The two Rahuls
A few days ago I read about Rahul Mahajan and his intention of continuing his father, the late Pramod Mahajan’s political legacy. Mahajan junior announced that he will contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and ofcourse he will be a candidate from his father’s party: the BJP. And finally when he is in Parliament he will continue to wear jeans and a shirt unlike his namesake Rahul: the other Gandhi.
Let me handle this one by one:
The first on his intention of continuing his father’s legacy. Yes and No. Yes because he is doing well when it comes to carrying forward his dad’s colourful legacy. Outside politics, Pramod Mahajan had a colourful life: he went for the good things in life; had a lavish lifestyle, believed in big money and living life king size. His untimely death was also a result of his murky relationships: his brother shot him dead one fine morning. There are different versions of this story: one that his brother felt sidelined and alleged that he was treated badly by Pramod; two that Pramod often humiliated him and that he could take it no more and three which others said that Pramod had an illicit relationship with his brother’s wife who one fine day drove up to his house and simply killed him. Tough to say what the truth is but easy to conclude that whatever it may be it certainly is murky. But then Pramod was not associated with much that was clean. Even his politics. He was not considered a serious politician or a committed one but seen as a fixer. None of the nice things said about him in his death were ever associated with him when he lived.
It was only Pramod who told me nice things about himself. I recall in one of the several meetings I had with him how he went down memory lane. Nicknamed “Pamiya” he co-starred with Rekha, now his widow, in Marathi plays and finally took her to a cowshed and proposed to her. He married her before he intended to because as a bachelor, tradition prohibited his doing his sister’s kanyaadaan (giving away the daughter in marriage). When he did not have money, and that was for a long time till after he joined politics, he gave her a rupee on Diwali with a promise that he will fill the coffers when he can. He did and if the grapevine is to be believed earned more than he could handle. Or manage. His untimely death probably left no time for him to even tell his family where and with how many people he had kept the loot. Usually happens with dirty money.
His father, Pramod told me, beat him up because he was overweight. Apart from this resulting in his being a fitness freak, Pramod also vowed that he would never ever raise a hand at his children. I don’t know if he kept that promise but if he had been a disciplinarian his son’s life perhaps would have been a lot better. Rahul went a step ahead. Not only did he take the colourful part of his father’s life but was involved in drug abuse and wife abuse. His first, Shweta left him and his second, Dimple threatened to: both on a common ground: wife beating.
His murky past and an equally murky present apart, Rahul has now unveiled his future plan: of joining politics which he calls his father’s legacy. Sure his father was a politician and one who headed BJP’s dirty tricks department, but a political legacy? His father surely cannot boast of one. If it is legacy which Rahul wants to carry forward then he started long ago: by doing all the wrong things and even doing the right ones the wrong way. Like his father. So that bit is taken care of.
Now about contesting the 2014 elections: yes as a free citizen he surely can. His grounds: his perceived popularity given that by his own admission, thousands of women applied to be his wife on a reality TV show. I am not quite sure if that is good enough but then if a dacoit like Phoolan Devi and other criminals, fixers,wheeler dealers can win an election then perhaps Rahul cannot be faulted to believe that he too can. But from his father’s party? The BJP? Maybe, maybe not. If his winnability is assured then the BJP could anoint him. But as things appear, they would not like to touch him with a barge pole. Given his reputation and his deeds, my sense is that they would sacrifice the winning quotient to credibility. My sense and hope. Varun Gandhi’s communal speeches have caused enough damage to BJP’s national image and they could do without Rahul’s flamboyant image. Add to that his being a wife basher and drug peddler of sorts. So on this one there is a big question mark unless ofcourse Rahul has some indication that the party may support him. After all, in politics, anything and everything is possible.
And finally about how he will dress in Parliament: wear jeans and a shirt unlike what the other Gandhi, Rahul, does: kurta pyjama. I find no comparison between the two: Gandhi certainly carried his father’s political legacy: his father had one and Rahul fit in those shoes well. Mahajan had no credible political legacy which he left behind and hence his son had little to take forward. Gandhi junior’s has tried to reach out to the people of India and braved the heat and dust. May not be the kind of politics today’s electorate demands or laps up but at least he is trying. And within the Congress, he has certainly rejuvenated the youth, brought them together and injected work based politics to an extent. Yet a novice, he has miles to tread but by the way he is going he certainly has made politics a serious business of his life. And if some accounts by insiders are to be believed then he has also sacrificed his personal life for politics. Unlike Mahajan who is enjoying his antics to the hilt, coming across as a wild Casanova on television. Quite like his personal reputation.
So the comparison or contrast is not about clothes or attire but about attitude and the way one leads one’s life. Here there is a qualitative difference between the two. I am not suggesting that Rahul Gandhi does not have weaknesses: he probably does more than many which are known but publicly he conducts himself with dignity. He comes across as a well brought up, well bred young man. Unlike Mahajan junior.