The thing I find most repugnant about socialist feudalism in our political parties is the sense of smug entitlement that it breeds in heirs. Nearly all the heirs who inherit political parties and careers (and there are too many) have this unfortunate quality, but none more so than Rahul Gandhi. And, why should he not? He is after all heir to the Dynasty that has ruled India for most of our years as an independent country. And, is today seen by many political pundits as the main challenger to Narendra Modi in the elections that begin this week.
Rahul wears this heavy mantle with arrogance rather than humility. At no time was this more evident than when he released the Congress party’s election manifesto last week. As he listed the many, many plans he has to rescue India from the ruin he claims that Modi has wrought in the past five years, I wondered if he knew how arrogant he sounds. Does he know that he sounds more like an entitled prince than the man who wants to lead the world’s largest democracy?
Does he know, for instance, that the Rs 72,000 he has promised to put into the bank accounts of the poorest 20 per cent of India’s population is not his money in the first place? It is taxpayers’ money, but nobody seems to have told him this, so whenever he mentions the NYAY scheme he makes it sound as if the money that it will take to fund it will come out of his own pocket. His arrogance and sense of entitlement are contagious, so whenever the ‘experts’ who helped him devise this scheme are asked about where the money will come from, they behave as if those who ask these questions are fools.
When Sam Pitroda was asked by a TV reporter if the money for NYAY would come from raised taxes on middle-class Indians, who already struggle to make ends meet, he replied disdainfully that they must think about those who were poorer than them. ‘How dare they be so selfish as to not see how desperately people more unfortunate than them needed this basic minimum income?’
What is that old saying about great arrogance coming before a great fall? Whatever it is, somebody needs to whisper it in the ear of the man who hopes to be prime minister next month. It might remind him that when he calls Modi a thief and a liar, as he does now in every speech, he should keep in mind that he is also attacking the office of the Prime Minister of India. It might remind him that in public life words like liar and thief, even when used with evidence, usually harm the person who uses them more than anyone else.
Another example of extraordinary arrogance came when the leader of our oldest political party went to file his nomination papers to contest from the constituency of Wayanad. Reporters accosted him as soon as he emerged from officially declaring his candidacy and asked why he had chosen to come so far away from Amethi. To this Rahul Gandhi responded grandly that he wanted to send the message that he would like to unite the southern and northern states. The southern states, he said, have been feeling neglected because of the policies of the RSS and Modi. This left me momentarily gobsmacked, and then I started to wonder if he should not immediately sack whoever is now his political tutor.
No prime minister has made more effort to repeat ad nauseum that he represents ‘125 crore Indians’ than Modi has. I am no fan of the RSS but have to concede that they virtually invented the idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’. They would like to take back all of India if this ever becomes possible. In Modi’s first tenure he has not done anything to reassure Muslims that he meant what he said when he promised ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. And, certainly the RSS has done a great deal to make Muslims believe that they are not welcome if Hindutva rules. But, where did the Congress president learn that the RSS idea of India excludes the southern states?
Other than the absurdity of what he said, what struck me was the arrogance with which he said what he did. It reminded me that from day one of Modi’s tenure, Rahul Gandhi has behaved as if a usurper had stolen his birthright. There has not been a thing Modi has done that has been praised by the man who would be king. His disdain for this usurper is such that after the air strikes on Balakot, he offered his good wishes to the Air Force but not to the Prime Minister. Does he believe that the Air Force can attack deep inside Pakistan on its own? Arrogance or what?
This opinion appeared in The Sunday Express under the headline ‘Just feudal arrogance’