PRINCE’S PROGRESS

India Today - - SIGNATURE -

Rahul Gandhi so far is a story of stag­ger­ing trans­for­ma­tion: from a priv­i­leged rar­ity to an over­whelm­ing cliché. When des­per­ate po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ism in­dulges in the sea­sonal trite of “will he…won’t he…and when?”, it is as much a re­flec­tion on the paucity of a sal­able topic as an in­di­ca­tion of the evo­lu­tion of the man him­self. The story be­gan with lit­tle doubt about the end, which was all about dy­nas­tic en­ti­tle­ment. The widely mar­keted as­sump­tion was that the mother’s “no” of re­nun­ci­a­tion would in­evitably be fol­lowed by the son’s “yes” of af­fir­ma­tion. So­nia’s “no”, steeped in po­lit­i­cal sen­ti­men­tal­ism of the worst kind, did not make her less pow­er­ful; it made her one of the world’s most pow­er­ful politi­cians with­out be­ing in power. It also gave In­dia its first prime min­is­ter who would not be the po­lit­i­cal leader of the repub­lic. It was an un­even divi­sion of power be­tween the Church (read 10 Jan­path) and the down­sized State (read 7 Race Course Road). The divi­sion also marked a cul­tural shift in the Dy­nasty as well as the of­fice of the prime min­is­ter. Af­ter Indira and Ra­jiv, there is this Gandhi whose defin­ing po­lit­i­cal trait is not her in­ti­macy with In­dia but her re­mote­ness. For the orig­i­nal Mrs G, power was a covenant with the peo­ple, and she played it out at an emo­tional higher pitch; Mrs G Part II has in­her­ited the power and para­noia of the orig­i­nal with­out mak­ing her­self ac­ces­si­ble to the peo­ple. And her cho­sen prime min­is­ter, who lacked po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity as well as a pass­able po­lit­i­cal vo­cab­u­lary, re­mained du­ti­ful—just that. Be­tween them, In­dia con­tin­ues to be a Great In­com­pre­hen­sion, the In­dia that Rahul may or may not in­herit, de­pend­ing on the morn­ing’s head­line.

We are here not talk­ing about any Ham­let. Pol­i­tics—and for that mat­ter the Congress— would have been far more in­ter­est­ing if we had one. Imag­ine our front pages re­deemed by the so­lil­o­quies of the Prince of Tugh­lak Lane, and op-ed pages de­con­struct­ing his ex­is­ten­tial asides that lead us to the deep re­cesses of his trou­bled mind. And more re­ward­ing, imag­ine Digvi­jaya Singh strug­gling to keep pace with the meta­physics of the heir ap­par­ent. Sadly, what we have to­day is a pro­foundly pro­saic politi­cian who, even by the stan­dard of Youth Congress, has shown hardly any­thing to prove that he is the change In­dia, if not the party, is wait­ing for. He has one of the big­gest stages any democ­racy can of­fer to play out his script—but he does not have a script. He could not have asked for a more ideal po­lit­i­cal con­text—but he still does not have a text of his own. By virtue of his an­ces­try, he is the only Congress politi­cian of his gen­er­a­tion who can res­cue an or­gan­i­sa­tion that lies stag­nant be­tween an in­creas­ingly in­vis­i­ble So­nia and an al­ready re­dun­dant Man­mo­han Singh. It’s still a the­ory. The re­al­ity is dif­fer­ent: Rahul, as a par­lia­men­tar­ian or as a party leader, is not a nov­elty any longer. He is as fa­mil­iar as Man­mo­han and So­nia—and we have not seen the fu­ture. We have, cer­tainly, seen the lim­its of a politi­cian whose so­ci­ol­ogy matches the wis­dom of an NGO vol­un­teer and whose po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tions have the free­dom of the en­ti­tled. When In­dia badly needs a break from pol­i­tics as usual, does any­body re­alise the fu­til­ity of wait­ing for the known?

HE HAS ONE OF THE BIG­GEST STAGES ANY DEMOC­RACY CAN OF­FER TO PLAY OUT HIS SCRIPT—BUT HE DOES NOT HAVE A SCRIPT. HE COULD NOT HAVE ASKED FOR A MORE IDEAL PO­LIT­I­CAL CON­TEXT—BUT HE STILL DOES NOT HAVE A TEXT OF HIS OWN.

SAU­RABH Singh/www.in­di­a­to­day­im­ages.com

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