RETURN OF RAHUL
It was just under a twenty-minute performance. Much like Shreyas Iyer or the several new kids on the block in IPL T20. But it was enough to create a twitter storm. Hash tags like #RahulRoars were top trends. Back from a 57 day sabbatical from God knows where, Rahul Gandhi did put up a spirited performance in Lok Sabha during a discussion on farmers crisis. For once, he looked much more relaxed. Used comments like “ suit-boot ki sarkaar “ instead of his earlier avatar of “ Jupiter’s escape velocity” to press his point. And though he couldn’t even ensure the total participation of his small lot of 44 MPs, he did pack in enough punch to make his point. That’s where the niceties ended.
Lets come to the meat. Between 2012 and 2014, Rahul Gandhi did try this performance of being the poor man’s soldier. In Odhisha, he famously described himself as the “ sipahi of adivasis”. At a CII summit in 2012, he tried to position himself as a pragmatic politician who knew how to look after the needs of the corporate sector as well as the farmers.
In the heat and dust of battleground 2014, he used the toffee model to poke fun at Modi’s Gujarat model of development. His argument even then was that Mr Modi is in cahoots with the big corporates. He is out to acquire land from poor farmers for big corporates. Net result was that his party got its worst ever drubbing. Truth is that the UPA too was trying its best to bring in a Land Acquisition Bill. There were sections of the government which were keen to bring in a bill which would actually have been a copy of what the NDA has come out with. But it was Rahul who wouldn’t have any of it. So is Rahul Gandhi essentially carrying on from where he left in 2014? Or is there something that’s changed on the ground?
Firstly, it’s the approach of Mr Modi. Its time that Mr Modi’s minders did something to ensure that Mr Gautam Adani doesn’t fly to the same destinations as the PM, so repeatedly. Its precisely this kind of public imagery which is being used by the Congress to suggest that the NDA government is a government only of the rich.
Truth also be told that a large percentage of farmers don’t want their children to be dependent on farming as a means of living. In his mann ki baat address, Prime Minister Modi did touch upon this very subject. There may be farmers who may actually be happy to sell their land at 4 times the market price and get a whole host of other benefits associated with it including right to reclaim land. Yet Mr Modi, the “ chaiwala PM” is being dubbed as the “ rich man’s “ PM. And Rahul Gandhi who seems to have got everything on a platter trying to appropriate the poor man’s leaders position.
While Rahul is right when he says that the foundation of India is its farmers, I get a feeling that he is almost positioning himself as a left inclined politician. Coincidentally, a senior leader I was speaking to in Parliament, did suggest that with Sitaram Yechury at the helm of the CPM, the Congress and the CPM both may have a lot in common. I don’t think if Mr Yechury was speaking in Parliament on this subject, his views would have been any different from that of Rahul. That’s where the problem exists for Mr Gandhi. The reason why Mr Modi won 2014 was largely because of his pull factor amongst the middle classes. It's this class which got exasperated with the congress shenanigans. It's this class which wants to ride the corporate gravy train. It's this class which may not be willing to buy the arguments of Rahul Gandhi in the manner in which he has made them.
So while his colleagues may have been over the moon to see this aggressive side to Rahul, reality is still quite different. It’s a good beginning post sabbatical, here is hoping it doesn’t get reduced to one which is in between different sabbaticals.