Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Mao of Gujarat

Byline by M J Akbar : The Mao of Gujarat

The unnamed young students of Ahmedabad who had a question or two for Rahul Gandhi this week were pertinent, not pert. They also provided more evidence that students are doing the job that journalists either cannot, or will not, do; which is, ask relevant questions. In this case, media was prevented from reporting the event, so journalists can't be faulted, and we know what happened thanks only to an enterprising reporter from the Times of India who had a source inside the hall.

The essence was simple and the same: students wanted to know why they should vote for the Congress when Narendra Modi had developed Gujarat so much. One answer given by Rahul Gandhi was odd, to say the very least. Mao Zedong, said Rahul Gandhi, also developed China but "he caused destruction to the country, too". I am not too sure whether Narendra Modi would mind being compared to one of the great figures of the twentieth century, warts and all. Rahul Gandhi probably gets his views on history from some briefing by a young and fresh associate, but he could have checked with the Chinese. They have moved on from Mao, just as India and the Congress have moved on from Mahatma Gandhi, but China still reveres the leader of the Long March as the leader who laid the foundations of China's economic miracle. Mao's portrait dominates Tienmien Square as well as the nation's banknotes. If Modi can become the second Gujarati to have his picture on the Indian rupee, he will consider his life well spent. Chairman Modi has quite a nice ring to it as well, although Modi would be going too far if he published a little red book packed with his quotable quotes and asked millions of young people to wave it in unison during a cultural revolution.

A young girl was sharper in her question. She asked which Congress leaders could measure up to Modi on the development matrix. Rahul Gandhi had four names on the tip of his tongue: Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and A.K. Antony. It is interesting that three of the four did not contest the Lok Sabha elections, and the voters in Chidambaram's own constituency had such a poor view of his development capabilities that he was declared defeated before he was declared elected in the 2009 general elections. It would be interesting if Jairam Ramesh could find a constituency from where he could get elected on a development platform, but his ministry does take its priority cues from Rahul Gandhi's travel plans. What is definitely interesting is that the finance minister of India, Pranab Mukherjee, does not figure in Rahul Gandhi's list of heroes, either in development or honesty. The two lists are, in fact, similar, because Rahul thought that the three most incorruptible ministers were also the PM, Antony and Chidambaram. He did not however consider Jairam Ramesh worthy of a position in the honest brigade. Poor Jairam. Or, one wonders, is it more appropriate to say, rich Jairam?

One doubts if the people will give too much credence to such certificates from the Prime Minister-in-waiting, but the large tribe of Rahul-watchers in Delhi must have already done an instant calculus, shifted positions on the pecking order and altered levels of homage. The big winners are obviously Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh; the first jumps to the top of seniors, and the second takes pole position on the second tier. The certificate slates them as stars of Rahul's first Cabinet, whenever or if ever that comes about, so now you know who to call if you want anything done.

The Ahmedabad students did not get into a critique of the heir's remarks, but they did press on about Modi. Why was Rahul denying Modi credit for Gujarat's development? He had caused "some issues" replied Rahul Gandhi. Did he mean riots? At this point the story takes a curious turn. This was where Rahul Gandhi could have departed from fudge and become forthright. Instead, says the report, "the Congress leader refused to engage further and walked out saying he was getting late". Perhaps he was only getting restive. Rahul Gandhi had found out what Barack Obama discovered when he met Mumbai students at St Xavier's College. It is easier to field questions from journalists than students. But that does not explain why he was evasive at the end. The students were more specific and forthright than him. It must be a recurrence of the old Congress disease, trying to play both sides against the middle.

Those who take the young for granted do not understand the young. They like cosmetics, but they never confuse make-up with the face.

7 comments:

Anoop Verma said...

I really enjoyed reading this analysis.

On a rather humorous note, it can also be said that India’s first family has still not forgiven Chairman Mao. After all, it was Mao who woke the country up from Nehruvian slumber, when he attacked the Northeastern regions in 1962.

Since 1962 debacle, Mao has become a bad word for India’s first family. When they really don’t like someone, they decide to compare him with Mao. If this is the case, then Mr. Rahul’s tactics of comparing Modi with Mao becomes understandable.

Mr. Rahul is comparing the new political rival (Modi), with the ultimate enemy from the 1960s era (Mao). Comparing anyone with Mao is the worse insult in the Congress party lexicon.

Prithviraj said...

As always, I enjoy reading your posts.
The problem with free media / press of India is that it is not that free! Lest many mainstream media would have reported extensively about Rahul's discomfiture with Ahmedabad students (and much earlier elsewhere in Bihar).
All of us Indians do know that negative news about Sonia and family is taboo in press or TV.
So it took one of the insiders, YSR's son from Andhra to openly air anti-Gandhi family snippets.
The latest Joke about Rahul is about Bihar flop show! One of the Congress candidates who won (where Rahul had one of his 20 odd massive rallies), had in fact won on previous two occasions also. So people say that that guy would have won even if Rahul had not gone to his constituency. For that matter many more would have won if Rahul had not gone to Bihar at all!

One wonders whether Rahul, with his extensive tours in rural India, has developed the foot-in-the-mouth syndrome!

Sagar said...

Hello MJ, I used to read every column of yours.. but from last week I am bit confused... we had this Nira Radia case and suprisingly you didn't written anything for that......lets see how true journalist r u..

rahul said...

I reckon that political games have been played in our country from past many years,and everybody is contributing to this game. In this particular article Politicians are shown "BAD GUYS". and MEDIA IS "GOOD GUY".There is other side of coin,what about serials generated on news channel by reporters, promotion of elections campaign, ameliorating the image of politician in public's eye are daily- life instances that we hear now a days.

balayogi said...

sir,
i only wish that rahul, sonia, priyanka are subjected to lie detector or some scientific study of people as shown in Lie to Me serial in star world then the whole world will know who they really are and India can be saved

girish said...

Perhaps media was not allowed inside the meeting hall so that the people of Ahmedabad would not know the size of the audience. Anyway, Rahul Gandhi, or for that matter, any one from Nehru-Gandhi family has hardly been a crowd puller in Gujarat. The last time any member of the family could draw large crowds was when Rajiv Gandhi campaigned in Gujarat in 1984 Lok Sabha elections and in 1985 Assembly elections. So, this Rahul baba is clever enough to keep his tours to Gujarat a low-key affair. But keeping media away altogather shows the feel of discomfort if the thinly attended meetings are reported as flow-show! Also, the other reason why people of Gujarat are not carried away by this family worship is that Gujarat has produced Gandhi, Sardar Patel and also a Prime Minister Morarji Desai. Plus, people in Gujarat still nurse a grievance that Sardar Patel and Morarji Desai were denied their due in the national affairs by the Nehru Gandhi family. Above all, the young in Gujarat do not care a bit about Rahul Gandhi and his mother. The people of far north still being of feudalistic mindset, the rever the dynasty, which is of course their choice. But the choices have consequences too! If Narendra Modi fails to deliver on the development and governance platform, people of Gujarat will discard him also, no matter his present day popularity with them.

Dr.Satish kumar said...

I have been thinking intensely........for long. How on earth, Mao and Modi? Well you can find both in 'M' section of a book! That is the closest I could get to.