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Happy birthday, Rahul Gandhi: Will the real ‘Pappu’, please stand up?

19 June, 2017 7:47 AM
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On Monday, Rahul Gandhi turned a year older. Now, he is 47. Happy birthday, Rahul (hope we can still address him as just Rahul without any prefix and suffix like Mister and Gandhiji). After all, he is just 47, still very "young" for politics, but too old for marriage.

Here we will not talk about his personal life. Getting married or not is his personal choice. It does not make anyone a good or a bad politician because of his/her marital status. A lot of our politician never got married or decided to stay alone.

Indian voters, unlike in the United States and European countries, don't expect politicians to be lovey-dovey with their spouses in public. It's fine for us if politicians (mostly males in India) are accompanied by their better halves in public spaces.

If not, then also voters are okay. So, Rahul's marital status hardly figures in the scheme of things related to his political life.

But certain personal traits like sincerity and dedication (towards the people who voted for him or the Congress), and the much-talked about X-factor, to mesmerize the crowd, are important. Does Rahul possess all these qualities?

It has been more than a decade since Rahul, the "reluctant politician", joined politics in 2004, when he decided to contest elections from his late father and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's constituency Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. He won the seat with a handsome margin of over 1000,000.

Over the years, he has helmed several positions in the Congress which included general secretary-in-charge of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India, and Vice President of the Congress (current one).

Since the time Rahul entered politics one thing is clear, the bada baap ka beta (son of a rich man, mostly used to deride a person who inherits wealth from his ancestors and is not self-made) tag always haunted him.

2007 was not 1984, when Rahul's father entered politics and became the PM after the assassination of his mother and then PM Indira Gandhi. In late 2000s, much after liberalisation in 1991, the Indian middle-class had already turned aspirational and had got itself rid-off from the "slave mentality".

Now, they don't want to be ruled, rather they want power in their own hands. So, they wanted to see someone like one of them holding coveted posts. Moreover, the middle-class was fast turning vocal, thanks to the large-scale access to internet.

One would say it's the rural and poor population that usually decides the fate of politicians. That is agreeable as they vote in large percentage, compared to the lethargic well-offs.

But it's the middle-class that builds opinions first and takes it further to the hinterland of the country. That is why PM Narendra Modi first targeted the middle-class as his support base. Now, he is wooing the poor directly.

It's the same middle-class (now, there are a lot of theories regarding who is a middle-class), who openly expressed their hatred towards Rahul from the beginning. Rahul too never showed any signs of being a strong leader. He was always seen as someone well-protected by the Congress, as he is the scion of the Gandhi family.

Rahul was given several chances to helm the affairs of the Congress from the front. But in most of the "tests" he failed, except for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls where he was credited for reviving the Congress in UP. Since then he had always tripped and took the Congress along with him in the "big fall".

The worst came in the 2014 General Elections, when the tsunami of Modi wave destroyed the Congress so badly that the party is yet to get over from the shock of the defeat. Now, with just 45 parliamentarians in a house of 545-member, the Congress looks like an old man in a nursing home.

Even in the recent five assembly elections, the Congress, barring Punjab where anti-incumbency wave against the SAD-BJP was strong, the party gave away four important states to the BJP. It was Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who was credited for the growth of party's fortunes in Punjab and not Rahul.

The chorus for a change in the top rung of the Congress leadership got a momentum after it failed to form governments in Goa and Manipur, in spite of getting the maximum seats.

Rahul himself promised to do "introspection" to find out the cause behind the party's repeated debacle, but the grand plan to treat the "disease" called losing elections after elections is yet to be formulated.

If PM Modi and the saffron party are preparing to win the next General Elections in 2019, Rahul and the Congress know it beforehand that they are going to face another defeat.

Critics have extensively written about why Rahul has failed in politics. Politics should have come naturally to him as it is his "birth right". From repeatedly getting caught dozing off inside Parliament to looking blankly at camera when confronted with reporters' "tough" questions on matter of national importance, there are many Rahul bloopers.

These days, while the BJP leaders openly say that they want Rahul to remain in politics as his "blunders" are proving to be the saffron party's biggest boons, several Congress men think otherwise.

His embarrassing errors are netizens' favourite fodder for joke. Every time he makes a public appearance and speaks with the media, a new joke hits the virtual world. The online critics have christened him with names like "Prince" and "Pappu".

"Pappu" has especially stuck with him. Even some Congress men call him "Pappu". Pappu is a Hindi word used to ridicule a person as someone who is "worthless" or a "fool". Recently, a Congress leader from UP addressed him as "Pappu" on WhatsApp and ended up being sacked from the party.

Probably, Rahul and his supporters could have done better by simply ignoring the WhatsApp Pappu episode to avoid making it a "big" news. The "funny" episode took place when Rahul is once again missing from political activities and enjoying his vacation with his grandmother in Italy.

Whether he is truly a "Pappu" or not is not something relevant. What is more important is that time is slipping away fast and the Congress VP needs to catch his "train" to avoid getting stranded in a nondescript railway station and get lost in political oblivion.


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