Actors trained to perform histrionics resort to method acting to get into the skin of a character. Politicians are often better than trained actors and know the difference between histrionics and acting. The tragedy with Congress president Rahul Gandhi is that he knows neither.
As he participated in the debate on the no-confidence motion against the NDA government on Friday, he proved himself to be neither a leader nor an actor. He seems to be still figuring out what exactly he stands for. He seems to be guided solely by an immediate circle of friends who advise him on all critical issues of politics.
Look at the manner in which Rahul raised issue after issue, each without substance. He chose Parliament to raise the issue of BJP president Amit Shah’s knowing full well that anything said in Parliament cannot be adjudicated upon or considered libellous. For a leader of his stature, this is nothing but sheer impropriety. Similarly, his shoot-and-scoot strategy was evident when he ferreted out the Rafale deal and attacked defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman for lying to the nation. He quoted his alleged discussion with French President Emmanuel Macron to assert Sitharaman had lied. By evening Macron's office denied any conversation with Rahul on the matter. Not only did Rahul come out as the real liar, he also came across as an immature political leader who visiting heads of government will be wary about for they now know the Congress president can't be trusted to keep his counsel on important matters of state.
The manner in which he spoke without substance was simply disturbing. He referred to an industrialist — without naming him — as the beneficiary of the revised deal in which the price of the fighter plane was hiked multifold. Since he was speaking extempore, he cared two hoots about facts. The reality is that facts hardly mattered to him.
What Rahul spoke on the no-confidence motion pathologically fits the definition of a term explored in detail by American philosopher Harry Frankfurt. He describes a disingenuous person thus: "It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction."
His flexing of muscles during the speech and his repeated assertion that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not look him in the eye was a piece of histrionics that seemed commandeered by his advisers.
There is a pattern to Rahul's political conduct. During the UPA regime, he conducted himself in a manner of a political-intellectual by making certain speeches which read like oped pieces. In Patna, Allahabad, Hyderabad and even Delhi, he used to organise meetings of intellectuals to understand India from their viewpoint. In one of the meetings at Patna, a think tank representative told me, he tended to repeat "certain formulations" which he had taken a liking to.
Since 2014 he has found his bearings as an angry young man of politics, raring to fight the prime minister. Of course, it is nobody’s case that Rahul is wrong in challenging Modi. But that in the process of carrying out his acting of aggression, he forgets politics. Similarly, his utterances are delivered at a pitch which carries the least conviction. For instance, at the end of his speech, his walking up to Modi was a good strategy, even if questionable on account of form and protocol. But his college boy grin and wink undid the act of the love-spreading messiah of Indian politics instantly.
The obvious inference is that Rahul’s understanding of Indian social psychology is still guided by a coterie of advisers who are thoroughly divorced from ground realities in larger parts of the country. He may get appreciation from within a section of his own party leaders who thrive on sycophancy but he would do well to keep in mind yet another brilliant observation by philosopher Frankfurt in the same essay mentioned above. Frankfurt says, "He [for the purpose of this piece, Rahul Gandhi] does not care whether the things he says describe the reality correctly. He just picks them out or makes them up to suit the purpose.”
Perhaps those advising him on his political conduct are subjecting him to the same medicine. And that makes the Rahul Gandhi show a grand political tragicomedy.
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Updated Date: Jul 21, 2018 15:29:30 IST