As Rahul Gandhi’s viral photographs from his Bharat Jodo Yatra in Mysuru show, it often pays to have a little rain on your parade.
On the 23rd day of his Kanyakumari to Kashmir padyatra, Rahul was in Mysuru when it started pouring. As the audience got up from their plastic chairs and held those above their heads against the rain, Rahul went on, underlining that “Neither rain, nor heat can stop this Yatra.”
Thanking his supporters for listening to him despite the heavy downpour, Rahul added: “Just as Gandhiji fought the British Raj, we are today fighting a battle with the very ideology that killed Gandhi. This ideology has in the past eight years delivered inequality, divisiveness and the erosion of our hard-won freedoms.”
The Congress put out videos of the supporters at the rally, clearly impressed, raising slogans. Party general secretary K C Venugopal tweeted calling Rahul “spirited, strong & tireless”, while the party’s communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh said Rahul had “electrified a sea of people”. “It (the event) was an unequivocal declaration. No force can stop the #BharatJodoYatra from uniting India against hate, from speaking up against unemployment and price rise.”
The Congress’s official social media handle juxtaposed the photo of Rahul and the rain, against Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivering a speech under an umbrella held by a security personnel, saying: “Jan neta (mass leader), abineta (actor) – the difference is clear.”
One of the first to react among non-Congress parties was, not surprisingly, the NCP. Its spokesperson Clyde Crasto tweeted, “Time has Proved and Time will Prove. When the Rain Gods decide to Bless you, there will soon be a Storm in the Opposition Camp”.
Crasto attached a photo of a soaking NCP supremo Sharad Pawar carrying on with his speech in October 2019 at Satara in Western Maharashtra, ignoring a downpour.
Pawar was canvassing for just an Assembly bypoll, for party candidate Shriniwas Partil, in an election necessitated by NCP leader Udayanraje Bhonsale joining the BJP. But the message sent by the then 79-year-old NCP patriarch, known to still be among the toughest political fighters in the ring, was larger, and loud and clear. He said he committed “a mistake” in selecting a candidate for the Lok Sabha earlier that year, and that people were now waiting to correct it.
A stint in the rain has done other politicians good too, more so in foreign corners, even as those seen as shunning the heat and dust of the race have found themselves open to scorn:
Just days prior to Rahul’s speech, Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi carried on with his address to an audience ignoring the rain in Anantapur in Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh. The occasion was a pre-release event for his much-awaited film Godfather, but much was read into his choice of Anantapur as the venue.
Chiranjeevi’s brother, actor and politician Pawan Kalyan, has been touring the region meeting tenant farmers who are reported to have died by suicide. Chiranjeevi had earlier mentioned that while he wanted to be “away from politics”, politics was “not going away from” him.
Referring to the rain, he said he was “surprised”. “I’m drenched in the rain after a long time… I want to remind you that it rains whenever I come to Rayalaseema… When I came here for political campaigning and to shoot a song for Indra, both the times it rained. I take today’s rain as a good omen.”
Kejriwal was into the first 15 minutes of his 41-minute speech, at his first Independence Day as Delhi Chief Minister, when the clouds opened up. Kejriwal managed to read almost all that he wanted to say, shielded by just an umbrella dutifully held open by security escorts.
The participants at the Independence Day parade, including many schoolchildren, remained seated in the open even as TV crews ran for cover. Once Kejriwal left, the children couldn’t resist swinging to the catchy beats of A R Rahman’s Jai Ho, as per a report by The Indian Express, with the stadium turning into a giant floor for an impromptu rain dance. Some of them made a dash for the tri-coloured helium balloons, grounded by the rain.
Biden was in the midst of the political fight of his life, against Donald Trump seeking to make a comeback, against complaints that he was too old for the job, and seeking to fill the large shoes of his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.
In October 2020, during the last leg of the presidential campaign, with three days left for the polls, Biden held a rally in Florida where rain started pouring. He continued to talk, later captioning a photo that showed him in the rain saying: “The storm will pass, a new day will come.”
The same month, Biden’s Vice-President partner Kamala Harris, broke into an impromptu dance at another Florida rally, while holding an umbrella. As the video went viral, Harris shared a picture of hers from the event, tweeting: “Rain or shine, democracy waits for no one.”
Obama had perhaps set the playbook for his Democratic colleagues at an event in July 2012, when he was the President. As per a Reuters report, he was “soaked to the skin as he rallied supporters during a downpour in the election battleground state of Virginia”. About 900 people heard him out in the rain, the report said.
Obama told the cheering audience: “I know this from Michelle (his wife). Ladies, I do apologise for your hairdos getting messed up…We’re going to have to treat everybody to a little salon visit after this.”
Their Republican rival and then US President Donald Trump, on the other hand, found himself in a sticky spot after he skipped a World War I memorial service about 50 miles from Paris because of the rainy weather, with White House officials stepping in on his behalf.
The trip to Ainse-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial was cancelled “due to scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather”, the White House said in its official reason.
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, wasn’t the only one with raised eyebrows. Not taking any names, the French Army in a tweet said, “There is rain, but it does not matter… We remain motivated,” along with a picture of a soldier crawling under wire in the rain.
Some reports drew a comparison to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who, in 2017, while at an event to honour those who fought during the Dieppe Raid of World War II, put down his umbrella amid rain and said, “As we sit here in the rain, thinking how uncomfortable we must be these minutes as our suits get wet and our hair gets wet and our shoes get wet, I think it’s all the more fitting that we remember on that day, in Dieppe, the rain wasn’t rain, it was bullets.”
In her heartbreaking and bitter contest against Trump for the US Presidency, Hillary Clinton came closest to joy at one rain-hit rally. As The New York Times wrote, “The moment lasts about 45 seconds… But in it, so much of the cautious stagecraft that surrounds and inhibits Hillary Clinton appears to break away.”
The report talks about how Clinton cut short a critique of Trump, flipping the page in her binder, and raced to her closing lines. “Here’s what I want you to remember,” she told the crowd at the rally in Florida. “I want to be the president for everybody: everybody who agrees with me, people who don’t agree with me, people who will vote for me, people who don’t vote for me.”
Just before leaving the stage, writes the report, “she turns and raises both arms, giving herself up to the storm and the moment — and the looming end of this adventure”.
While her start may have been rough, new UK Prime Minister Truss has handled at least one storm with aplomb. In her first address as PM, amid speculation that rain would halt her speech and force her to deliver it inside, Truss said the country’s citizens could “ride out the storm” of the worst economic crisis.
With the pound plunging and forced to backtrack on a tax cut for the wealthy, many would say she spoke too soon.