Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi recently addressed students at the University of California in Berkeley, where he faced some tough questions - on dynasty politics, his career and his intellect.
When asked about dynastic succession, Rahul said: "It's a problem in all political parties in India. Most of the country runs like this, so don't go after me. Akhilesh Yadav is a dynast, Mr (MK) Stalin a dynast, Mr (Prem Kumar) Dhumal's son a dynast, so don't just go after me... Even Mr Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast, also Mr Ambani, that's what happens in India."
So what he basically means is: Yes, dynastic succession is a problem, don’t blame me for it. I tried really hard to disappear. I went for "vipassana" for 60 days to Thailand and Combodia after drowning my party’s fortunes in 2014, but the media in my country sent teams all over the world to track me down. I was a national headline for two months. I’m there and no one notices me and the moment I disappear they come after me. What do I do. Help me!
Interestingly, he also gave the example of Abhishek Bachchan, the son of one of the biggest movie stars in the world, who has done nothing spectacular in his life except marrying Aishwarya Rai. AB Junior was welcomed to the film industry with open arms in 2000, when he made his debut with Refugee, but 42 movies and 29 flops later, he’s not someone producers really want to put their money on.
'I wish someone would teach him to respond more appropriately to questions.'
Personally, I think he’s very good looking and has a good sense of humour, his acting skills however leave a lot to be desired. Rahul also made a reference to MK Stalin - DMK supremo Karunanidhi’s son and acting president of the party - who is desperately trying to get out of his father’s shadow and carve out a niche for himself but unfortunately the 64-year-old hasn’t managed to achieve much till now.
When asked if he was a reluctant politician, Rahul said: “There is a BJP machine. A 1,000 guys sitting on computers telling you about me. It's a tremendous machine, all day they spread abuse about me, say that I'm a 'reluctant politician... and the operation is run by the gentleman who is running our country...”
Wait, so you’re not a reluctant politician and yet you keep disappearing? Remember his mysterious 56-day "sabbatical" in 2015? It had captured headlines as it came in the middle of the budget session of Parliament and soon after the Congress party was wiped out in the Delhi Assembly elections. Since then he’s made it a practice to announce his holiday plans on Twitter so that news channels don’t bother sending out their teams to track him down. He’s been on roughly three more "announced" holidays since then in June 2016, New Year break in 2016 end and the last one in June 2017.
Rahul was also quizzed on his intellect and asked to respond to the charge that he’s "stupid". To which Rahul confidently replied, "All this BJP machine does is spread news about me, that I'm a 'reluctant politician', that I'm 'stupid'. That's all these 1,000 guys do."
(Sigh!) I wish someone would teach him to respond more appropriately to questions like these rather than saying that his alleged stupidity is a baseless rumour.
Speaking to students on the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s famous Chicago address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India is not the kind of place where people should be told what to eat and what not to. That’s strange, because on May 25, the Modi government banned the sale of cattle, including cows, for slaughter and restricted cattle trade to farm owners. That, of course, was stayed first by the Madras High Court and later the Supreme Court, but the intent of the government is clear - it wants us to become vegetarians.
So when the PM says you can’t tell people what to eat and what not to, what he’s really saying is you are free to have aloo baigan, kaddu ki sabzi, lauki bharta, bhindi fry, khakhra, fafda, dhokla, kadi and dal... no one can tell you what "bharta" to have and which dal. You’re free to decide – unleash your imagination - and let your cook run wild in the kitchen.
And this menu is not just us. The government would ideally like foreigners to turn vegetarian when they’re in India. On September 8, tourism minister KJ Alphons said, "Foreign tourists are free to have beef in their country and then come to India."
Interestingly, Modi’s Christian minister had, barely a week before that, said, “In Goa, ruled by the BJP, people continue to eat beef. Kerala will also continue to eat beef, the BJP doesn’t really have a problem with that. The BJP does not mandate that beef cannot be eaten. We don’t dictate food habits in any place. It is for the people to decide.”
The PM says you can’t tell people what to eat and what not to.
One wonders if he was pulled up for making that statement, and issue a correction.
The BJP’s ministers have been seen sparring in public over consumption of beef. Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had in May 2015 issued a statement saying that those who want to eat beef can go to Pakistan, only to be slammed by his colleague and minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, who said that he eats beef and no one could stop him. Rijiju, of course, comes from Arunachal Pradesh and in the Northeast, the BJP is not so adamant about imposing vegetarianism. The party is already in power in three of the seven states and here it keeps insisting that cultural and food habits will always be respected.
Meanwhile, the consumption of beef has been barred in several states, including Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. It is also banned in the union territory of Chandigarh. Interestingly, all these are BJP states (Chandigarh is the capital of Punjab, ruled by Congress, and Haryana).
Which makes me one wonder – if this government is schizophrenic?
Tamil Nadu has been in a state of flux ever since the demise of J Jayalalithaa. Infighting in the AIADMK for the top post and factions breaking away has left many completely confused about politics in the state.
In a latest, leader of AIADMK (Sasikala faction), TTV Dhinakaran, on Monday (September 11) said the party faction is prepared to bring down the AIADMK government in the state if chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami is not replaced. TTV Dhinakaran is from the AIADMK, but he belongs to the Sasikala faction.
Palaniswami backstabbed Sasikala and joined hands with Panneerselvam, who was first made the chief minister after Jayalalithaa’s death and was then replaced by Palaniswami.
On Tuesday, Sasikala, who is in jail after being convicted in the disproportionate assets, was sacked along with her nephew Dhinakaran from all party positions at a general council meeting in Chennai headed Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam.)
So, Dhinakaran is fighting against Palanisamy, who is also from the AIADMK and was appointed chief minister by Sasikala. But then, he backstabbed her and joined hands with Panneerselvam, who was first made the chief minister after Jayalalithaa’s death and was then replaced by Palaniswami. Do you want to read that again or can we just let it be?