The inscrutable Mr Gandhi: Decoding RahulSpeak

By Lakshmi Chaudhry and Sandip Roy

Rahul Gandhi is a riddle wrapped in a kurta-pajama inside an enigma. He descends from on high -- in a parachute, apparently -- to make gnomic pronouncements that we fail to decipher. What, oh what could he possibly mean? Some would describe this sphinx-like equivocation a failure to communicate, but we prefer to view it as a challenge to figure exactly what kind of mystery is afoot.

Here are the best explanations we could summon up.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Rahul is Deep Thought

"Asking me whether you want to be Prime Minister is a wrong question," Rahul told his fellow MPs. Much like the super-computer in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, our crown prince is happy to supply the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything -- including his plans to ascend the gaddi -- but we require a far more powerful computer to figure out the Ultimate Question. Apparently, mundane queries like "Do you plan to become India's next prime minister or not?" will not suffice. All they will produce are mystifying answers like the one Rahul famously offered on his first trip to Amethi: "I am not averse to politics, but that does not mean I am going to join politics." That, dear friends, is the politician's equivalent of '42'.

Adding to this confusion is the media's own unwillingness to reveal what questions -- however misguided -- were put to Rahul bhaiya. What we get are tantalising answers that float untethered by context and therefore meaning. We know what he said (sort of) -- "At one point, the pressure from the youths will be such that there will be an explosion." -- but have nary a clue as to why. And while we're at it, inquiring minds want to know which bright parliamentary spark had the gall to ask the nation's first bachelor the Ultimate Auntyji Question: Beta, aap shaadi kab karoge?

Rahul is a fortune cookie

"I am a parachute," Rahul informs us, sounding like a fortune cookie that arrives at the end of our meal at the local Chinese restaurant. It's about as informative as, say, "Who can bet on the goodness of his own eyesight may eat the largest sugar plum." We are left to read our nation's destiny in between such enigmatic lines.

Perhaps Rahul is referring to his penchant to "parachute" into Dalit homes to spend the night? DNA claims the four little words imply that "he owed his leadership to the membership of the first family in Congress." Or perhaps he is our deus ex machina, albeit propelled by a lowly parachute, not wings, a magical solution to our nation's unsolvable problems.

Rahul is the quintessential sadhu maharaj, generously doling out cryptic words of wisdoms, or if he is feeling generous, morality tales. Like the great parable of the bathroom:

My first lesson in arrogance in my professional life came from a bathroom in the UK... [My boss] gave me another responsibility. Something else in the same organisation that needed fixing. It was a mess. I had already done my first job well. So I was confident. I had the answer. I thought, man, bar codes are the solution. We can fix things by having different bar codes for different products. The boss looked at me quietly. He told me I was good at my job, and asked me to have a look at the office bathroom.

The bathroom was full of graffiti. This guy is like that, that guy is like this etc. Suddenly it hit me. All the bar codes in the world wouldn't have helped. The problem was something else. That, my friend, is arrogance. It is one bathroom lesson I haven’t forgotten. That is the arrogance you have to deal with. When I take life this way, I stop thinking that the other guy is a joker. I realise I am the joker.

A popular fortune cookie saying declares, "If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words." Too bad, it doesn't hold true of our Yuvraj. It's the reason why journalists write entire books titled "Decoding Rahul" and fail entirely to do so.

Rahul Gandhi is the Chinese Whisperer

The nation may eagerly want to know when Rahul Gandhi will give it grandchildren. So much so, that the Times of India thought it fitting to play up his marriage prospects ahead of his prime minsterial ones: "Rahul-Gandhi says he doesn't want to marry nor in race for PMs job". But what our most eligible bachelor actually said is lost in translation in a game of Chinese Whispers.

One outlet quotes him as saying “If I get married and have children, I will be status quoist and will like children to take my place?” Aha, so he is against the status quo! But wait, Indian Express claims he said: “Sometimes I think if I marry and have children, I would want my children to take my position. Sometimes, I feel that status quo is better.”

Even his statements on his prime ministerial ambitions have now been subjected several spin cycles of befuddlement. All the “Rahul Gandhi: No plans to become prime minister” headlines  have sent the party into a panic of post-facto parsing. Mr. Gandhi “didn’t mean that he will not become the prime minister,” Congress spokesman PC Chacko hastily told India Real Times. It just means that’s not his priority.

Where some accuse Rahul of aping Modi's brahmacharya appeal -- with all that talk of rejecting swarth for seva -- poor Rahul, as always, comes across as the classic commitment phobe. Mr. Never say Never. The man with no plans to do anything - whether become PM or get married. Only this much is crystal clear: the designer-stubbled face of young(ish) urbane India still thinks the whole point of biwi is bachhe. And that's so last century, ladies!

In the end, it matters little what Rahul says -- or fails to say -- because, as always, Mummy knows what’s best for Munna. And by that we don’t mean just Sonia Gandhi. Rahul may be chewing on weighty issues of 'empowerment' and 'elitism' and 'organisation' but as far as the ultimate mommy dearest -- aka the Congress party -- is concerned, he may as well be chewing gum.

“If Rahul does not aspire to be Prime Minister, that is his view but we want him to lead the country,” said a dismissive Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi. Rahul baba doesn't like High Command culture? No matter, “Rahul is our high command,” declared Alvi. Except this high command can be safely ignored like one does a babbling child.  Just weeks ago Rahul snubbed Uttarkhand CM Vijay Bahuguna in public for raising the Rahul for PM chorus. “I don’t want to hear such things in future,” he said. “We need to focus on the organisation.”

His party's response: “Yes, yes, beta, whatever you say… Now do you want a gold sherwani or a black one for your coronation? Maybe one made of parachute silk?”

Updated Date: Mar 06, 2013 15:16 PM

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