How does it feel to be born into an affluent family?
And, how does it feel to be born into India’s First Family?
Well, while many of us would say it is a blessing, but what we often ignore is the fact that there are two sides to every coin.
Such a privilege brings with it an inherited fear, a feeling of disquiet that whatever you do – no matter how big or small a decision you take – you will always be under the attention and scrutiny of the public – and that, is something which is not really a boon.
Rahul Gandhi, the heir of the Nehru-Gandhi family, who has often been blamed for his good fortune, is one such despondent being who could not afford the luxury of leading his life as a common citizen of the country. Irrespective of his actions, he has always been judged, always been there in the public eye.
But, being the bearer of the ‘Gandhi’ surname has done no good to this very soul, and here I am trying to figure out why!
Rahul’s Childhood – An ‘evocative’ trip down memory lane
Born on 19 June 1970 in the eminent Gandhi family, Rahul was the first child of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. At the time of Rahul’s birth, Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. Quite clearly, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and he never really got to feel what poverty actually is. But, there was one facet of life that he certainly encountered early enough than others, and that is misery.
It all began when Rahul had to witness his grandmother going to jail, merely at the age of 7.
In August 1970, in a letter to her friend Dorothy Norman, Indira Gandhi wrote about Rahul – “My grandson Rahul is a darling. He has got rid of his wrinkles and still has his double chin!”
This child, who was the apple of her grandmother’s eye, meant the world to her, precious just like all other grandchildren are to their grandparents. Imagine the pain he had to bear when his grandmother got arrested in 1977. The mere thought of having your family member behind the bars is heart-rending, but the tryst with despair did not end here for this Gandhi scion.
After seven years, Indira Gandhi got assassinated on 31 October 1984, at her residence. The assassination was done by those who vowed to protect her, two of her bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, as an upshot of Operation Blue Star which took place in June 1984, on the Sikh shrine, Golden Temple in Amritsar.
The trauma and fear that Rahul and his sister would have gone through, could only be written about or imagined, but can’t be felt, for sure. Even after being a part of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families of the country, there was no security left for the younger Gandhi generation, who saw the life of their grandmother coming to an end.
The threat to death was ubiquitous.
It was the result of the death threats received from Sikh extremists only that Rahul & Priyanka had to take home schooling subsequently.
Then again, the number seven seemed to have put a spell on the Gandhi family.
Another seven years later, the family saw one more assassination, and this time it was the son of the family – Rajiv Gandhi.
A 21 year old Rahul faced the unbearable pain of lighting the funeral pyre of his father. Shattered into a million pieces, the emotions that Rahul might have experienced are ineffable.
Losing the two important pillars of your family, not to natural but accidental deaths, is something that no one would ever want to even imagine, let alone living with the very fact, all through your life.
The brutality showcased, the betrayal encountered from the ones who supported the family at a time, the pain that was excruciating to the core – all this has contributed in making Rahul the way he is at present.
His cautious, reluctant, and shy demeanour, is not something that he was born with, it is something that got instilled into him, over decades.
The Gandhis, their Interests, and Politics
What do you want to be in your life?
How does it feel if you wish to become a dancer and end up being an accountant, owing to parental pressure?
Reminds you of 3 Idiots, right?
Well, not only the common citizens of the country, but there are many political leaders who wanted to pursue something else in their lives, but had to join politics – not by choice, but by compulsion. One such prime example is Rajiv Gandhi, the father of Rahul Gandhi.
With zero interest and experience in politics, Rajiv Gandhi was Indira’s elder son who wanted to evade politics at all costs. As his classmates can recall, his bookshelves were dotted with books on science and engineering, not on philosophy, politics or history. His passion, though, was to be on the wing. This is the reason why after attending college in the United Kingdom, Rajiv came back to India in 1966 and was happily living his dream of being a pilot.
But as fate would have it, in 1980, Sanjay Gandhi (Rajiv’s brother) who was said to be Indira’s political successor, died in a plane crash. With the death of Sanjay Gandhi, Indira was devastated. It was then, that she directed Rajiv not to fly planes after his brother’s death in plane accident. Not only does Rajiv had to part ways with his passion of flying high in the sky, he was also made to join Congress and contest elections from Amethi, which was his brother’s constituency.
