Why Rahul does not have to do an Obama
Bikram Vohra | February 13, 2010
Here we go again. Rahul Gandhi takes a local train in Mumbai, defies the Thackeray family and a nation hits the rafters with self-congratulation. A leader has been born. God is in his heaven and all is right with India!
We have been saved. One more dictator knocking on the door of democracy, his sycophants already jostling for position. He is young, has a nice face and, above all, is fairskinned.
For a few hours even I felt a sliver of elation slice through my natural cynicism. Good for the guy, I said, it is like high noon and he took on these hoodlums on their turf, showed some moxy, some mojo.
Then gradually the elation ebbed. The Gandhi rhetoric slipped from hope and happy hype to a self-serving victory, like he had been through hell and back like Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in history. He started comparing the love of the people that swelled for him as compared to fifteen black flags waved by his detractors. And he continued telling us what a victory this trip was. It was like he had triumphed against evil, slain the dragon, so to speak.
And I thought to myself, why should I love Rahul Gandhi? He has done nothing yet, but ponce around the place giving lectures, sermons with soda water, but what is his track record? What profoundly prickly nettle has he grasped and given the commonweal some comfort. Roadshows do not hack it. There has to be more. Can we really hand over our country to individuals on such flimsy pretexts? Yes, we can.
In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to get off a bus in Montgomery because she was black. She was alone. She took on the monster of segregation and fought the good fight. Alone. Alone. Alone. She was arrested and fined. But her defiance sparked a revolt and became the hymn for Martin Luther King. In comparison, Mr Gandhi comes off as a wimp with two Inspector Generals in tow and the lord knows how many cops in ever increasing circles ensuring that no one came close.
Compare these two incidents and you realize what an awesome gap there is between the likes of Rosa and Rahul and then, in our own country the lyrical sacrifice of say, a Bhagat Singh. We have no heroes in our pantheon of political mavericks. More’s the pity. On the contrary so venal and grasping are they and so naïve are we, the people, that even a little choreographed playlet like the Last train to Bandra becomes a tendril for tomorrow’s deliverance, something we can cling to because it is so refreshing.
Refreshing is not the word that should spring to mind. Recently, Robert Gates said the US will never let India know how powerful an entity she is. Have we really fallen so low in our own esteem that we can no longer figure out our own level of power? Perhaps. We are so poorly led these past years that like ants through a puddle of alcohol (Indian made euphoria) we are stumbling six weeks to Sunday.
That is why Rahul does not have to do an Obama and fight the Hill for a health bill which India needs so vitally. He does not have to resolve major issues or battle the common enemies of mankind in poverty, unemployment, individual rights and dignity, nor make a better life for the billions that so spontaneously fall in love with him. He has to look the role. Period. And the Indian adoration for messiahs will do the rest.
Look at us today. We allow people like the Thackerays to assume extra constitutional authority. They then cower us into submission with violence. And no one does anything about it. We take futile, stupid issues like the one about Mumbai for only a single community and put them on centre stage as diversions to the truth: India is now being dramatically misruled.
If Rahul had stood on that local station’s platform and denounced the Shiv Sena and called for the arrest of these instigators under the provisions of India’s terrorism act I would have cheered. Go for it, man.
Because at the core of all of this is our war on terrorism. By allowing the Thackeray tribe and its sundry clones to proliferate across the country we are giving an impression that we are a nation in the throes of violence. We are not Iran or Iraq or Pakistan and it is almost as if we are feeling we are being left behind in this grotesque competition and must catch up. Why is this self-flagellation encouraged? Indians living abroad are asked how safe our country is? Are you serious? The answer is, yes. The media is ensuring this image with a daily diet of disaster, its constantly skewered priorities bedrocked in reporting negatives. And I guess those who read Mr Gates can nod wisely and agree that India should be kept in her place by being dispatched on multiple detours en route to her date with destiny. Let her be late, very late. In the mean time, let the mind games continue.
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