Not everybody is born with the fortune of Rahul Gandhi. Not everybody has the chance to get unlimited shots at starting a career even when close to being 50 years of age. Not everybody can keep mumbling and fumbling and trying to navigate politics and yet be assured of favourable opinion from a well-cultivated eco-system. Not everybody can live a privileged existence and yet as an adult, keep going back to harping about the burden of their privilege. But, Rahul Gandhi has it all and more. He has power without accountability, promotions without performance. And a silver spoon, the sheen of which hides all his failures.
What he also has is the knack of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, of turning a favourable solution into a nightmare. Of being the king of self-goals. Think of the most recent resurrection that he had at UC Berkeley, which left so many commentators breathless about his newly discovered political edge. When the whole of India is showing a sentiment of speaking against entrenched political privilege, he with his deep ground connect, said dynastic politics is everywhere and he is being singled out. He made it clear that performance was not his problem, but it was rather the problem of the people who called out his dynastic privilege.
This was before he became the Congress president and it was expected that his process of growing up will culminate with his promotion. But, that was not to be. Rahul Gandhi has made a mark for himself with his verbal gaffes. The memes of his famous speeches ranging from “India is a beehive” to “Escape velocity of Jupiter” to “Politics is in your pants” have been able to carve a niche for themselves in pop-culture. But, it is to Rahul Gandhi’s credit that he still considers extempore interactions his forte.
In an interaction with college students in Karnataka, he was unable to respond to a NCC cadet’s question and beat around the bush. Adding insult to injury, the Karnataka campaign saw him unable to pronounce the names of Bharat Ratna M Visvesvaraya and reducing a couplet of the 12th century Lingayat philosopher Basavanna to a joke. These could have been considered aberrations but sadly, in the case of Rahul Gandhi, this is the normal.
The past week has been a series of self-goals for the Congress. Rattled by the global fall-out of Cambridge Analytica, the Congress tried its best to deflect attention of possible collusion with the discredited firm. To do this, they surprisingly picked up the prime minister’s app and started a campaign on twitter urging people to delete the App. Like most things, this campaign too bombed massively when people instead of deleting the app, started downloading and installing the application in record numbers. The campaign turned out to be a publicity campaign for the BJP and the after two days, the app saw the highest traffic it had in six months.
The streak of self-goals continued when the Congress party which had set out to delete the NaMo app, ended up deleting its own app because of data security concerns. The optics of deleting the app and the irony could not be lost on anyone. One who cannot even anticipate the way a social media strategy could play out is expected to run for prime minister in what will be the toughest electoral battle in decades!
The ultimate self-goal though was delivered on Tuesday evening, when the genesis of the data security sparring, the Cambridge Analytica connection with the Congress, completed a full circle. The whistle-blower of the episode, Christopher Wylie, an ex-employee of the firm, dropped a bombshell in the deposition before British MPs, where he said the firm was working with the Congress in India. This is a huge loss of face for the Congress, which had been obfuscating and brazening out their collusion by throwing muck on the government.
Innumerable chances at redemption are a privilege and access to a group that keeps giving you limitless chances to emerge as a leader are a luxury. But, the trajectory of growth for Rahul Gandhi has been slow and tedious. Had it been anybody else without the patronage of a political dynasty, he would have been asked to find an alternative vocation by now. But, such is the dearth of talent and latent servility in sections of our polity, that any half sensible thing coming out of the mouth of Rahul Gandhi is considered to be a major career milestone for him. One semi-decent speech and the years of banality is forgotten! In essence, Rahul Gandhi is the anti-thesis of the role model that the Indian youth today needs. The youth need to see performance, not privilege. They need to see that the only thing which will get them higher on the ladder of success is hard work and tangible success.