While former US President Barack Obama’s recollection of his meetings with some prominent politicians across the world in general — and his comment on the Indian National Congress’s then vice-president Rahul Gandhi, in particular — has been met with amusement and censure, depending on the partisan nature of the recipient of the message, there is no denying the fact that the rivals of such a grotesque personality and the media in any self-respecting democracy would have panned him so bad years ago after his debut that he would be forced to retire. The argument that a foreigner has no right to comment on a ‘leader’ of India, howsoever stinking or smelling of roses, is specious. Commenting on the merits and demerits of every public figure by everybody is a fair game in the free world. But there is one person who could have averted this PR disaster. The sheer number of bloopers this ‘ageless wonder’ is capable of coming up with should be exasperating at least for the mother, but it is clear it is not so for Sonia Gandhi whose only other option seems to be her daughter Priyanka Gandhi, the public activities of whom she has kept restricted to pockets of Uttar Pradesh for reasons known best to the family. If funny howlers in speeches were not enough, if his get-up as a fancy dress contestant in places of worship of different religions were not burlesque, the fact that Rahul Gandhi is simply incapable of leading his party to victory, evident in his long political innings since 2004, should be enough to pull him back to private life. If even that is forgivable, count the number of times he has embarrassed the nation with his incorrigible propensity to meet the right and wrong foreign delegates only to utter awkward statements that would come back to haunt him — be it telling Timothy Roemer, the US ambassador to India in 2007, that it was “Hindu terror” he was worried about more than Lashkar-e-Taiba or be his hobnobbing with the Chinese ambassador during the Doklam standoff.
Add to the uneasy occasions when Rahul Gandhi is in public glare instances when he is not. He disappears from the scene once in a while like his mother for days on end. Whereas it could be speculated in the case of the mother, on whom the INC depended almost indispensably when she first reported sick, that she did not want the news of her disease to spread in India, causing distress among rank and file of the party, and so she settled for American treatment, there is no public knowledge of the son’s destination in the periods when he goes incommunicado. This leads to wild rumours ranging from rendezvous with a girlfriend to rehabilitation from some addiction, which is a terrible reputation to have for a politician, whatever be the truth.
Of course, the Bharatiya Janata Party could not have prayed for a better face of the opposition. No wonder, whoever the current ruling party finds as the opponent in a given situation, it turns the focus back to Rahul Gandhi. For that is the easiest bag to punch! What is unfortunate is that the leaders of the oldest party of the country cannot muster enough honest courage to ask the dynasty to leave so that it is no longer saddled by the vagaries of inheritance like a monarchy. The nation cannot afford to have a national party that is the most widespread across its landscape and yet a lame opposition, which will but remain the INC’s fate until it pulls out the Nehru-Gandhi family from its driving seat.