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Brand Rahul and prone India

india Updated: May 29, 2009 22:11 IST
Shobha De
Shobha De
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The startling election results (even Singh is King’s characteristically expressionless face registered shock and awe) certainly make one believe that India has fallen in love with the Dimpled Darling and all that he stands for. The euphoria continues unabated, as Congressmen go on and on about “Rahulji”, and how it has been a vote for growth and development. Rahulji meanwhile is sticking to his self-effacing, low profile “I’m just a regular bloke doing my job” demeanour, leaving Mummyji to beam broadly.

The biggest problem with this election and the mandate given to the Congress party is that Brand India has been usurped by Brand Rahul. Not his fault at all — we have always been a nation in search of idols to worship. Our intrinsic sycophantic nature demands that we find such persons and immediately assume our favourite stance — lying prostrate. Genuflecting comes easier than standing tall.

This became vividly evident post-victory, when thousands of Congress party loyalists showed up with banners and fireworks to anoint the Prince. To witness the shameless, full on chamchagiri on display was just too cringe making.

What next? We have our Magic Mantra in place (“Youth rocks, okay?”), and we also have the oldie goldies holding the fort and sticking to the status quo. Portfolios have been judiciously distributed keeping all the delicate equations in mind. Manmohan has not fallen for a Babalog cabinet, and there are still enough really, really senior citizens around to warrant the deployment of a few rocking chairs in parliament.

At the end of the day, it is worth considering what this win implies. It has been a vote against several touchy issues (fundamentalism, regionalism, casteism) that were causing concern across India. It is seen as a vote for the ‘basics’ that every Indian is entitled to — roti, kapda aur makaan. Frankly, there are no other ideological issues involved this time. No philosophical dialogues, no intellectual debate. People want a better quality of life than the abject wretchedness that has been their fate thus far. They want a shot at improving their future through education , jobs and opportunities. It’s obvious the vote has been vehemently against narrow-minded regional politics that are dangerous and far from inclusive. In such a scenario, the new leadership is obliged to deliver on promises made during the campaign.

‘Rahulji’ got a sanitised taste of the real India, when he was air-dropped into villages and chose to spend the night huddled on a charpoy. A crash course in garibi, as it were, which galvanised him into ‘hataaoing’ it. To be fair to him, perhaps this really was the turning point. Maybe his discovery of India began with sharing a roti with a disenfranchised villager in the back of beyond in Orissa. It can happen … Rahul sounds sincere when he harps on growth and development. His timing has been impeccable so far, and his brand positioning cannot be improved upon. He has single-handedly steered a tired old party to victory and injected fresh blood into the team. This transfusion was long overdue. As the BJP has discovered, to its horror.

For all of L.K. Advani’s many virtues, the one thing he could not reverse is age. Youth can be cruel, unforgiving and impatient when it comes to passing judgements. There is little introspection and even less tolerance … forget about a feel for history. Clearly Youth India preferred to throw in its lot with Rahul and Friends. They are done with the ghasa peeta ishtyle of manipulating voters and exploiting the politics of hate.

On one level, the much awaited change of guard is welcome. On another, we seem in too much of a hurry to hand over the country to greenhorns who may lack the required maturity to deal with global issues … or even national ones. For better or worse, we have opted for a Fair & Lovely young leader. All that is required to complete the picture now is a Balika Bodhu. The most important question still remains unanswered : Will Brand Rahul add up to Brand India? Do we have a choice but to wait and watch?