Rahul Gandhi’s own elephant act

There are occasions when Rahul Gandhi does live up to Indira Gandhi’s political instincts. I was too young to remember Mrs Gandhi’s elephant act at the time but my parents always spoke in awe of her clambering atop a pachyderm to make her way into a village called Belchi in Bihar. She rode that elephant when other leaders warned her of the unapproachability of the road leading to Belchi where atrocities had taken place against Dalits. That elephant crushed more than just her opponents underfoot and set her on the road to power.

I thought I saw that spark in her grandson when he rode a train across Bombay in a grand snub to the Shiv Sena which had warned him against stepping into the city a couple of years ago when they were attempting to bully leading Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan who had supported Pakistani cricketers playing the Indian Premier League in India.

Since then it was disappointing not to see or hear much from the man on whom a whole lot of youngsters in the Congress have pinned their hopes on for the future. A small line of disappointment was beginning to be apparent in their disenchantment with their vice president of late. Then, barely a couple of days ago, I was told by a lot of youth workers of the Congress in Maharashtra that Rahul Gandhi’s recent visit to the state had infused them with new hope – no matter what other political parties and opponents say, he told them, we are winning the next elections but I need your help and support for that extra 25 per cent to take us over the hump. At the closed door meeting he promised to help them to make it easy to work for that extra number of seats leading to the magic number of 272.

With what he did on Friday, I, for one, believe he may just have queered the pitch for all his party’s opponents and perhaps given the Congress a fighting chance to win the 2014 elections. The opposition to his dramatic remarks calling the ordinance to protect criminal elements among politicians as nonsense itself made it very clear how he may have outsmarted all others, stolen the opposition’s thunder and turned the tables on them. I was amused that right from the AAP party to the BJP everyone was so concerned about how he had gone against the wishes of both his mother and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and created a crisis in government – that’s just some sour grapes vouched in concern for institutions and individuals that they had no respect for before now.

I do not know enough about the history of the Congress to say with any certainty if the Congress will split again after this differing position vis-a-vis the government but I know the party well enough to realise this was no spur of the moment or spontaneous response to the growing discomfort among a large section of partymen as well as common people about the dangers of bringing the ordinance to law.

Unfortunately, for most of us, the UPA has been a government full of bureaucrats and lawyers and other professionals and very few politicians who might be trusted to use their instincts to do the best by the country. I guess that political instinct has now been displayed in ample measure by Rahul Gandhi — why should the UPA have undertaken to pass such an ordinance even if it was to save a prospective ally like RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and get the bad name for allowing the BJP and other parties to continue fielding their own criminal elements and benefitting from them while allowing the Congress to carry the can and blaming it for perpetrating criminalisation of politics in the process.

Even before Rahul Gandhi’s intervention I had wondered where the Congress’s instinct for survival had disappeared and why it was allowing itself to be played by allies who were their bane rather than boon.

I will be glad to see the likes of Lalu and Sadhu Yadav religated to the political sidelines as I would like to see Amit Shah and Babu Bokharia of the BJP as well as Raja Bhaiyya of the Samajwadi Party bite the dust. Sharad Pawar of the NCP then will no longer be able to give tickets to criminals like Pappu Kalani and Hitendra Thakur as he had done in the past or permit notified criminals to travel in his official aircraft, an ignominy that he has not lived down even to this day. And, of course, even the Congress has ample number of criminals in its ranks. Like Rahul Gandhi said it is about time everybody puts an end to this nonsense.

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