Jaipur: Rajiv Gandhi had once famously promised to remind people of their grandmother. “Naani yaad dila denge,” he had thundered. His son Rahul seems to have been inspired by the noble thought.
At two election rallies in Rajasthan on Wednesday—in Churu and Kherli (Alwar)—Rahul seemed intent on reminding people of his daadi, Indira.
His grandmother was the dominating theme of both the speeches, which were almost identical in terms of content and delivery, right down to the pauses and emotional effects.
Rahulspeak so far has been dominated by public revelations of the private conversation between him and his mother Sonia. He has been quite liberal with insights into her philosophy on power (it is poison, he had said at Jaipur); emotions (she cried because of her inability to press the button on food security) and her health.
But Wednesday was meant to be the day when Rahul decided to go further back on the continuum of dynasty. At the rate he's going, great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru appears to be just a few rallies away.
The Congress vice-president started with a long anecdote on his ‘badminton partners cum fitness trainers’ Satwant Singh and Beant Singh and how they had killed Indira in a fit of anger.
And then, long after people had stop wondering what the point of his spiel was, he came to the point: people are made angry; anger has terrible consequences; and they (BJP, who else?) are the ones who make people angry. To buttress his point, he even went to the extent of saying that people affected by the machinations of the divisive forces in Muzzafarnagar now want to ‘go to Pakistan.’
With Rahul’s first law of anger— action leads to reaction—it became clear that ‘secularism’ would be his main weapon against the BJP, at least in Rajasthan where the party’s traditional vote bank is confused because of Vasundhara Raje’s liberal image and Narendra Modi’s imminent rise.
Modi is slated to hold a rally in Udaipur on Saturday. His speech writers may have finalized their rejoinder to the promise that Rahul made to the people of Udaipur region a few days back. He had then asked them to eat poori roti (full meal), gulp down free medicines and vote for the Congress. The secularism twist to the tale may now force Modi to come up with some other riposte.
Rahul’s audience in both Churu and Alwar had a sizable number of minorities. So, Wednesday was the perfect day for him to try out his ‘Daadi Yaad Dila Denge’ strategy. But on the basis of evidence at hand, it is difficult to know if it worked.
Both in Churu and Alwar, listeners switched off the moment they realized that mother, father, and grandmother would yet again be the theme of his sermon. And by the time he came to the punchline, the listeners had got busy trying to find out if Ishant Sharma had been dropped from the one-day game against Australia or not. Rahul’s message was lost in narration.
“What is he trying to say? We have not come here to be reminded of 31 October, 1984. We want to know what does he have to offer to us in the future,” Rajesh Saharan, 34, a resident of Churu, summed up the dominant mood.
His dining-table tales from the Gandhi household, unfortunately, eclipsed Rahul’s marked improvement as a stage performer. For a change, Rahul did not resemble a shy, modest, ill-at-ease speaker who had been thrust on the stage to mouth lines he had not rehearsed well.
He looked confident on the stage, waved enthusiastically, smiled cheerfully, rolled up his kurta sleeve just twice, and added the right emotional effects to support his script. If you were willing to forget the lachrymose lines, his effort to pull off the tearjerker was engrossing.
Interestingly, Kherli is the place where his father Rajiv had made that famous admission of corruption in government. In 1990, Rajiv had said only 15 paise out of every rupee sent by the government reaches people. But Rahul was not vocal on issues that concern the people—corruption, inflation and employment generation.
Perhaps he should have thought about the advice his mother gave him in more depth. At the beginning of his speech, Rahul said Sonia had asked him to desist from speaking about her. “She asked me to speak about myself, talk about what I feel.”
Wouldn’t he be better advised to speak about the people and talk about their feelings, instead of reminding people of his Daadi ki Kahani?