Kathua and Unnao rapes: Rahul Gandhi’s candlelight vigil is just 'tragedy opportunism’, not call of conscience

"Saari Dilli yahaan hai, Sheila Dikshit kahaan hai?"

With his midnight vigil at India Gate on Thursday, Rahul Gandhi brought back memories of a slogan that reverberated through Delhi in the aftermath of the city's gruesome gangrape and murder case in 2012. Back then, the candle, not entirely unlike the proverbial boot, was in the other hand. The Congress and its leaders were missing while the entire country was out on the streets. Rahul — the torchbearer of morality now — and his conscience were safely entrenched in their Lutyens bungalow. This year, with his party not in power — and thus not the target of the embarrassing outrage — Rahul has stepped out, a candle in hand and a sermon on his lips.

 Kathua and Unnao rapes: Rahul Gandhi’s candlelight vigil is just tragedy opportunism’, not call of conscience

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi at Thursday's midnight candlelight vigil. Twitter @INCIndia

There is a phrase to be coined that aptly describes such selective outrage: Tragedy Opportunism — something our entire political class is guilty of practicing. We are now a country where petty politics has become the moral compass of every single leader of the nation. Like the Pied Piper, for political gains, they are leading us away from the ideals of humanity, making us leave our consciences far behind, dividing us on sectarian and political lines. Look around, read the silence on the Kathua and Unnao rape cases, you will find the political firmament is packed with selfish, opportunistic, and morally ambiguous people leading us on the road to perdition. A lot has already been said about the BJP's silence on the topic of the sordid rapes, so let's focus for the moment on Rahul and his Tragedy Opportunism.

Let's recall the number of times the Congress president has made guest appearances at the venue of tragedies, not of his own volition, but after being forced by the outrage among the masses. Let us recall how he has swooped down on a tragedy after it has already generated anger across the country. Let us recall, how, after making a guest appearance, he has abandoned the cause only to pick up a fresh opportunity created by another tragedy.

His candlelight vigil at India Gate is just another example of Rahul's brand of episodic politics. The Kathua rape happened way back in January. It has had Jammu and Kashmir on the boil for several weeks. That members of his own party — and of course of the BJP and Panthers Party — were trying to shield the accused has been common knowledge in Jammu.

What did Rahul do while all this was happening? All along, he maintained a blissful silence, ignored the barbaric and shameful events in Jammu completely. He didn’t reprimand his own party workers for protesting against the arrest of the accused. He did not make any effort to talk about the eight-year-old girl’s brutal rape and murder in Parliament. He did not talk about it even once on any platform. But now that massive outrage has forced him to take notice, react, he has brought out his trademark act of tokenism.

What do you call a politician who doesn’t set the agenda but follows it? What do you call a party president who doesn’t lead a protest but joins it when people are already out on the streets? What do you call a young man whose numbed sensitivities are stirred only by the call to conscience by India’s masses? You call him Rahul Gandhi.

He has been there and done that before. In the past, he was at Bhatta Parsaul, JNU, Hyderabad, Gopalgarh (Rajasthan) — where Meos were butchered under the watch of Ashok Gehlot, who, incidentally, walked alongside him on Thursday — and almost every place where a tragedy created an opportunity to stage his outrage. And then he has abandoned it.

Recall how, after making lots of noise over Rohith Vemula’s suicide, threatening to rip apart the HRD minister, Rahul didn’t even participate in the debate over the issue in Parliament. Recall, how after shredding into pieces a bill proposed by his own government to bar convicted politicians from contesting polls, he joined hands with Lalu Prasad Yadav, the purported beneficiary of the proposed law he trashed.

Rahul, of course, is entitled to politicise tragedies, appear at venues of protests and outrage. That is his democratic right. But, the problem with him is that in all such instances he doesn’t act as a leader, but only as an opportunist performing an act. His protests and vigils sound like afterthoughts necessitated by politics, not the call of his conscience.

Updated Date: Apr 13, 2018 13:30:26 IST