Irrespective of your affluence level, misfortune often comes as a part and parcel in the lives of many, and Rajiv was no exception. On 31 October, 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards. Already finding it hard to cope with the loss of his mother, Rajiv was made to swear in as the Prime Minister of India.
But, with reluctance obscuring his view in the past, this youngest Prime Minister of India did all the justice that he could do with his political position.
Being the visionary that he was, Rajiv was ahead of his time. He wanted India to keep pace with the world and this is why he introduced the concept of Digital India with the launch of the National Informatics Centre. The Father of Digital India, Rajiv Gandhi was the one who actually planted the seed of the Information Technology (IT) revolution in the country.
At every step of his political career, he made sure that the decision that he took in tragic and distressing circumstances should never be compromised. The national responsibility that he carried on his shoulders marked the making of one of the best political leaders that India has ever had.
But Rahul Gandhi is no Rajiv Gandhi.
He is a different personality, though a few similarities do exist between the late father and his son. Just like his father, Rahul was also reluctant to join politics at first.
At the time of his father’s death in 1991, Rahul was a 21 year old, young boy, who could have easily entered the political stage – but he chose not to.
It was only in March 2004, that Rahul Gandhi announced his entry into politics by contesting the May 2004 elections in his father’s former constituency of Amethi.
This decision of joining politics took 13 years for this Gandhi inheritor, which is absolutely contrasting with what his father, Rajiv Gandhi did. Even when Rahul decided to contest from Amethi, he did not fight as a Prime Ministerial candidate. Given the Gandhi surname, he could have become the PM of the country and learnt the ropes the way his father did. But this display of reluctance costed heavily to Rahul. Rather than a matter of will, it seemed more to be a matter of skill.
Anyhow, time passed, and then came 2009 elections. This time again, he disowned the throne of Prime Minister.
Back in 2004, Rahul was given the benefit of doubt that he first wanted to learn a bit about politics and then take the charge, but what is difficult to understand is the reason which stopped him again to fight as a Prime Ministerial candidate in 2009.
A time period of five years is a long one to learn about the political situation of the country, more so when you belong to a political family and that too the First Family of the country.
Nonetheless, by staying out of the Game of Prime Ministerial Throne time and again, one thing that Rahul has certainly depicted is that he is not an opportunist. In a country where there are several power hungry PM aspirants, Rahul is not one of them – and this fact has been corroborated over Rahul’s political chronicle.
Unplugging Rahul’s Approach
In India, where personalities are voted more than the political parties, people would want anything but a reluctant leader to lead the nation. From Narendra Modi to Arvind Kejriwal, none of them exhibit an inherited reluctance to lead from the front.
Although Rahul was initially hesitant to enter into politics, but now when he has done it, and has crossed over a decade in the political realm of the country, he certainly needs to shun his reluctance.
He is seen everywhere, but people still do not know who is Rahul Gandhi. What could be the reason for this?
While a leader needs to make his agenda clear to the general public, be one of them, interact with them, lead them, Rahul has always been someone who wants to steer clear from the limelight and loves the sidebar. One thing that is extremely important for him to understand is the fact that politics is all about being in the limelight, maintaining a low profile has not helped anybody in politics and wouldn’t help him too.
In this game of hide and seek, it will be Congress who will suffer the most – as politics is no longer party-driven, it is now personality-driven. Despite the fact that Rahul has some brilliant ideas for nation-building, he has failed to implement them, let alone sustaining them.
Being a silent revolutionary is not what Rahul needs at the moment.
People still wonder what his Rahul’s agenda and they will continue to do so, if Rahul does not draw the invisible curtain away from him.
Had he taken the responsibility of being the PM of the country and even if made failures, like his father also did – still he might have gained the public support that he is making attempts to gain now. In fact, there is hardly any political personality or a normal human being who does not commit mistakes. Even PM Modi had his fair share of mistakes, but what is important is to learn from them, and not to succumb to them. This fear of committing mistakes that rests within Rahul needs to be done away with.
