A senior BJP leader said to me last week that he was certain that Narendra Modi would be Prime Minister again next year. When I asked him how he could be so sure, he said, “Because Rahul Gandhi is a real goof.” Perhaps, said I, but did he agree that if the scion of the Dynasty has wind in his sails today it is because the BJP has given him more importance than it gives any other political leader in India. He said nothing. But, sadly for India, this is true. It all began with the ‘suit-boot’ sneer. This seems to have frightened the Prime Minister deeply.
The man who won a full majority promising to change India’s economic direction abandoned this plan soon after this comment was made in the Lok Sabha. Had he stayed on the course set by another BJP prime minister, India’s hopeless public sector banks may have been privatised by now instead of heading for collapse. As would money-guzzling public sector companies like Air India. Had he shown the respect Atal Bihari Vajpayee showed for the private sector, it is possible that the Indian economy would by now be booming and millions of new jobs would already exist.
The Prime Minister chose instead to return to the Nehruvian socialist path and go after ‘black money’, hence demonetisation and hence this talk of loving ‘the poor’. Not even poor people believe political leaders when they say this because they are themselves desperate to escape their hideous poverty and move into the middle classes.
So if the Prime Minister had responded to Rahul Gandhi’s stupid jibe by saying something like, ‘My dream is for every Indian to have enough money to buy boots and a suit one day’, the Congress may not have revived enough for the heir to its Dynasty to be wandering about the world giving lectures on how the ISIS got created.
His comments on this subject in Hamburg last week were embarrassing. In his ‘vision’ of the 21st Century, the only reason why the Caliphate got created was because a lot of jobless young Muslim men went on a jihad due to the pain caused by being ‘excluded’. Nobody would have been more surprised to hear this than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who appears to have risen from the dead last week.
If BJP spokesmen wanted to comment yet again on yet another speech by Rahul Gandhi in a foreign land, there were many questions they could have asked. How does he explain why Yazidi girls as young as nine were sold in slave markets. How does he explain why journalists were beheaded in public and videos of beheadings circulated on the Internet. How does he explain why women were shot dead in the Caliphate if the veils slipped slightly off their faces.
Did all these things happen because ‘jobless’ Muslim youths had too much time on their hands? And, was the Caliphate destroyed in the end only because Iraq’s policies became more inclusive?
Instead, BJP spokesmen went on national television last week to rant and rave in hysterical tones about how the scion of our most powerful political dynasty had insulted ‘Indian culture’. How dare he say that Indian women were treated badly by Indian men because of Indian culture? Did he not notice that his Italian mother had been accepted for 10 years as India’s de facto prime minister because of this culture? Why did he not use the word mindset instead? Blah, blah, blah. Shriek, shriek, shriek.
This time, luckily, senior ministers were not sent out to do the shrieking. But, let us not forget that it was Smriti Irani ranting about Rahul Gandhi being a ‘failed politician’ in a ‘failed Dynasty’ that first drew the attention of ordinary Indians to that relatively sane speech he made in California some months ago. She made it into such an important event that everyone suddenly noticed that even if the Congress party did not have enough seats in the Lok Sabha to have a leader of the opposition, it had a leader who could take on mighty Modi.
Polls now show that Rahul Gandhi is no longer dismissed as a ‘goof’ playing the role of a politician. He is being taken seriously as a leader who could replace Modi after the next general election. If it can be argued that Modi’s chances remain very strong because Rahul is a goof, we must also acknowledge that Rahul has become a serious challenger today entirely because the BJP has taken this goof very, very seriously.
There is not much that can be done now to rectify past mistakes. But, if the Prime Minister wants to become prime minister again next year, he should have a meeting with whoever has been responsible for BJP strategy and not just haul him over the coals but sack him.