The curse of growing up with power and money

I was having breakfast with my good friend Nitin Gadkari at his apartment in a building assigned to parliamentarians and legislators from Maharashtra when the subject turned to Rahul Mahajan.

He was on Big Boss 2 at the time and expressing the desire, on air, to contest elections after he got out of the show.

“I have to shut my eyes sometimes when I come up or go down the lift,’’ Gadkari said, flummoxing me completely. “You come and visit me sometime late evening and you will see what I mean.’’

“What do you mean?’’ I asked.

“Oh, there is a succession of girls in the skimpiest of clothes and outlandish make-up who go in and out of the flat above mine at all hours of the evening and night. I do not know how his family allows it.’’

“Whose family?’’ I asked still without a clue as to what he was talking about.

“Rahul Mahajan’s. He has the flat above mine and the liftmen here are driven crazy separating brawling, crying women and sending them home through the wee hours of the morning.’’

“Oh, then, that’s not good for your party’s image,’’ I said.

“The party’s image has nothing to do with him. He is just the son of a BJP leader, not even a member of our party. We might give his sister a ticket but he is simply nothing to us.’’

That is exactly what happened in the subsequent months. Even as Rahul waited for his father’s party to come through, the BJP wanted no part of the kind of spoilt brat that he had turned into. Not far from Gadkari’s mind that day was the thought that Rahul was being tried for a drug-related offence in a Delhi court and that his ex-wife had lodged allegations of wife-beating against the man.

Now amid allegations of wife-beating again from his second wife Dimpi, I felt utterly sorry for Rahul as I read he had once again expressed the desire to contest an election in 2014. “The BJP is in my blood,’’ he is reported to have said but clearly here that blood is no thicker than water. And when I think about it, I realise that Gadkari, who now has even more of a say in who gets a party ticket or no, is right to be wary of the kind of image that someone like Rahul brings to his late father’s party.

It was during that breakfast meeting, when I told him that the party might be dashing the hopes of the legitimate expectations of the son of a prominent leader in the party who had had an untimely demise, that Gadkari told me, “There are sons and sons. And daughters.’’ And left me to interpret that as I would.

But then, as now, I was reminded of what Rashmi Thackeray, wife of Bal Thackeray’s son Uddhav, had once told me in a rare moment of candour. She was sitting with me in Thackeray’s parlour, keeping me entertained as we waited for her husband to finish with his political duties and give me the interview I was seeking.

She would dearly have loved to open a boutique of designer crockery, she said but had decided to keep her desires and ambitions on hold as her two sons grew up. “I learnt this from Hema Deora, Murli Deora’s wife,’’ she said. “They have two sons as well and Hema told me that if your sons grow up badly, there is no amount of power and money on earth that can make that right. Girls, you have to watch for just a thing or two but boys have to be kept in strict check all the time lest all that power and money go to their heads. Drugs, women, everything bad follow and then not just theirs but even your life has gone for a toss.’’

I believe her two sons have grown up quite nicely — just as Hema Deora’s did (one son, Mukul, is a successful musician; the other, Milind, is a Member of Parliament). But then, as Gadkari had pointed out at the time, despite their fathers being in power almost all their growing life, Sharad Pawar’s daughter Surpiya and Vilasrao Deshmukh’s three sons had grown up with none of the problems that Rahul Mahajan brought to the table and they were assets to both their parents and their respective parties as poor Rahul could never be to his.

Over the years I have met many other politicians who have been terrified at the (negative) effect their power might have on their children and, like Maharashtra’s Home Minister RR Patil, have left them behind in the villages as the best way to prevent Bombay from getting under their skin.

Vilasrao Deshmukh, though, sent all his boys to school and college in Bombay but still shielded them from his power and money throughout. One is now a legislator, the second a film star and the third a successful businessman.

As for Supriya Sule, she once told me, “I desperately wanted to go to the disco like all my friends when I was 16. But my father wouldn’t give me the money and put his foot down. “You can do that when you are 21,” he said. `Until then your time will be better spent getting yourself an education and a degree.’ But by the time I was 21, I had lost the desire to disco.’’

But, then, she and many other politicians’ kids, including Rahul Mahajan’s own cousin Pankaja Munde, daughter of Gopinath Munde, have since danced their way into either parliament or the state legislature.

Gadkari had said something rather uncharitable to me about why Rahul Mahajan never would. And I think he was right.

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