Rahul Gandhi seems to have a knack for making news for all the wrong reasons. For someone who is keen to continue the family business and become Prime Minister sometime in the not-too-distant future, his actions leave both his friends and foes bewildered. Now, why would he do the disappearing act in the midst of a crucial poll in Bihar, where his party is an important constituent of the anti-BJP front? Quite clearly, there is more than meets the eye in the Gandhi scion's absence from the country.
According to the political Quote Ongrapevine in Bihar, the reason could well be that he has been asked by the leaders of the JD(U) and RJD not to campaign, since it only costs the so-called Grand Alliance votes. He could not have stayed in the country and avoided campaigning, especially when the Congress, inexplicably, has been allocated 41 seats, which is far more than it had even asked for. It won only four seats in the last election.
One thing is clear. The reason cited by the Congress spokesperson that Gandhi "is travelling to Aspen, US, on a short visit to attend a conference, Weekend with Charlie Rose", is simply untrue. The Charlie Rose conference, where, the Congress spokesperson in order to impress the desis pointedly mentioned, "thought leaders from different walks of life like politics, finance, technology, media, medicine, sports, etc., gather to deliberate on multiple issues", got over in early July. No such conference is scheduled currently.
Further confirmation that the Congress was cornered into telling a lie came from a US-based journalist. Sujeet Rajan, editor of a popular online current affairs portal, spoke to Karen Peterson, Registrar and Conference Manager, Aspen Ideas Festival. It took place between 25 June and 4 July, and the theme this year was "smart solutions to the world's toughest challenges".
Though some 350-odd presenters and 3,000 delegates attended the conference this year, "I do not see Rahul Gandhi listed as a speaker in any Aspen-related event, public or private, in the past or in the near future", she categorically told Rajan.
Next, the New York-based Rajan made inquiries about Rahul Gandhi's presence in the US with a functionary of the Indian National Overseas Congress and was told that he had "not been notified" about the great man's visit to the US.
Rajan concludes his report on a really tantalising note. "If indeed he is in the ski resort of Aspen, one of the wealthiest real estate destinations in the US, what is he doing? If he is on a private visit, why would the Congress not disclose that?" Indeed, why?
NO SPOILS SYSTEM UNDER MODI
The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo is engaged in re-writing the rules of the game politicians in power have played these past seven decades. The two seem to look with utter disdain at the Delhi-centric patronage-seekers, who have thrived all these years due to the spoils system earlier regimes, including one of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, had most willingly practised to bestow favours on camp followers and others sucking up to the political bosses. Not so the Modi dispensation.
That may be why the chief social media tactician of the Modi campaign can now be found serving the cause of Nitish Kumar. But he is not alone. A number of people who had pinned their hopes on Modi to grant them one or the other official favour — namely, memberships of various bank boards, regional and central information commissions, governorships, etc., Rajya Sabha nominations, to mention but only a few of thousands of such positions — are feeling let down. They thought that these were theirs for the asking, given the way they had rooted for the Modi-led BJP prior to the May 2014 parliamentary poll.
Quite clearly, they did not reckon with the deep distrust and scepticism that the Modi-Shah team has developed over the years for the largely urban-centric patron-seekers. Having braved the most intense media campaign of calumny, unleashed, no doubt, at the behest of the then ruling Congress, the duo believes they can do without having the usual favour-seekers in their corner, especially when their loyalties are known to be always fickle.
Indeed, a number of BJP leaders are angry at being ignored by the dominant duo in government and party in spite of there being a large number of empty slots at the Centre and in the states.
As one disgruntled BJP mid-level leader put it, "It does not cost them anything to appoint so and so a Governor or a Central Information Commissioner." Doubtless, the denial of a share in the official pie rankles the BJP leaders the most.
Could it be that Modi and Shah are getting their own back by thumbing their nose at the Delhi establishment, which had treated them badly during the UPA years? Well, the two may not be wrong in believing that elections can be won without having the "intellectual class" rooting for them. In other words, the elite deserves the comeuppance it has met at the hands of the home-spun and largely self-made Modi-Shah duo.
WHEN AAM AADMI KEJRIWAL WATCHED A MOVIE
And you thought Arvind Kejriwal was an aam aadmi? Far from it. Power spoils everyone. Kejriwal cannot remain an exception, however hard he may protest.
Now, how many aam aadmis can hope to have an entire theatre reserved exclusively for them so that they can watch the latest movie in town? Kejriwal, the self-proclaimed aam aadmi, who had promised to shun all the usual trappings of a VVIP, recently watched the Bollywood offering Drishyam, at a Delhi cinema hall located in an upmarket shopping mall, all by himself. Of course, he had a few more aam aadmis drawn from his own party for company, when they watched the movie and helped themselves to drinks and eats from the theatre eatery. Of course, all on the house.
After all, our aam aadmi was now the Chief Minister of Delhi and deserved a break from the mentally-taxing task of devising ever newer ways to take on the Central government, the Lieutenant Governor, the Delhi police, the media, etc., on behalf of the long-suffering people of Delhi. We must doff our non-existent hat to his struggles on behalf of the aam aadmi.
Just as earlier we had saluted him for having run up a bill of over Rs 1 lakh in a month for the electricity consumed at his official bungalow. That too was in the service of the ever-humble aam aadmi, you must not fail to appreciate.