It is impressive that Rahul is not running behind power, but at the same time when you are in politics, and at an important position in the party that you are representing, you can’t just play second fiddle to the experienced party members.
There is no denying the fact that Rahul wants to have a fresh approach in Congress, but the seasoned politicians are reluctant to bring a new turn to the age-old political tactics that have worked in the past. Rahul’s mother, Sonia Gandhi relies more on seasoned politicians, whereas Rahul relies on youth. Ideally, there must be a balance between the two, because to make it big in politics you need political acumen and experience both.
Rahul’s ideology to make India’s politics efficient and accountable is definitely laudable, but then why the zeal to do so is missing in him?
In 2014, Rahul became the MP of Amethi constituency for the third time, but little has been done by him to uplift the place, which is one of the most backward constituencies of UP. Over the years, he could have easily changed the face of Amethi, but his inability to do so helped Smriti Irani diminish his winning margin in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Amethi could have been Rahul’s personal success story – a golden opportunity to show that he can work for the betterment of this district, the betterment of the nation and that he lies way beyond dynastic politics – but unfortunately; this has not been the case as yet.
However, with over three and a half years left for his term, it is still not too late to work on Amethi, and I hope Rahul does act to develop the district, before the wheels fall off.
If there is somebody who is gaining the biggest advantage out of Rahul’s reclusive conduct, then it has to be nobody else but the opposition. Both BJP and AAP have been talking loud about youth and women empowerment, but these were actually Rahul’s ideas which failed to follow through. Where Rahul is lagging behind is not ideas, but their implementation. This is what the opposition knows really well, and has been too quick to implement such ideas.
It is about time that Rahul came out of the character of inaccessible party leader that he has been playing since long. The world does not really know anything about who Rahul actually is. Once again, the opposition is gaining from Rahul’s closed personality. In the absence of the truth about Rahul’s life, opposition made no delay in tarnishing the image of the Gandhi scion with negative trolls.
Let’s just face it – in the absence of genuine information, whatever idle talk is made available to the people, they will believe it. They believe in hearsay versions. And, this is what has happened in the case of Rahul Gandhi as well.
Rahul needs to stop being an enigma any more. He has had a stint of over 12 years in politics now and he needs to come out in the open so that people can actually know what he really stands for. He will commit mistakes, everyone does, but he needs to come out of the fear and embrace it. Only then will he be able to win the hearts of those who genuinely wish to know him better.
Rahul’s Life – Less Personal, More Public
No matter how much advanced Indians might have become over the years, the psyche deep down remains the same.
Rest is all façade.
This might seem to be hypocrisy to some, but this is how Indians are – within our hearts, we want to remain free, hangout with friends, partners, live our lives on our own terms; but we can’t let others live unmarried.
And, if that person is a celebrity or a renowned personality, then nothing can spare the covetousness to see that person getting hitched to someone.
We have Salman Khan in Bollywood as an example and Rahul Gandhi in Politics as another.
Over the years, there have been several reports in media about Rahul’s alleged girlfriends, on and off. Rahul has ardently shielded his personal life and has said recently in an interview that he will get married only when he will find the right girl.
Why so? Actually, that’s what all of us want! To get married to someone who seems right enough to spend our entire life with. Then, what’s the big deal?
Let me guess – even though Rahul’s personal life is personal to him, it is not the same for the public. His decision to remain single has fuelled unending rumours throughout his political tenure. Although it’s his personal life and he is free to do what he wants, but being a public personality, people have certain expectations from him.
During the 2004 Amethi election campaign, Rahul disclosed that his girlfriend Veronique, is a Spanish girl and an architect. Not much has been shared by him on his romantic life again since then, but people want him to get married soon.
Considering the scenario where he does get married to his girlfriend, the love and respect that he will get from the people of India, will definitely be momentous. She will be welcomed by Indians, just the way Sonia Gandhi was welcomed way back when she got married to Rajiv and they both got settled in India. We Indians are emotional and we are crazy about celebrities and the happenings in their lives.
