It is hard to imagine Rahul Gandhi as prime minister. “Prime Minster Rahul Gandhi”, the combination of those words itself, sounds odd. Like he is Rahul, "arre apna Pappu yaar".
As I scrolled through the #IfRahulBecomesPM hashtag trending on Twitter at number one or two for about three hours last evening, with approximately 29,000 tweets per hour, I tried to imagine Rahul Gandhi as PM. Ranbir Kapoor from Wake Up Sid came to my mind. A rich privileged kid, pre-destined to follow father’s business, but he is neither interested in taking it up nor is he aware what he wants from life.
Think also of Karan Shergill from Lakshya, utterly clueless in life, until he finds his mission.
Think of Siddharth Marathe or Sidhu from Ghulam, a spoilt young man with a troubled past, no qualities to speak of, his brother toils all day, while he spends time and easy money in boxing and biking, until one day when he is shaken by his brother’s death, and end up challenging the very person who mentored him, the mighty Goliath like figure Raunak Singh.
Think of lieutenant Daniel Kaffee from A Few Good Men, a Navy lawyer born with the burden of his father’s legacy which he can never live up to so he would rather not even try. Kaffee has never seen a real courtroom as he always broke a deal and convinced his clients for plea bargaining, until that fateful day when he found that case in which he risked everything he has, career to freedom, to find the truth. His opponent? The second-most powerful man in the US. And he won.
Kaffee won a lost battle against the mightiest opponent. Sidhu too won against an opponent who was stronger than him in all possible ways, physically, psychologically, power position wise. And the audience clapped.
Everybody loves a David versus Goliath fight, a coming of age story, a rising phoenix. We always clap when the Sids of the world wake up, when Karans Shergills of the world find their mission. Will India clap for Rahul Gandhi?
Earlier in the day at the launch of Samruddha Bharat Foundation, Congress president Rahul Gandhi was asked by a member of the audience whether he will be the prime minister in 2019. “If Congress party gains majority… yes, why not?” was Mr Gandhi’s short reply with a smile.
Media, online media and the right-wing media (yes, there are three of them now, also Lutyens' media, godi media, but more on that some another day) have been breaking since then with everybody running helter skelter to pen down an opinion piece including myself.
Did Rahul Gandhi always have prime ministerial ambitions? Did he always think that his ascend to the PM chair is inevitable one day or the other, sooner or later or is this Rahul Gandhi’s coming of age story?
Sreemoy Talukdar in Firstpost questioned the timing of Gandhi’s expression of interest. “Why did Congress' heir apparent choose to 'come out' right now, when we are just a few days away from the polling day in Karnataka?” he asked. His explanation is that with a Modi juggernaut in Karnataka election campaign, the Congress is getting nervous and therefore this is Gandhi’s attempt to position himself as Modi’s “equal”.
Far from it, I think Rahul Gandhi is doing everything he can to position himself not as Modi’s equal, but as his antithesis and that is what might work in the 2019 election. Perhaps it is sheer destiny that Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi were born with the physical features that suits their politics.
If right wing ideology were a human, it would have been an old male, hyper-masculine, fairly tall with broad shoulders, even broader chest measuring 56-inch perhaps, loud voice, hate and anger oozing out of every pore, along with pride and arrogance. He would be an epitome of phallic power, a sexual force in public imagination, with women and men alike having crushes on him, but he will not be sexually active. Because "self-control" is a man’s greatest quality.
He would live his life by rules and values, morals and standards, and he would be full of contempt for whoever didn’t have the same values. He would be a fundamentalist, autocratic and decisive, but nobody would dare question him because he is blindly worshiped as the just and wise ruler.
On the other hand, if liberal ideology were to be a human, it would be a young gender neutral or gender fluid person. S/he would be young and cheerful, often coming across as too pre-occupied and reluctant to take up big responsibilities.
Nobody would be afraid of such a person and the emotions received by her or him would range from love and affection to pity and hate. S/he would be generally liked for being soft-spoken, effortless, caring, thoughtful, egalitarian and democratic and yet be criticised for being a failure.
But criticism won’t bother her, s/he would take a chill pill every now and then, because there are less things in life to be angry about, less things to take offense from, less things to be afraid of, and more things to write poetry about. Amid the art though there would be moments when s/he would feel pain and anguish about the way world works, and then a revolution would come.
Rahul Gandhi seems to have sensed the revolution in the air, as have been sensed by several citizen collectives in the past four years of growing intolerance, hate and violence in the country. A million mutiny is happening from “Not In My Name” to “India Inclusive Citizen Conclave”, from Supreme Court judges to farmers to Dalits, students, journalists everybody is protesting - there is unprecedented chaos and confusion in the country, and everybody is waking up to the fear that fascism is approaching, democracy needs to fight back.
To give a platform to people’s rising anxiety, the Congress president launched “Jan Aakrosh Rally” and “Save the Constitution” campaign, both being attempts to protect the idea of India, to protect the weaker sections, Dalits, women and minorities.
While during Gujarat election campaign he was accused of turning towards soft Hindutva, his acceptance speech after taking over as party president set the record straight, socialism and secularism remains Congress’s core values.
He carefully picked his words, “all religion, ethnicity, gender” against the generalised “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”. As the Kathua and Unnao rape incidents shocked the entire nation, Rahul Gandhi not only spoke up on both the issues, but also at one impulsive moment he took to the street. He is walking barefoot in the Karnataka and Gujarat villages, sipping tea from local stalls, riding bicycle to protest fuel rise.
Rahul Gandhi has reinvented himself to suit the narrative of "the coming of age of the reluctant politician to become the revolutionary who rose up to the occasion". From his body language to voice modulation to pronunciation, to the calm and comfort with which he has been attacking Modi in rallies after rallies - everything tells that Rahul Gandhi has shed his family legacy and privilege, he fell down on the ground, was mocked and scoffed and the silly Pappu is now suddenly challenging the grand old patriarch of Indian politics who seem to be on a high horse.
The "poor chaiwala" now wears monogrammed suits, Movado watches and Bvlgari glasses, carries a Monte Blanc pen, travels in private jet, eats mushroom allegedly worth Rs 80,000 per piece and only cares about his own Mann Ki Baat, nobody else’s.
While Rahul Gandhi, the so-called prince cannot even dress properly, his white kurta sleeves are always falling and he seems to be rolling them up and down during his speeches besides adjusting his microphones.
The tables have turned. And this film has begun to look exciting.
Will David win this battle against Goliath?