MUMMY KNOWS BEST
In her much discussed defence of Indian men in The New York Times, Lavanya Sankaran says one of their redeeming qualities is that they are good to their mothers, though it tends to become a “sentimentalised addiction”. Nowhere is it more in evidence than in public life. There’s Sachin Tendulkar personally supervising a ramp for his mother’s wheelchair so she can watch him play his 200th Test at Wankhede—no matter it’s shocking the President’s club doesn’t have a permanent one already. Here’s Rahul Gandhi in Madhya Pradesh recalling the tears in his mother’s eyes because she could not vote for the bill she had fought so hard and long for. And there is always Narendra Modi ready to exhibit his mother whom he visits at his brother’s house in Gandhinagar on special occasions—though she could so easily live in the Chief Minister’s house in the same city.
What would Indian men do without their mummies? Rajiv Gandhi was the first person—after the Hindi film heroine—who brought mummy into the public domain. In one of his first interviews after being inducted into politics, he famously told INDIA TODAY in 1980: “The way I look at it is that mummy has to be helped somehow.” This was, of course, almost immediately after Mummy’s other little helper, his brother Sanjay, had died in a horrific accident. Indira Gandhi’s tragic assassination won the party the 1984 election, but not before her hoardings, from her last public speech in Bhubaneswar had sprung up, proclaiming almost prophetically how she would serve her country till her last breath.
Rahul is cleverly making Sonia a legend in her lifetime. Consider her appearances in his speeches. Sometimes she is the wife worried about her husband flying in turbulent weather. At other times she is a warrior who will battle ill health to fight for food for every Indian. At yet other times, she is the voice of reason, pointing out that power is poison, but something that needs to be embraced only to empower the voiceless. And most memorably, she is one of Rahul’s two political gurus. He knows that he alone may not have the aura to combat the relentless ambition of Narendra Modi. He also knows that 10 years of power have systematically robbed Manmohan Singh of his integrity. What is untouched is the halo around his mother. So much so that even Modi, who in unguarded moments can still speak the language of the street, no longer dares to mention her foreign origin.
And indeed General Elections 2014 will not be so much a battle between Young Rahul and Dynamic Modi as it will be between Sonia’s Socialism and Modi’s Marketonomics, between a state that merely distributes wealth, to a state that merely creates it. She is the provider of food, protector of land, and preserver of religious freedom. She is Mother India. Modi is Market Hero. The tired, hungry masses will vote for her, so woo them, goes the Congress argument. The shiny capitalists in their big cars will opt for him, so forsake them.
She ruled India for almost ten years without magically getting her hands dirty despite a corrupt coalition government and a dodgy son-in-law. It’s a feat even Indira Gandhi, the ultimate Mother India, would have been proud of. Modi has passed the Gujarat exam thrice, with distinction, but hasn’t taken the national test. But the big question from an electorate still to make up its mind is this— even if Mummy does win this election for Congress, who will fix the broken economy? Who will turn back the clock on the infrastructure pile-up, the power meltdown, the absence of asset generation and the bureaucratic paralysis? If it’s Rahul Gandhi, he will need the mother of all strategies.
GENERAL ELECTIONS 2014 WILL BE A BATTLE BETWEEN SONIA’S SOCIALISM AND MODI’S MARKETONOMICS, BETWEEN A STATE THAT MERELY DISTRIBUTES WEALTH, TO A STATE THAT MERELY CREATES IT. SHE IS THE PROVIDER OF FOOD, PROTECTOR OF LAND, AND PRESERVER OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. SHE IS MOTHER INDIA. MODI IS MARKET HERO.