Identity without identification is being as clueless as an Eskimo in Edinburgh. Reality, then, becomes a caricature of the truth. In Rahul Gandhi’s election papers, he has declared his occupation as ‘agriculturist’. For a political farmer who is unable to cultivate votes successfully, his current efforts to hijack the farmers’ agitation as before has failed due to the following reasons:
1. He is not a farmer.
2. He doesn’t know he is not a farmer.
3. He has decided to be a farmer in politics.
Pose sans pragmatism is the hallmark of a political novice. Rahul, in spite of a career spanning over a decade, is one. Narendra Modi established the ‘tea-seller’s son’ connect with an accompanying development vision; the emotive image of a poor man’s son with the power to change a country’s destiny. Rahul is not even offering Coca-Cola in spite of the Congress drought.
His first foray into agriculture politics was in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, making debt-ridden farm widow Kalavati Bandurkar a household name during a 2008 speech in Parliament. It changed her life. Greenpeace made her its brand ambassador for renewable energy. Sulabh International gave her a monthly stipend of Rs 25,000 for the next 30 years and Rs 30 lakh. In 2015, she could spend Rs 1 lakh on cotton cultivation. Rahul’s visit was a success for her. Not for him.
In 2015, to take on the BJP, he undertook a 15-km day-long padyatra in Vidarbha again, meeting families of farmers who committed suicide. A news report said none of them knew who he was.
Herein lies the identity crisis that plagues Rahul Gandhi’s politics. A leader without articulation is like Karan Johar without a coffee machine: a wisecrack without a prop. It has prevented Rahul from projecting an image of a pro-poor messiah in spite of his government having been in power for a decade. A leader’s image depends on the constant renewal of his message and understanding of the times.
Does Rahul get it?
The road to hell is paved with good intentions and bad driving. Rahul’s idealism has made him a poverty tourist—descending on tribals’ huts in Niyamgiri to protest corporate greed; a sleepover with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in a Dalit’s hut in Uttar Pradesh; sharing a meal with a hunger victim’s brother in Bundelkhand unaware of the irony; spending a night in a Dalit woman’s hut in Amethi (ministers who accompanied him complained to me about mosquito bites—in Mandsaur last week Rahul got stung by a bee); a night in a Dalit’s hut in Shravasti, UP; the political masochism is heart-wrenching. Rahul’s motorcycle diaries, too, got bad reviews: he rode a bike to Bhatta Parsaul in 2011 after an unproved police firing before riding across the Madhya Pradesh border last Thursday.
It is tragi-comic that he could be ticketed by the cops for driving without a helmet and riding three to a seat! Sadly for the Congress, Rahul’s progress is a journey from the pillion to pillory. No major leader is such a butt of jokes, in spite of all the earnestness. As the last Don Quixote of leftover Socialism, Rahul has decided what he wants to be and why. Before that he must know who he is to succeed. But for now, the Congress Veep is making his party weep while his enemies are laughing all the way to the votebank.