Rahul Gandhi’s proclamation of Indira Gandhi as his “role model” – and that he can be tough, unlike his mother, Sonia Gandhi – only exposes his vulnerabilities
Ajay Singh | May 24, 2013
Ram Manohar Lohia was far from being apt when he described Indira Gandhi as “gungi gudia (dumb doll)”.
The loquacious socialist leader obviously always proved to be more than a match even for her father Jawaharlal Nehru when it comes to wordy duels. He had seen Indira Gandhi growing into a politician whose intellect was not even a pale shadow of her father’s perspicacity. But Lohia must have rued his comment subsequently.
Indira Gandhi not only marginalised her arch political rivals, like Moraraji Desai and K Kamraj, but also displayed uncharacteristic aggression in doing away with the privy purse, nationalising banks and claiming a virtual monopoly over socialist agenda. Unlike Lohia, history judges Indira Gandhi as a woman with nerves of steel, with a streak of authoritarianism that nurtured a culture of political bucaneerism represented by her son Sanjay Gandhi.
Indira Gandhi’s political legacy is worth recalling in the context of her grandson Rahul Gandhi describing her as his role model. Perhaps the Gandhi family scion is oblivious of the history of his own family. Like him, Indira Gandhi was not a reluctant politician. Even when Nehru was the prime minister, she held the post of the Congress president in 1959. She enjoyed every bit of politics, power and its majesty, though her father was somewhat circumspect to push her to become a career politician.
She displayed utter ruthlessness in power games even when Lal Bahadur Shastri was the prime minister and roped in leaders like Kamraj to marginalise her stalwart rivals. Kamraj later got marginalized himself. Her transformation from a “dumb doll” to “Durga (deity of power)” hardly took three years.
But what about Rahul Gandhi? He is self-admittedly a reluctant politician. He is in public life for nearly a decade but yet needs to put across a message of his toughness to the party cadres. He is constantly being pushed into politics and power, which he conscientiously shuns and finds himself comfortable with a group of select academics. His interactions with people and his forays in rural areas are often described as the process of learning social realities and understanding ground situation.
He singularly betrays timidity and lack of foresight while dealing with corruption and mis-governance.
By all indications, the comparison between Indira Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi is odious. Despite her follies, Indira Gandhi was the understudy of her father, Nehru, whose intellect and greatness was never doubted even by his rivals.
On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi has found himself under the guidance of a motley group of leaders known more for their low cunning than their earthy intellect. In such a scenario, his proclamation of Indira Gandhi as his “role model” – and that he can be tough, unlike his mother, Sonia Gandhi – only exposes his vulnerabilities. His attempt to emulate his role model is bound to end up as a farce, which the country can ill-afford in a situation of credibility and leadership crises.
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