FOR SOMEONE WITH so little electoral heft, Rahul Gandhi does manage to stay in the news. For right reasons or wrong. Well, the ruling party thinks it is always for the wrong reasons. And members of Congress, even while believing that at least occasionally he does go wrong, lack the courage to say so. They, from the recently anointed party chief Mallikarjun Kharge to the cerebrally equipped Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh, feel obliged to behave as cheerleaders of the Gandhi scion. For, had someone in the party displayed an iota of political sense, they would have ensured that the de facto boss of the party campaigned in the three northeastern states instead of jetting off to London on a controversial lecture tour. Fresh from the 3,500-km Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY), his plunging into the election campaign would have helped the party to capitalise on whatever little goodwill he might have earned by hogging the headlines all through the weeks-long trek through the country. The complete washout of Congress in the three states, including Nagaland and Meghalaya which have significant Christian votes, confirmed the view that BJY had no impact on people’s voting preferences. This must have been a setback for those in the inner circle of Rahul who had hoped that the yatra would at long last help bestow on their mentee an aura of leadership. We can report that the pre and post-Yatra Rahul remains devoid of a sense of leadership, nay, electoral charisma. The outcome of the polls in Tripura, Nagaland, and Meghalaya only confirmed that dim view of the famous yatri.
Yet, the Yatra was the occasion for some to firm up their ties with the Congress scion, hoping that in the unlikely event of the Gandhis emerging as a pivot of a new power arrangement, they would receive their patronage. Probably, the most prominent among the hopefuls was Raghuram Rajan, though a former diplomat and George Soros’ India hand, too, were seen walking at some point with the famous yatri. But it was the former RBI governor, whom the Modi sarkar had pointedly denied another term despite his expressly seeking one, who was seen in photographs splashed across the print and audio-visual media.
Rajan was shown engaging Rahul in an animated discussion while walking in Rajasthan. Since returning to his academic post in Chicago, Rajan managed to stay in the news back home, a few days ago, arranging for a wire news service to interview him long-distance. For decades, the wire service in question was accused of harbouring a pro-government bias, but after the advent of Modi in New Delhi, it had definitely acquired a pro-opposition tilt—while the government relies increasingly on a privately owned news photo agency to amplify its message.
So, back to Rajan. He made headlines projecting a return to the Hindu rate of growth, that is, about 3.5 per cent. No substantive data was offered to back the dire assessment. Clearly, when you start with a predisposed position of doom and gloom, it is not hard for an expert to fit ‘facts’ to reach a negative prognostication. Rajan was ticked off by his peers based here in India and outside. As someone said, the “Indian economy has acquired enough resilience and strength that even someone like Rahul Gandhi, in the unlikely event of becoming prime minister, will find it hard to push it back to the times of his grandmother Indira Gandhi, when the pejorative term was first coined to define the low-growth norm.”
This brings us to another US-based economist. Kaushik Basu had served as Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) to the Government of India when Manmohan Singh was prime minister. He is another sympathiser who would want Rahul to do well. But as Basu’s own interview with him shows, his subject fails to develop gravitas, a certain maturity in word and deed that normally comes with learning and experience. In the short video clip, despite Basu’s helpfully long-winded question, Rahul sounds completely incomprehensible, peppering his rambling response with meaningless jargon and phrases.
Honestly, if you were a well-wisher of Rahul Gandhi, you would tell him to stop pretending to be an intellectual. Being an intellectual is not necessary to be prime minister. Indira Gandhi did not even have a degree, yet she ruled for over 15 years.