they understand only one language, their own. An articulate personal spokesperson is what Rahul Gandhi needs at this juncture.

During the 1988 US presidential campaign, Michael Dukakis found himself snowed under by the Republican campaign of George H W Bush which was full of mockery of his Greek roots and unfounded allegations. Dukakis refused to reply and defend himself believing it would be undignified and people would understand. Unfortunately, the people didn't and Dukakis lost the election to Bush, despite being the better candidate.

Bill Clinton, who took on the very same Bush at the next election understood this well and had a battery of spokespersons who took on every allegation and left nothing to chance or to the people's non-existent good sense. He defeated the incumbent Bush and was as hated by the Republicans as Rahul Gandhi is hated today by the RSS-BJP.

The Congress leader need not to stand on ceremony when it comes to combating rivals within the party and outside.

(The writer is an author and columnist based in Mumbai. Views are personal)

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