This appeared in Sunday Times last weekend...by Shobha De.
The AG-RG faceoff: Naani ki Yaad Aa Gayee
Simpleton or Savant? You decide!!!So… shall we say dumb is the new brilliant??? Frankly speaking, ‘those’ revealing 80 minutes last week stumped the nation in more ways than one. Arnab Goswami,the country’s conscience-keeper, was at his avuncular best when he spoke to the man who would be PM , like a kindly uncleji dealing with a simple minded nephew.Not bad as interview strategies go. A rope was given. It was gratefully grabbed. And the public hanging was complete. Rahul Gandhi broke several protective, motherly hearts (mine included), as he blindly rushed towards a point of no return, watched by a billion jeering people. The noose was tightened pretty early, but our sweet, trusting Rahul Baba didn’t realize what was happening till it was too late and he was left sweating at the gallows by an uncharacteristically calm interrogator-assassin. Without getting into ‘specifics’ ( sorry, Arnab!) of the lethal interview, let it be asked what made Rahul Gandhi take this self-destructive step in the first place? There are theories galore (“ He has nothing to lose…he knows it’s all over for the Congress.”). But Rahul- watchers remain baffled . The thing is, this was a seminal interview. One assumes there was no death wish involved. Someone obviously talked Rahul into exposing himself on prime time television. Who is that someone? Off with his head! Can’t possibly be a friend or well-wisher. Once Rahul put his foot into it, he was stuck! Worse, he promptly forgot the script and mangled his lines.But let’s be fair and give him some brownie points for actually finishing the interview and not running away, unlike India’s top orator and Rahul’s chief rival – Narendra Modi.Unfortunately, this interview is likely to haunt Rahul Gandhi for the rest of his life.
Since then, there have been countless attempts by Rahul baiters, haters, and rabid critics to dance on his grave and kiss him a quick goodbye. But what is far more interesting is the attempt by minders and admirers to provide an entirely different spin to the disaster. It has been suggested that Rahul Gandhi is NOT really dumb. He only sounds it! He actually fakes stupidity! That’s how brilliant he is!! Why? Because that is a part of his larger, grander design to woo his core electorate. This is how it goes : Rahul was advised by some super brains in the party to submit himself to the Arnab barbeque and then go flat out to appear daft. He was assured the nation was sick of listening to bombastic, old school netas making tall claims and sounding insincere. Young India, they told Rahul, was singularly unimpressed by crafty, nasty, oily politicians spouting clichés, and pretending they had all the answers. Rahul had to create a different slot, even if that meant making an absolute ass of himself. His stubborn stone walling, is also being showcased as the master stroke of the century. For, no matter what Arnab threw at Rahul, the answers remained the same. This was no accident, insist his advisors. Rahul got the better of an exasperated Arnab by frustrating him…. wearing him down…by coolly repeating himself over and over again. Rahul, they now claim, effortlessly managed to hammer home his message to those who matter the most in the next election – the youth. Rahul also revealed his personal demons, confusions, contradictions, fears, hopes, dreams, concerns, anxieties, vulnerabilities…even his monumental ignorance! This, say his friends, made Rahul more relatable and real. The idea was to project him as a sensitive, passionate seeker of a higher truth, leaving lesser beings to grapple with ground level issues of leadership, governance and other boring stuff. Gushed an acolyte, “How many leaders have the guts to bare their souls on national television?” True. They have better sense.
While the attempts to intellectualise / contextualize his responses (an absurd face- saving device!) go on, an entire RG industry has sprung up online. People who are being kind to Rahul, have been offering excuses and trying in vain to deconstruct those cringe- making gaffes. They are also providing a clever subtext to the entire exercise. Hours have been invested searching for deeper, hidden meanings, while analysing each empty utterance. These strenuous interpretations are being dished out by those who would like to believe this was not a case of “ The Prince has no clothes”. Alas, the less charitable openly mock his “Power is poison” refrain, pointing out how the Gandhi family had developed an effective anti-dote to poison fifty years ago.
So what happens to Rahul Baba now? Will the wicked ‘system’ which he is very much a part of, but likes to denounce, allow him to lick his wounds in peace and get on with life? Or will the collective scorn of opponents force him to adopt ‘their’ ways and become ‘one of them’? A creature and creation of dynasty politics himself, Rahul thought nothing of rubbishing the notion with a straight face. Now, that requires ‘solid’ acting ! In many ways, and on several levels, Rahul Gandhi paid rich and direct tributes to familiar Gandhi traditions. The nation got a lump in its throat. Seriously - Naani ki yaad aayi.