BJP making tactical mistake by going for full blast retaliation; may inadvertently aid Rahul Gandhi's and Congress' rise
Rahul Gandhi has absorbed the art of being wily; he has survived three years of hostile intent and ridicule. From bumbling along and making bloomers, he has started hitting back
The frenzied manner in which BJP's top leadership responded to Rahul Gandhi's speech at University of California, Berkeley, is baffling. If anyone is resurrecting the Phoenix from what were total ashes in 2014, it is this BJP. Watch Arun Jaitley and Smriti Irani send up red codes and groan following Rahul's speech, and you'd think the Congress leader had just addressed the United Nations on a matter of national policy, or at least usurped the government's prerogatives and given a state of the union speech designed to flame passions.
Unlike his grandmother or father, Rahul Gandhi isn't capable of riveting listeners. Father Rajiv Gandhi learnt to do this, and his speeches to the White House Press Corps and to the ILO in Geneva were full of splendid rhetoric. He also cut quite a swathe with his sartorial elegance.
Rahul Gandhi is still callow but can at least exploit the BJP handing him freebies. It lends him credibility because the saffron party seems incapable of grasping the power of contempt being the subtlest form of not only revenge but also destruction. In this week alone, we have seen the Congress weakly but surely make a mini-comeback, at a time when it should have been knocked out for the count. And then came the NSUI victory in Delhi University elections. All of a sudden, it's akin to using a cannon to shoot a gnat.
You don't have to like or appreciate Rahul Gandhi to acknowledge that there is a delicious irony in the BJP mocking his comments on dynastic politics and then so obviously responding to exactly that commodity — the leaders of the pack cannot get past the Gandhis. By constantly mocking the Congress' first family, they are, through the curious chemistry of publicity, actually keeping them in the public eye.
It's enough to give Rahul a boldness that allows him to cheerfully offer his candidature for prime minister. Laugh your head off if you want, but if the BJP keeps nipping at his heels, the "love for the underdog" will kick in and one can already see a pale but increasing tolerance for a man who not so long ago was ordained the class clown.
His father was an airline pilot and ran the country through his kitchen cabinet of Doscoites, rushing off for Chinese dinners and flying planes to Dehradun. The start of his tenure underscored his being totally out of tune with things but he learnt along the way, and would have made a formidable leader in a second term.
One is not saying his son is a powerhouse, but the occasion flings up the man and BJP reacts to the same Pavlovian conditioning. They get into such a heated and vicious tizzy as if they "expect" Indira Gandhi to suddenly appear and admonish them and it's only through screaming can they keep her away. How else can you explain such a ridiculous overreaction to a speech of little political value. The old hangover sustains. And it is dynastic in texture.
Having said that, the speech itself was pleasant and harmless and even had a few healthy tendrils of self-deprecating humour. As for the dynastic angle, what exactly is the big deal, how is it in the great current scheme of things even a minor priority? The man said something he felt, and he certainly hasn't dishonoured the nation. Why get so shrill?
Rahul has absorbed the art of being wily; he has survived three years of hostile intent and ridicule. From bumbling along and making bloomers, he has started hitting back. That grossly exaggerated statement that Prime Minister Modi has a roomful of 100 people on computers designated to make him look bad would have not so long ago been a pearl of wisdom for the "Pappu files", but amazingly was not derided very strongly. And Rahul has seen that making a joke about oneself takes the sting out of things and also sends a message.
Time for BJP to change tactics. They should also learn the language of the writing on the wall. They might unwittingly be feeding the underdog, and turning him into a hound.
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