Reporting in the Indian media on Rahul Gandhi borders on the religious (Roman Catholic). Nary a word is uttered that might be misconstrued by the “young man” or his mother, Sonia, or their party’s lawyers who send out legal notices like they are going out of fashion.
Everything that goes right with the party is smoothly sourced to the young man’s superhuman political prowess. (For everything that doesn’t, and there’s plenty, there is always somebody from outside the family to blame.)
The “young man” barely utters a word on the key issues of the day—the Naxal issue, price rise, hunger, poverty, malnourishment, Kashmir, Northeast, Telengana—but the family’s self-appointed courtiers brush it all aside because, well, he is “rebuilding the party” in the countryside.
And so it was when the “young man” turned 40 on the day of the lord 19 June 2010. Gushing prose gushed out in gushing editorials and articles. There were fireworks, donations of blood, poems, prayers; even a week-long temple pilgrimage through an insurgency-infested forest.
Enter The Economist.
What’s so young about the 40-year-old “young man”, asks the London paper with trademark irreverence in a piece titled “The Mysterious Mr Gandhi“.
“Forty, after all, is not really that young. By then a man might be expected to have made his mark in the world, rather than be celebrating his coming-of-age.
“By the time they were Rahul’s age, Mozart and Alexander the Great had both been dead for several years. At 33 Jesus Christ had preached, healed, died and risen. The comparison is not wholly unfair, since Rahul’s disciples talk of him as India’s saviour….
“By Rahul’s age Nehru had already spent several years in British imperial jails; thanks to his enormous charm and political talents he had ascended to lead Congress by 34. By 40 Rajiv had been elected prime minister.”
The Economist goes further and questions what has remained unquestioned by New Delhi’s political and media class since 2004: the belief that Rahul Gandhi will one day, some day, automatically ascend to the seat of power and that prime minister Manmohan Singh, for all his virtues, has only been warming the gaddi for him.
“Congress stands ready to do the family’s bidding, like a well-upholstered Ambassador car always at the front door. A second, even more impressive vehicle, known simply as India, boasts wheels of state, and its chauffeur is respectfully called “prime minister”.
“It offers an exhilarating if often erratic ride (it belches smoke and lurches in unexpected directions, when it is not stuck in traffic). It is currently on loan to a loyal and honest retainer, Manmohan Singh, no mean driver for a man of his years. But this car is Rahul’s heirloom. It is just a question of time before he asks for the keys back….
“India’s thronging, unruly streets are a dangerous place in which to take the wheel, yet the learner driver remains an enigma.”
To be fair, those on the other side of the political fence of 10, Janpath can barely rise above personal inneundoes and xenophobic insinutations. They can only hiss about his assumed name, foreign girlfriend/s, his college degree, his religious persuasions, etc.
Still, it is is a reflection of the reverential culture that pervades coverage of Rahul Gandhi that the Indian Express, Ramnath Goenka‘s bulldog of a paper which took on Indira Gandhi and prints one whole page of syndicated content from The Economist every single day, has still not carried the piece on “The Mysterious Mr Gandhi“.
Image: courtesy The Economist, London