The Red Man was right. History does repeat itself as tragedy and farce. The apocryphal story of Marie Antoinette disdainfully saying, “Let them eat cake”, translated into modern patois means, “Take a walk.” The self-anointed queen of India’s most arrogant political dynasty has decided to do just that. At her side will be her curly haired Dauphin, who has been awaiting his moment for years. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, for whom the Indian judiciary is a “politically motivated” puppet have decided to make a spectacle of defiance in the National Herald case. Coming Saturday, they will lead a road show to gladden any TV cameraman’s heart. A mammoth procession consisting of Congress chief ministers, MPs, state and party chiefs and other luminaries will walk with their leader and leader-to-be when they go to court to appear in the National Herald case. Rahul has already shown his contempt for justice by going off to wade in Chennai’s floods on the day he was to appear in court. For a leader who has been waiting his moment, Rahul will get his in a few days’ time. Going by his past record, and lack of staying power to gain momentum, whether the hour will produceth the man will be keenly watched.
The Walk for National Herald will be this year’s most watched television moment. Will Rahul become a populist politician, who will come of age with this blatant show of street politics his grandmother would have approved of? When the ineffective Janata Party government, led by its urine-drinking Prime Minister Morarji Desai and its churlish home minister Charan Singh, was trying to bring the dynasty to justice for Emergency excesses, Indira and Sanjay courted arrest arrogantly, as if seeking vindication of their right to rule. It was a moral victory for the Family and the party. The Congress was clearly on its way back to power. Now, Rahul has borrowed from genetic memory by daring the government to arrest him. “I am not afraid. I am Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law!” Sonia declared last week with all the hauteur of bloodline entitlement.
It is ironic she should say that—it was the Allahabad High Court, which in 1975 brought Indira almost to the edge of the political precipice. She responded with the Emergency. The Gandhi family has always believed it is above the law. This is atavism in action. The difference between the Congress and BJP is that the former stands by its rulers. When Narendra Modi was targeted by the Congress, the courts and renegade bureaucrats on the Gujarat riots, the BJP hardly supported him. Modi willingly spent hours, when he was the Gujarat chief minister, being grilled by the SIT. When he was made a global pariah by
foreign governments which denied him visas, many in the party celebrated with schadenfreude.
It’s indeed a cliche that perception is reality. Sonia is making the cliche come true by projecting the impression that the government is on the backfoot. The NDA has no articulate, presentable spokesmen. It has no socially acceptable TV defenders. It lacks thought resources to plan a counter-strategy. Modi now needs to call upon the diverse resources at his disposal from the party, government and bureaucracy to evolve a plan to reverse the slide in perception. Elections are won on rhetoric, but politics works by strategy. The dynasty has got an opportunity to take the war to the streets. Modi should seize that opportunity and expose the arrogance of political royalty by putting goverance on the road.