And, imagine the notability that Rahul will get to enjoy if he gets married to an Indian girl.
Agree with it or not, but married Rahul would have definitely garnered more support and respect from the people of the country than the bachelor Rahul does. It is said that marriage brings stability in a man’s life and makes him all the more level-headed and reliable. The positive public image that Rahul’s marriage will bring to him would certainly be significant for him and his career too.
Rahul Gandhi needs to accept the fact that being a personality that is of national interest, building a positive image is only possible if he first advances in his personal life.
Rebuilding ‘Brand Rahul’
If building a brand is difficult, then rebuilding it is challenging and onerous.
What does Rahul Gandhi stand for?
No one has a good explanation about this question which has been hovering in the minds of millions, since 2004.
People do not really endorse a brand if it stands for nothing, and till now, Brand RaGa has been seen as a confused alternative that does not have a clear cut agenda. This is what has acted against Rahul most of the times.
It is in this context only that Rahul Gandhi has to express what he stands for, rather than just being a good looking politician, carrying the distinguished Gandhi surname.
One of the biggest keys to success of any political figure is the art to communicate, and communicate well. It is not the distance that keeps people away from the aristocrats, nor is it the hierarchy. It is only the lack of communication and the failure to deliver what is promised.
Rahul Gandhi needs to learn the art of communication to avoid the foot in mouth instances that have brought him publicity, though negative one!
There is this man who once was a political outcast, and today is an inspiration to many! Yes, I am referring to Mr Narendra Modi here, who used all sorts of communication tactics and channels to turn the tables, and he did it very smartly.
Rahul lacks the skill of communicating freely, there is something that stops him from doing so, and this is what he should master.
First, there is a grave need to interact with young minds, and with those who have their trust in Rahul. He needs to communicate with them; he needs to make them aware of his agenda, and his aim for India. He has that spark in his eyes – the one that resembles that of Rajiv’s, but what he needs to have his focus on is to be able to connect with the masses, just like his father did.
He needs to inform the public what is it that he wishes to do for the country and how does he plan to accomplish it?
Secondly, he needs to be accessible to the people. It is my personal experience that getting an appointment with Rahul Gandhi is almost next to impossible. In the past one year, I wrote several emails to his office, but to no avail. If Rahul wants to reach to the masses, he needs to be accessible to them, just like PM Modi is. With his official Twitter handle, Modi has been seen connecting with the public zealously.
However, when it comes to Rahul, then even in this era of social media, he has no personal presence on Twitter or Facebook. While his team does maintain an official account of the Office of Rahul Gandhi, it is certainly not enough! His disregard to have a one-on-one interaction with the public is something that depicts formidable hauteur. This is why it is absolutely important for Rahul Gandhi to have a personal Twitter handle through which he can improve his relatability quotient by directly engaging with his followers.
Gone are the days when political figures can work cosseted within a small bubble of sycophants, now they need to move around to connect with the crowd!
It is about time that Rahul went beyond his coterie of advisors. He needs to breathe new life into the Congress party and this can only be done if he implements new ideas and involves those who have faith in the party. Participative politics is the need of the hour, and only Rahul can help Congress go through this much desired transition.
Another important thing that Rahul Gandhi needs to take care of is that he has to work hard to win the trust of the millions who Congress has lost over the past decade. If Rahul wants to be seen as the leader, he needs to act like one, and this can only be done if he does something substantial during his political term. Not just a tangible plan is important for Rahul to succeed, but what else is also important is to act on the plan and to deliver the promises that he makes on his way.
As Steve Martin rightly said, “Be so good, they can’t ignore you.”
Rahul needs to cut across his inhibitions and prove his mettle. After all, the great grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, the grandson of Indira Gandhi and the son of Rajiv Gandhi can not go down in defeat so easily!
The revival of Congress is in the making, and Rahul is all set for an extraordinary destiny – one that is blessed with the unappreciated sacrifices of the Gandhi family.
It is just the beginning…