Why should Aaditya Thackeray not be like Rahul Gandhi?
During the long Lok Sabha election campaign this summer, a doctored video of Rahul Gandhi delivering a speech in Kerala surfaced on social media. This two-minute clip was arranged in a manner to make it look funny, as Rahul’s translator, veteran Kerala Congress leader PJ Kurien, missed much of what Rahul was saying and he had to repeat himself more than once.
Those who doctored that video obviously meant to strike a blow at Rahul, but it ended up poking fun at an old man, rather than the then Congress president.
For what struck many viewers was Rahul’s patience with an inefficient translator, his lack of arrogance and his respect of age and seniority.
Watching that clip, a friend heaved a long sigh and said, “What a wonderful guy Rahul is! His mother has brought him up so well. She must be very proud of him today!”
Indeed. In a season where it had become commonplace for leaders to abuse political rivals, treat their own party workers with contempt and regard party elders as useless and of no consequence, Rahul Gandhi’s polite and civilised behaviour and his warm cordiality towards even a party elder letting him down in public, was very refreshing. No wonder those who had meant to denigrate Rahul with that doctored clip did not succeed and ended up with egg on their faces as social media pounced upon them for ridiculing an old man and his frailties.
But there continue to be people in this country who think that abuse, denigration, poking fun at others and unrefined discourse are signs of strong leadership. So I was not one bit surprised when a noted television anchor was heard making an off-the-record contemptuous remark about Shiv Sena’s youth wing leader Aaditya Thackeray.
At a leadership conclave, Aaditya was asked if he would be contesting the upcoming elections in Maharashtra. He was polite about saying that the decision would have to be taken in consultation with party leaders.
What was wrong with that reply? In fact, I thought that was quite the right pitch for a Thackeray, for Aaditya could simply disregard the opinions of others and ride roughshod over party elders and they would be unable to do much about it.
But, I guess, even Aditya’s mother must now be quite proud of him. When he was barely eight or 10 years old, I recall his mother, Rashmi Thackeray, expressing concern at the undesirable influences that her children might be subjected to growing up in a party like the Shiv Sena. No one would dare to correct a Thackeray kid even if they found him on the wrong path. She was very conscious of the fact that only she, as their mother, could be expected to teach them the right from the wrong, the good from the bad and polite discourse from abusive arrogance.
Whatever the politics of the Shiv Sena or the Congress might be, I can see that Aaditya Thackeray is as fine a gentleman as Rahul Gandhi. So I completely disagreed with the contempt that the anchor showed in predicting — in writing — that Aaditya would turn out like Rahul Gandhi.
Indeed, Aaditya is already as polite, refined, suave and amiable as Rahul. And, on a human scale, he does not need to be any different, given the bad examples milling around him.
Indeed, the failure to be civilised to party people is what got his uncle Raj Thackeray uprooted from the Shiv Sena, as senior party leaders got together to drive a wedge between him and the late Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. And we know how the Shiv Sena lost its way after that.
However, the anchor’s swift apology to Aaditya within hours of that contemptuous statement and the failure to apologise to Rahul Gandhi reveals more about the kind of parties that the two belong to, than about their personalities or similarities. I am sure after the faux pas, there was a good amount of fear that the offices of the television channel would soon be swarmed by Shiv Sainiks, destroying property to protest against the insult to their young leader. The Congress, on the other hand, even while in power has allowed criticisms and diverse opinions of people to prevail, believing in democratic dissent and freedom of speech and expression. So there was really no fear that Congress president Sonia Gandhi would send goons to beat up people for insulting her son or denigrating her party.
Neither, I think, would Rashmi Thackeray.
Hats off to both mothers for giving such fine leaders to the nation.