Flawed teacher, ignorant pupil
December 19, 2010 9:23:33 AM
Digvijay Singh's aggressive wooing of Muslim hardliners seems to have led Rahul Gandhi down a slippery political slope. Is it time to change the teacher? Or is the pupil beyond redemption?
A child does not decide the school in which he or she will study. This decision, like many others taken before the child reaches adulthood, is left to parents. For a number of reasons Mr Rahul Gandhi received his education mostly at home under the guidance of carefully chosen tutors. In recent years, his mother evidently decided to entrust his political training to the care of the redoubtable Digvijay Singh whose reputation precedes him. We do not know whether Mr Gandhi's political grooming has been formal or informal, but from all account Mr Singh has been setting the agenda for his celebrity student. In the process, Mr Singh's clout has increased manifold; most Congressmen hold him in awe, believing he has the ears of the First Family more than anyone else. Others such as the low-profile but clinically efficient Ahmed Patel are also high in the pecking order, but Mr Singh has managed to position himself as the only one who enjoys the blessings of both Ms Sonia Gandhi and her son.
In an earlier era when structured tutorial classes were not so common and school education was supplemented by individual private tutors, parents often monitored a child's academic progress by way of marks obtained in school examinations. If performance did not show significant improvement, they were quick to dismiss the tutor and experiment with another. Sometimes, the lack of improvement was not the tutor's fault for disinterested kids defeated the teacher's effort by being inattentive or playing truant.
We can safely assume that Mr Rahul Gandhi is neither. He is keen to learn, often travelling to the interiors to rub shoulders with the great unwashed masses in a contemporary re-enactment of his great-grandfather's discovery of India nearly a century ago. Mr Gandhi is also rather forthcoming in his interactions with young people in particular. He drops in at hang-outs crowded with 20-somethings in metros, small towns and even roadside dhabas, pleasantly surprising them by his freewheeling comments on everything under the sun. Sometimes he provokes a controversy by arrogant assertions such as "If my family had been at the helm at that time, the Babri Masjid would not have fallen," or by proudly, even if undiplomatically, asserting that the break-up of Pakistan was his family's great achievement.
Probably because some of these remarks were unrehearsed and led to storms of protest, the advisory council at 10 Janpath decided to bar him from interacting with the pesky regional media. Throughout his frenetic election campaign in Bihar earlier this year, in which he addressed as many as 19 public meetings, he carefully stayed away from speaking to the media. When the much-hyped revival of the Congress ended in unmitigated disaster with the party winning a laughable four seats out of 243, Mr Gandhi simply went underground — whether on account of depression or embarrassment we do not know. And that's where he would probably have stayed at least till the Burari AICC session this weekend, but for the unfortunately timed (for him) WikiLeaks revelations.
Much has already been said and written on the Gandhi scion's stupefying observations, made to the US Ambassador during an official luncheon hosted by the Prime Minister in July 2009. To summarise, the remarks demonstrated (a) humungous knowledge deficit; (b) pathological hatred of pro-Hindu opinion and organisations; (c) dangerous disregard of India's national security concerns with regard to Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terror; (d) callous unconcern for the magnitude of the terrorist threat to India; and, (e) ineligibility to be considered for a responsible position in Government, leave alone be projected as a potential Prime Minister. Incidentally, it must be also pointed out that despite his deceptively boyish looks, Mr Gandhi is not exactly young. At 40, many of his contemporaries are heading big MNCs and his father was already Prime Minister at that age.
Stung by the heir-apparent's dangerously ignorant streak, Congress leaders have been busy rubbishing WikiLeaks, accusing the BJP of basing its offensive on unsubstantiated and questionable 'leaks', whose timing they claim is suspect. But this is not the first time that Mr Gandhi has revealed this trait. A few months ago at Bhopal, he got sufficiently carried away at a meeting to claim that the banned extremist outfit Students' Islamic Movement of India was as dangerous as the RSS! He later modified this to assert that he only meant that persons who adhered to hardline ideologies were not welcome to join NSUI, the Congress's students' wing.
Similarly, his unconvincing clarification on the WikiLeaks revelation merely reiterates the homily that all forms of terror and communal ideologies are dangerous, which, in fact is not what he reportedly told the US Ambassador. Mr Gandhi clearly enunciated that Hindu groups posed a "greater threat". Significantly, this observation was made in August 2009, less than eight months after 26/11, when the Indian Establishment was busy pressuring Islamabad to accept guilt for the horrendous Mumbai carnage and crack down on the LeT and related organisations such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h. Also, this was the time that the apparently senile Congress leader AR Antulay levelled a fanciful charge against Hindu outfits for the death of celebrated policeman Hemant Karkare.
Over the last few years, Mr Gandhi's tutor Mr Singh has been on a Hindu-bashing spree, questioning the Batla House encounter, visiting families of suspected terror merchants in Azamgarh and repeatedly claiming that so-called Hindu terrorist groups enjoy RSS patronage. Much of this has been outrightly rejected by public opinion because it is well known that, even assuming some misguided Hindu freelancers were involved in a few bomb blasts (though nothing has yet been proved against anyone), the RSS has nothing to do with such people.
Clearly, by repeating lies ad nauseum, Mr Singh hopes to attract fulsome Muslim support for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. Not only is he the senior party leader in-charge of the State, but Mr Singh also knows how crucial the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly results are for Mr Gandhi's political future. It appears he has convinced his pupil that unless Muslims vote for Congress en bloc, other groups such as upper castes would not consider the party to be a potential winner and thus continue to stay their 'hand'. So, Mr Gandhi is parroting his teacher's line and hoping the first set of examiners, namely voters of Uttar Pradesh, will give him high marks.
There is no evidence that appeasement of Muslim hardliners will yield the community's votes. Bihar certainly didn't; in fact, more Muslims voted for JD(U)-BJP than Congress. But in the process, Mr Gandhi is steadily acquiring the image of an unabashed Hindu-basher. Most Hindus may have no sympathy for the community's radical fringe, but to suggest that SIMI is as dangerous as the well-regarded RSS or that Hindu groups are a greater threat to India than Pakistan-sponsored terrorists is bound to offend even the most avowedly 'secular' Hindu. Has the time then come to change Mr Gandhi's tutor lest his flawed teaching sends the pupil to his doom? Or is the pupil beyond redemption anyway?