MUMMY KNOWS BEST

India Today - - SIGNATURE -

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.

/ www.in­di­a­to­day­im­ages.com

SAU­RABH SINGH

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