One of the many enduring pastimes in India, one that unfailingly causes much merriment, is to dissect Rahul Gandhi’s public utterances. It’s true of course that on critical matters of public discourse on the big issues of the day, Rahul Gandhi has typically been missing in action. But on the rare occasions that he does string together the strands of information floating around in his mind and give voice to them, he more often than not makes a colossal hash of it and implants his foot firmly in his mouth.
For someone who hails from India’s longest-running political dynasty, given to watching family members make speeches since he was very young, it seems passing strange that Rahul Gandhi is so strikingly artless at delivering public speeches or even at media interactions in small towns — even when he doesn’t face intense media interrogation.
There is, for instance, ample anecdotal evidence of his somewhat infirm grasp on facts, such as the time when he claimed to a group of Congress workers that Gujarat was bigger than the United Kingdom and that India was bigger than the US and Europe put together (watch the video here). At other times, his ‘Rahul-isms’ (like this one , where he says that “politics is in your pants and your shirt”) make you go ‘huh?’
For this and other reasons, Rahul Gandhi draws sneering, venomous criticism from outspoken political heavyweights of the day like Subramanian Swamy and Ram Jethmalani. On his Twitter feed, Swamy doesn’t even deign to refer to Rahul Gandhi by his name: he is airily dismissed as “Buddhu”. And on other occasions (as in this video), Swamy merrily mocks and raises questions about Rahul Gandhi’s educational qualifications and even his citizenship status.
The prospect of seeing Rahul Gandhi becoming Prime Minister – in the way that his mother Sonia Gandhi evidently has plans for him – reduces leaders like Ram Jethmalani into a fit of apoplectic chortling.
“Rahul Gandhi is not fit to be Prime Minister,” sneers Jethmalani (in this video). Asked why that was the case, the lawyer snaps back: “He cannot even write a noting in a file. What is his education? What is his experience? That man knows nothing.”
Jethmalani goes so far as to say that he personally asked Rahul Gandhi to name the books that he had read in the past five years, which would have represented something of a Sarah Palin moment for Rahul Gandhi, but got no satisfactory answers.
“In the past few years, do you remember even a single quotable quote from Rahul Gandhi?” he asks.
Well, Rahul Gandhi appears to have remedied that somewhat on Thursday, with his comments at a youth rally in Punjab. His remark — that 70 percent of Punjab’s youth are addicted to drugs – has been picked on and pilloried by political leaders in Punjab. They have also kept amused right-wing Twitterati, who maintain a disdain for all things Rahul, up all night propelling the #YoRahulSoDumb hashtag trending on the social media platform. The comedian Jaspal Bhatti too has been having a rollicking time lampooning Rahul Gandhi’s comments on the drug use epidemic in Punjab.
For his efforts, Rahul Gandhi has also been dismissed by Harcharan Singh Bains, advistor to the Punjab Chief Minister, as a “national joke”. Bains faulted Rahul Gandhi for inviting the youth of Punjab to a rally — and then effectively referring to them as drug addicts. “Is he mindful of what he is speaking and to whom?” Bains wondered.
Yet, with all his history of improper articulation of ideas and his infirm grasp on facts, Rahul Gandhi may not – on this occasion at least – have been “YoRahulSoDumb” (as the Twitter hashtag trend makes him out to be).
That Punjab faces something of a crisis in the matter of drug use among the youth has been sufficiently well chronicled.