From Nitin Gadkari to Mamata Banerji, all politicians describe controversies surrounding them as media creations. Which is like looking at a pimple on your face and calling it a mirror creation. There are other things which are indeed media creations. The idea of the “Rahul Stamp”, for example. First, media mandarins said the cabinet reshuffle was going to bear the Rahul Stamp. Then they said the Rahul Stamp was missing. Then they found that the Rahul Stamp had in fact worked and brought the average age of the cabinet down from 65 to 64.
The advantage with the media, especially the variety that shouts from inside boxes, is that it is concerned only with the moment. What happens the next moment is another headline and another shout. There was no logic in creating a hype in the first place about a Rahul Stamp on the cabinet. A stamp is put on things by those who have outstanding ideological and philosophical convictions that influence others. Jawaharlal Nehru put his stamp on the post-war world with concepts like non-alignment. Jyoti Basu and E.M.S. Nambudiripad imprinted their stamp on their states by the power of their personalities. Annadurai engraved his stamp on Tamil country, Narasimha Rao on India’s economy.
Rahul Gandhi does not belong to this league. His true asset is that he seems to realise this – assuming that that is the reason he has declined to become prime minister. In terms of grand convictions that influence others, he has betrayed none so far. No notable speech stands in his name. No policy initiative has stirred up popular imagination. No electoral campaign he led has met with success. Only fawning sycophancy is there to sustain the hype. As The Economist put it: “Nobody really knows what he is capable of, nor what he wishes to do should he ever attain power and responsibility. The suspicion is growing that Mr Gandhi himself does not know”.
He doesn’t have to. Not when he is his father’s son. To appreciate this we must look at something the media played up with a more appropriate phrase, the “Rahul Brigade”. Headline writers went effusive about the freshness and promise of the Brigade. They actually meant Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Jitendra Singh, Jitin Prasada, Milind Deora. Accomplished young men who deserve to do well. But that was not why they got prominent positions in the cabinet.
This is where the real stamp imprinted on today’s India emerges into view: The stamp of dynasty. If it were simply a matter of the Rahul Brigade, at least two others should have been somewhere in the limelight. From 2008 what was known as Rahul’s core team at the Congress headquarters comprised Jitendra Singh, Meenakshi Natarajan and Ashok Tanwar. They were closest to Rahul, strategizing every move of his, united in their devotion to him. When the moment of truth came, however, the differences among them came to the fore. Jitendra Singh was the scion of Alwar royalty, Meenakshi was a Madhya Pradesh grassroot worker, Tanwar a dalit. The one who fitted into the dynastic framework moved up to join his kind – Scindia and Pilot, Prasada and Deora, all of them their fathers’ sons.
When sons and daughters, on their own, are unable to climb the steps of leadership, democracy is diminished. Our democracy was subverted when dynastic rule followed the Emergency. Two factors since made it worse. First, the idea spread to other parties reviving the spectre of hereditary rulers. Secondly, Sonia Gandhi emerged as a more formidable wielder of power than Indira. A surprised nation watched with awe as she tore into L.K.Advani in the Lok Sabha recently, bristling with rage, shouting, gesticulating and repeatedly goading her party men to shout down the opposition. For the first time the nation understood why Congressmen were terrified of her.
This is the real India, beyond the make-believe of democracy. In this India only two forces can decide matters like cabinet appointments. And the Prime Minister is not one of them. Ask Jaipal Reddy.