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Rahul Gandhi (R), a lawmaker and the son of India's ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, speaks with U.S. President Barack Obama at a state dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi November 8, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS)
Obama, Rahul and lessons for Modi-tva
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His self assured oratory took them by storm. The poetic justice of someone from a subjugated race becoming the most powerful man in the world captured their imagination. His mantra of change found many takers. Heck. He  was even awarded the Nobel. Back in those days, he was touted as the cure for everything that ailed America. But today, Barack Hussein Obama is perceived widely as a colossal letdown who couldn’t do much to aid American interests within and without.

As British journalist Jonathan Freedland writes in the Guardian (link):

Conservative Americans, especially those who live in the Foxosphere, never believed the hype anyway. But since then, many of the one-time true believers, Democrats and liberals, have lost their faith in Obama. They believe his presidency has been a terrible, historic letdown; that he has not delivered on his promises; that instead of bringing radical change, he has provided more of the same; that he has been a weak, querulous presence in the White House, unwilling to make enemies, unwilling even to define himself or make clear what he stands for.”

Lately, Obama looks nothing more than a nervous dud who got clobbered by a gaffe-prone Mitt Romney who walked away with the first round of debate convincingly despite the latter not being known for rousing oratory. The key to the result of the debate was – expectation. High of Obama. Low of Romney.

Was Obama as President really a failure as many seem to think? The verdict on what Americans think will be out soon.

Princely expectations. Pauper-like returns

Closer home, why don’t as many people who think Rahul Gandhi is a failure (so far) perceive a Sachin Pilot or a Jyotiraditya Scindia as disappointing letdowns?

Because Pilot or Scindia were never sold as messiahs who would just walk in and set the political stage on fire, but Rahul was. Day in and day out, he was given breathless coverage whether he was eating at a Dalit home or popping in and out of local trains and metros. In the high-voltage media coverage days of UP elections, they said “Rahul was combative and tore into rivals” or that “rivals were worried about Rahul’s padayatra”. There was a special show discussing the “political evolution of Rahul Gandhi” where Barkha Dutt elucidated at length on how the elections showed a new side to the ‘young politician’.

Now, even his loyalists have begun to see him as a liability. Salman Khurshid summed it up best when he said.

Until now we have only seen cameos of his thought and ideas like democratising elections to the Youth Congress. But he has not weaved all of this into a grand announcement. This is a period of waiting. We need a new ideology to be given by our next generation leader Rahul Gandhi to move forward and to meet contemporary challenges. The fact is that he is undoubtedly and unquestionably the number two leader in the party. Yet he has not taken up the mantle or accepted a functional responsibility. He is so far not willing to accept the number two position

That Khurshid had to later be the object of outrage by fellow family sycophants, ‘clarify’ and change the tone and tenor of his original statement was but expected. But undeniably – higher the expectations, harder the fall.

The stories of Barack Hussein Obama and Rahul Gandhi hold a crucial lesson for the Indian Right – for lack of a better term to address the spectrum from Desi Liberal Right to Hindutva.


Expectation is rife in the Indian Right circles that Narendra Modi will win a thumping victory in the Gujarat assembly polls and stake a claim for the PM candidacy from the BJP (hopefully NDA too). While there are a host of ifs, buts and obstacles for this to materialize, there’s no doubt in my mind and that of many others that Modi is the best candidate if elections are going to be held in 2014. With the kind of popular support and respect he commands, it can be said that he represents an idea all by himself – an uncompromising quest for development for all sans “secular compulsions” – an idea which can be called Moditva.

First, the expectation is that announcing him as the PM candidate is an automatic pass to power. While there are compelling arguments in favour of believing so, the truth may be far from it. The election still has to be fought hard and won because the Congress party will play a hard and treacherous game especially given its widely known propensity for subterfuge through using the State machinery and much of the media on its side – as is its wont when survival is at stake. Also, there is the small matter of regional players eating into the anti-Congress vote which the BJP is hoping will swing its way.

Second, if Modi ever gets elected as PM, the expectations from him will be sky-high from day one. Desperation often leads to messiahfication of the alternative. This is what I see happening with much of the Indian Right looking up to and selling Modi as a one stop instant solutions shop because they expect that he can replicate the Gujarat model on the national scene. But delivering on the national stage is a totally different ball game with the scale increasing by a huge magnitude and many more variables involved than in Gujarat. Although Rahul is not a patch on Modi, I’m afraid we are doing to Modi the very same thing that sections of the media and Congress did to Rahul by raising the hype and hoopla to insane heights.

Let’s remember that Modi would inherit among other things: an all but dead economy which is gasping for breath even as the incumbent Government has plans of more big-spending schemes up its sleeve like Food Security, a neglected manufacturing sector, a broken agricultural labour dynamic due to the havoc caused by NREGA which has sucked the economy dry while encouraging freeloaders, an entrenched gargantuan bureaucracy – parts of which are extremely difficult to work with, a social upheaval in many parts of the country (eg. Assam), a comprehensive lack of direction or the presence of an archaic one in most policy areas.

Tough decisions will have to be taken by him and long-term plans put in place to lead us out of this deep mess. Such ruinous misrule as the UPA’s in the last 8 years can’t be undone in less than a decade. In such a scenario, it is important to stress that Modi is no messiah who can wave his wand and resuscitate the country in a jiffy, but is just a visibly credible alternative, possibly our best shot to escape the current shameful chaos that calls itself a Government.



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