'Toffees', 'immature', 'Amul baby': A short history of infantilising Rahul Gandhi

If Shah Rukh Khan happened to have Rahul Gandhi's genes, the 48-year-old actor would still be playing the his namesake in a Karan Johar world - the college stud, complete with a cardigan flung across his shoulders, a mandolin in hand and a bunch of candy-coloured friendship bands dangling off his oh-so-last-decade, murderously tight denims.

Eternal youth is an asset in the fantastical boy-meets-girl and mountains start ringing with music universe of Bollywood. Not so much in the dog-eat-dog and Modi-calls-everyone-funny-names world of Indian politics.  Here,  Congress vice-president's youthful appearance(that would otherwise make botox jealous) is a bit of a disadvantage. Add to it Gandhi's most famous one-liners which make little more sense that Katrina Kaif's dialogues in Dhoom 3. And his unfortunate photo-ops with a sharply-dressed, no-nonsense and brusque Sonia Gandhi which make him look less seasoned neta and more college boy out on a jaunt with mummyji. The result is a BJP leader's dream come true.

Rahul with Sonia Gandhi.

Rahul with Sonia Gandhi.

Since the sharp-tongued opposition can't blame Rahul for UPA's misdeeds, the next best option is to take aim at his 'immaturity'. And trust Narendra Modi to lead the put-Rahul-back-in-kindergarten campaign. After the junior Gandhi accused the government of giving away land to industrialists at the price of a toffee, Modi has now hit back at Gandhi accusing him of, what else, being too young:

“But on the other side, there is a player whose mind doesn’t move away from childishness. Such an important election about the country’s future but for ten days, a word that gripped him was ‘balloon’. For ten days he kept repeating it. However, children don’t stick to a toy for too long and now he has caught the word ‘toffee’.

“Now you tell me what to do. I am not of an age where I can play with balloons.”

This is just the latest in a long series of jibes about Rahul's lack of, um, years.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley recently said, "Rahul Gandhi has reflected his immaturity and desperation by making the 'Modi marriage' as a political issue." Even Ramdev - he who sells pills to 'fix' homosexuality  - also called Gandhi immature and incapable of leading the country.

And like a friendly neighbour aunty brimming with advice on how to deal with errant sons, the Shiv Sena asked the Congress to get Rahul married. After all, the one sure-fire solution to all progeny-related problems is to "settle" them down.

However, the cherry on the Rahul-bashing cake came from the deeply imaginative VS Achutanandan, former CM of Kerala who came up with the  name that would soon become troll history: Amul Baby. Anyone, who didn't immediately imagine Gandhi in a pair of polka dotted pyajamas, much like the Amul girl's frock, has to be related to Digvijaya Singh or has be a butter-hater.

Narendra Modi's preferred line of attack, too, has been built around Rahul's immaturity, inability to move away from and rise above his mother. The word 'shehzada', in popular parlance, immediately conjures images of a spoilt brat, brought up in the lap of luxury and hence completely removed from reality. And yes, 'shehzada' also gives an impression of someone young, vain and in denial about his irrelevance in the greater scheme of things.

Taking off from 'shehzada', the BJP's internet army also came up with Pappu. The quintessential Indian Mama's boy -  shirt tucked inside waist-high pants who doesn't even look at a poster, forget a girl, without the mother's approval.  In contrast, the best the Congress army could come up with was Feku - a liar, a vice many would say the entire political class in India shares.

By making Rahul seem like a reluctant brat in Indian politics, a softie in the wrestling ring of Indian politics, the Opposition is also making Modi look like the authoritarian patriarch exuding grizzled authority. In the world of Indian politics, far better to be an aging Big B than a youthful eye candy like Shahid Kapoor.

Maybe it's time for Rahul to bring back that beard.


Updated Date: Apr 15, 2014 16:31 PM