Rahul Gandhi's conversation with Raghuram Rajan sought to repackage dynast as an ‘intellectual,’ but ended up reinforcing exactly the opposite - LiveNow24x7: Latest News, breaking news, 24/7 news,live news

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Thursday, 30 April 2020

Rahul Gandhi's conversation with Raghuram Rajan sought to repackage dynast as an ‘intellectual,’ but ended up reinforcing exactly the opposite

For a politician, not being taken seriously is the biggest challenge. In India, at least, a political leader can commit crimes, get indicted and even go to jail and still build a successful career. But when the very mention of a politician — especially the scion of a dynasty that has given India several prime ministers — triggers mocking and dismissive laughter in the public sphere, it is a reasonably good signal that the candidate is unfit for the job.

But the Congress has a problem. Its existence is tied to the fate of a dynast whose entire political career has been a struggle against the public image of a dimwit. For the better part of his life as a politician, Rahul Gandhi has launched multiple, painful attempts to be taken seriously — to show to the world that he is not a ‘pappu’.

The Congress’s latest plan to sex-up Rahul Gandhi’s battered image is to get the Gandhi dynast involved in a series of conversations with public intellectuals. The idea is to prove that Rahul isn’t really the simpleton that people take him for. He is not an entitled dynast, but is a sharp, knowledgeable, thoughtful leader, capable of holding his own with the best of minds and fit to become a credible alternative to Narendra Modi.

Screenshot of Rahul Gandhi's interaction with former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@RahulGandhi

As the first installment of the exercise kicked off with Rahul’s ‘conversation’ with economist and former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan on Thursday, the Congress' social media team went on an overdrive claiming that the Gandhi scion is the leader India needs during this hour of crisis. What was left deliberately unsaid was that Rahul’s ‘pappu’ image is merely BJP propaganda.

This is not the first time the Congress has launched such attempts though. One recalls his tour of the US in September 2017, when he interacted with “global thinkers” and engaged with university students, or his visits to the UK and Germany a year later. These visits were fashioned as Rahul’s attempts to showcase his intellect on global platforms but ended up being public relations disasters. True to his form, the Gandhi scion made a hash of it. Instead of meaningful engagements, he was busy bashing Modi on foreign shores, giving more ammo to the BJP and leaving his party colleagues in India to launch furious damage control exercises. There is an argument that these curated efforts did more damage than good.

The interaction with Rajan is not a bad idea. Some good suggestions might emerge from it. The former RBI chief, now a professor at the University of Chicago, apparently prescribed an amount of Rs 65000 crore to help the poor. Be that as it may, these interactions will not address the key issue.

On the contrary, these countless attempts to burnish Rahul’s image indicate a defensive mindset in Congress ranks. It tells us that the Congress’ top leadership has internalised the BJP’s claim that Rahul is a “pappu” and is therefore trying desperately to refute the charge.

Rahul may chat with as many “global thinkers” as he likes, but that won’t address his lack of credibility as a leader. If leaders need advice and ideas, they can always appoint technocrats. The job of a leader is to inspire, show the way and lead. Cerebral discussions, even if well-intentioned, cannot address leadership deficit, and certainly cannot turn a politician into a mass leader.

Sadly, the more Rahul struggles to be taken seriously, the more it becomes evident that he is out of his depth. Sample a bit of the conversation between him and Rajan where the former RBI governor asked him to compare India and America’s response to COVID-19. According to a report in NDTV, Rahul replied: “One of the things that annoys me is the level of inequality. A lot of social change required in India. Different states have different issues. A blanket solution will not work for India. But there is an element in our governance system of control. You cannot control COVID-19. But I think this is historic, even before the British. That is one of the challenges we are facing…”

We will never know if even Rajan had been flummoxed with the answer. Congress leaders vouch for Rahul’s sharp intellect, but so far he has managed to successfully hide his ‘sharpness’ from public view. And then there are the tweets. Rahul’s latest was a swipe at the prime minister because the White House Modi on Twitter. Surely a matter of national import?

April 30, 2020 at 04:22PM

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