Capital Grapevine
Capital Matters

Capital Grapevine

Virendra Kapoor

The Gandhi scion is ready to take over family firm, leaving a few red faces in party

Rahul Gandhi is all set to take charge of the family Firm soon. Nobody should entertain any doubt about it. Skeptics in the Congress Party, canvassing for a free and fair organizational election, will, however, get their wish. But the outcome will not be what they expected. The winner to hold the top job will still be Gandhi. It will be a change, alright: From the acting chief, Sonia Gandhi, who stepped forward when Rahul, in a rare display of moral courage owned up the humiliating loss in the Lok Sabha election, and quit as the party chief, will make way for the son.

And, the party megaphones, who can even get elected to local municipal bodies, will tell you this was as per the wishes of the voting members of the AICC who overwhelmingly see his return to the rightful place as the head of the party. The Congress, we will be reminded, is a democratic party which values inner party democracy --- unlike the BJP which is remote-controlled by Nagpur.

Regardless of what the family retainers might say, the return of Rahul Gandhi as the de jure boss of the party will irk a number of senior leaders who had begun to harbor dreams of a non-Gandhi at the helm and then infusing life into the moribund organization, building it brick-by-brick from the grassroots up. Indeed, the return of the Gandhi scion will disappoint even so-called independent observers and public intellectuals who, though fully antagonistic towards the Modi regime, had reservations rooting for a dynastic Congress. Per force, a lot of these visceral critics, desperate for a percentage in the Modi era who refused to massage their oversized egos, will continue to maintain distance from a Congress still tied to the little finger of Gandhi.

A clear indication about the return of the Gandhi scion was also available from the constitution of several consultative committees by Sonia Gandhi. Exclusions from it were as significant as inclusions. To begin with, the old guard which had got the ears of Sonia Gandhi was shunned like the coronavirus but Rahul’s close aides and advisers, most of them still wet behind the ears, found a place. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an automatic choice.

Failing health would prevent him from contributing much but because the Gandhi Family uses him to lend itself a patina of intellectual respectability. Not unlike the traditional wedding invitations, which are commonly sent out in the name of the oldest living member of the family even if age and ailments have withered his faculties, Singh must adorn every move the Gandhis make. Gratitude to the family --- not to Narasimha Rao, though --- obliges him to sanctify every egregious decision.

No less significant is the contrived PR effort to create a new public persona for the 49-year-old Gandhi. Relying on the advice of professional image experts, they have begun what the party calls ~Rahul Shows The Way.~ Under this boastful hash-tag the party has put out a video of the Crown Prince in `conversation’ with the former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan.

Which reminds one of a standard advertising campaign in the 70s and 80s by the country’s largest Fast Moving Consumer Goods company. It would run big display ads in print media --- no TV then ---- announcing the launch of a ~Naya Lux, ~ with the latest Bollywood starlet endorsing the popular bathing soap. The tagline would run: ~Chitartarikyo Ka favourite sabun~ ( The favourite soap of starlets). Of course, there would be nothing new about the old cake of soap barring a new wrapping in a new colour!

Well, taking a leaf from the book of the top-ranking FMCG major, we are set to witness the re-launch of what is supposed to be a Naya Rahul Gandhi. A concerted attempt is a foot to try and create a new image of an intelligent man who knows what he is talking about, and is far from the dimwit that his critics in the media and the Opposition had often portrayed him to be all these years.

It is in this light that one should see the video of Rahul Gandhi interviewing’ Rajan. Both the interviewer and the interviewee seemed to be in on the real game. It becomes amply clear when you watch the video.

On his part, Rajan finds it hard to avoid a constant splash in the media though his day job is in a US university. Having exploited his stint in the RBI to acquire a larger-than-life persona, he cannot now help not being a sort of a public performer, holding forth on the economy and other issues almost daily. Before him, RBI chiefs rarely spoke in public; in case of Rajan, he barely stayed out of headlines. It is good he is deeply concerned about what happens in India, but given his political proclivities his word has lost credibility. ( When a society columnist finds Rajan super hot, as she had gushed earlier over the then high-riding banker, Chanda Kochhar, you have to doff your non-existent hat to such frivolities).

Now that he has emerged as Rahul Gandhi’s first `teacher’ on social media, his public standing will take a further hit. The Gandhi scion does not have to put out the videos of his interactions with various experts on social media. We learn that more are in the pipeline, with the latest Nobel laureate couple eager to help.’ We Indians, incidentally, tend to put such people on a pedestal, while in the country of their adoption there are so many of them that they have to compete for public attention. Political leaders are widely known to consult domain experts regularly before taking considered positions on matters of national interest. It would have been good both for the teacher and the taught if the `conversation’ between them was kept a private affair.

Despite the interviewer struggling hard to sound intelligent, and conversant with the subject-matter on hand, his ignorance comes across in the video. Indeed, you cannot help sympathize with the former RBI Governor. In this intercourse with the Gandhi scion , it is he who comes across as a sucker, making himself available for the PR build-up of the 49-year-old pupil. Probably in the hope that in time he would emerge as son’s Manmohan Singh just as the latter had served as an obedient deputy of the mother.

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Even in lockdown PIL entrepreneurs wouldn’t let go

I have a suggestion. And I make it in all seriousness even though I am aware that the usual libertarian suspects would pounce on me like proverbial hound dogs. The suggestion is simple. Stop pre-publicity for all PILs filed in courts unless these are heard, and rejected or given full or partial relief. Anyone who knows how the PIL entrepreneurs operate would know that it is also an instrument for blackmail and extortion. And very often those who present themselves as the torchbearers of liberty, fraternity and equality lend their services to the highest bidder for inter-business rivalries, or plain influence-peddling.

Take this retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court. Failed to graduate to the apex court. But since his retirement he is your go-to man if you want someone to abuse the institution of which he was till recently an integral part of. Barring a lone headline-making order, there is nothing in his career to distinguish him from hundreds of retired judges. The other day he tore into the apex court for not asking questions of the executive on the alleged trampling of fundamental rights of people in the time of corona. Unmindful fully even in this hour of national catastrophe that there are tall walls erected by the founders to separate the role and function of various branches of the constitutional Republic.

A professional do-gooder who waited to quit government service till he was guaranteed of full retirement pay and perks, which come to well over one lakh of rupees should you want to know, is a frequent PIL filer through a curmudgeonly lawyer who objected to the serialization of the Ramyana, trotting the old Marxian nonsense about `religion being the opiate of the people.’ On filing the PIL, on its acceptance, decision, etc., he can be heard before the TV cameras on the lawns of the court complex.

So, once the bar on publicity for PILs is imposed till the court has heard them would save the precious time of the judiciary and avoid undue media pressure on the judges. Saddled with millions of cases, why cannot our PIL warrior offer his services as an amicus curiae and sift through the mountain of pending cases, club similar cases, and help ordinary citizens get justice. It is ironic that the courts are so intimidated by the PIL entrepreneurs that they readily take up these exercises in self-promotion leaving tens of thousands of cases of harassed and poor litigants perennially in the attic.

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Why prevent stomach wash with liquor?

Whether you like it or not, one relaxation in the lockdown from May 4 which is bound to make lots of people particularly happy is the unlocking of alcohol shops. Countless memes and smart-alecky videos on this single grievance alone clogged the WhatsApp traffic. In fact, only a few hours before the relaxation decision, I received a copy of the plaint from a Congress MLA to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, asking a simple question: If alcohol is meant to wash away the virus on hands, why prevent its use inside the body? Yes, why? Happily for him, from Monday he is free to drink himself silly, no questions asked.


Facts and views expressed in the article are that of the author