The secret why Cornell and Harvard don’t question Narendra Modi

Why are US universities so keen to quiz and grill Rahul Gandhi on India’s economy and not PM Modi? It could be because the PM is too busy campaigning, trolling rivals and caterwauling

The secret why Cornell and Harvard don’t question Narendra Modi
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Sujata Anandan

From 2014 to 2021, in just seven years I would not have believed a Prime Minister could have gone from being overawing to even his enemies to becoming the butt of jokes. Last week, I could not count the number of candidates of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham who were mocking him and urging the Prime Minister to campaign in their respective constituencies...to help them increase their margins of victory. They were convinced that the BJP candidate was losing anyway and that Modi would ensure a worse defeat.

What's more, I noticed, the tweets were not part of an IT cell template unlike the BJP mass tweets, so each one was truly holding out the gauntlet to Modi. Which is odd because even at the height of the BJP IT cell's mocking of Rahul Gandhi, no one thought his campaign would make his party candidates lose by bigger margins.

And the Pappu-fication of Modi now seems to be directly proportional to the admiration Rahul Gandhi seems to be earning both nationally and internationally for his erudition, education and intelligence. One only has to watch his interactions with Cornell and Harvard Universities to know what I mean.

Even I wondered why these universities were asking Rahul Gandhi rather than Modi about what he would do to kickstart the Indian economy “if and when you are Prime Minister". I thought that questions were more suitable for Modi, considering he is already the Prime Minister and can do something about it right here, right now.

But I guess even these universities know there is no point in questioning Modi who does not have an idea in his head worth articulating about the economy, foreign policy, China or anything else that Rahul Gandhi was questioned about. Moreover, Gandhi is an alumnus of Harvard and Cambridge while Modi's degree in Entire Political Science from no university in the world keeps him waving at rallies.

He did that some time ago while inaugurating a tunnel in Kashmir, I remember. Last week, he did that again while campaigning in West Bengal? But why? I feel so sorry that he feels the need to invite such ridicule upon his head. So what if people preferred to stay at home rather than sit on a hot ground in the blazing heat of summer?

I remember once, years ago, Indira Gandhi making her comeback in 1980 got a very empty ground at Kasturchand Park in Nagpur. She was not very happy about it but she did clamber on to the dais, made her speech and left with all her dignity intact. There was so much sympathy for her in the newspapers and drawing rooms after that – she swept all the seats in Vidarbha and the best political analysts could not understand how that had happened.

I think her forlorn dignity is what led to the surge of voters in her favour to the polling booth. Imagine the mincemeat they would have made of her if she had pretended to be waving to the empty ground! And in those days, there was not even a single television camera to pick up the ridicule. Now such bravado simply looks pathetic.

But what really struck me about Modi's loss of dignity last week was Trinamool Congress MP Mohua Moitra labelling him as a “Rock-er chele". These are idle, unemployed roadside Romeos catcalling every passing females of the specie and I was stunned that Modi should have thrown himself open to such labelling.

Moitra was livid at Modi’s caterwauling, ‘Diddi-o-Diddi' which, I must admit, was not a very nice thing to do. Admittedly, he must have been mad at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for writing to all other political parties to unite against the BJP – which could certainly defeat the BJP at the next elections. But whoever in the party advised him it was okay to cat-call a woman, let alone a chief minister, in those terms?

Considering West Bengal has BJP leaders who ask Mamata to wear Bermudas to show her legs off, I am not surprised Modi was so culturally misled in this land of the Bhadralok as to be forced into acting like a ‘Rock-er chele’ and inviting the worst bit of criticism so far with regard to his comments on women.

I agree with Moitra that this kind of cat-calling is even worse than his earlier comments like Jersey Cow, 50 crore girlfriend or Congress ki vidhwa. Those were comments against Congress leaders or their wives, so those leaders either ignored the comments or chose not to respond. But the Trinamool Congress fights as hard as any other party and it was to be expected that they would respond sooner rather than later.

I am saddened that the Prime Minister of my country should have been made to throw himself open to such commentary.

Even Kerala has been poking fun at Modi for claiming his party will win the elections after he labelled the state as Somalia a while ago. Modi should have listened to his sole MLA in the current Assembly – literacy is universal in Kerala, so people read and are discerning, he said.

Thus, they make up their minds without the help of WhatsApp and other propaganda tools. But I would really not fault Modi for claiming Kerala – that is what any political leader must do, after all. However, the fact that Keralites can read will also keep them aware of the fact that the Modi government did not aid them during their floods, demanded central government funds back, unleashed central agencies against their leaders and generally caused a lot of bad blood between them.

But all said and done, whatever our differences, I do not like the thought of other nations making fun of India on account of the antics of its Prime Minister. In the era of social media and lightning communication, several media outlets all across the world are reporting all that goes on in India, including the funny bits about its Prime Minister. I wish Modi would seek better advice and refrain from such antics.

Or else he will surely get the ‘first’ billing he has been craving for so long – the first Indian prime minister to go down in history as a caterwauling tease, waving to empty grounds at an election he should have left to others more culturally suited than him to campaign.

(The writer is a senior journalist and commentator. Views are personal)

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