special Feature - Much fun poked at, undeterred Rahul Gandhi mostly makes sense
Rahul Gandhi wins quite many hearts in Tamil Nadu meetings and rallies, whether or not it turns into a win, needs to be seen
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is much like his father Rajiv Gandhi, who never waned to be in politics but had to. Wished to fly plane professionally, could not. Loved photography and was a passionate one, could never pursue that either. Despite criticism he took developments for India to a level where it stands today -- he introduced computers to India and now all the political parties are riding on it to make waves, forgetting his contribution and his penchant for making India’s education, a priority.
Like father like son, Rahul Gandhi despite being made fun of, speaks sense at most of the rallies, gatherings, interviews with us, journalists, and even at non-political gatherings like for example, while watching a film called Firaq (separation) made by actor-activist Nandita Das, where he was present and I spoke to him for a bit on how he liked the film. It was on the feelings of fear, assumptions and restlessness during communal riots in India. He told me, “I can’t deny a thing shown in the film. Such films need to be made often. And it is a good film.”
So, even if his party is also accused of engineering riots here and there in India to drop a message to minorities to stay in their shoes, especially during his grandmother Indira Gandhi’s time, this young man stays different, speaks his heart and often stumbles as he also has to carry the family legacy that doesn’t allow him to be, what he seems to be wishing to. That’s also a helplessness that often seeps through his gestures, body language if not decisions and speeches; much like his father.
No, this is not an article eulogizing him but mentioning just a matter of fact to bring home a point. The young leader again spoke his mind. That education, healthcare and agriculture – roti, kapda aur makaan, has to be india’s priority and his party is focussed on "just" that, once again. And mind it, the party has proved it too. At the same time, I don’t find it completely true as it is accused of patronising quite many staunch Sangh members and has been diplomatic on several issues including contributions for the Ram Temple, etc.
Yet, while being in Tamil Nadu and its remote areas on Sunday, he played his personal self as well as political. (The states go to poll from March 27, towards the south (Tamil Nadu) the polls for 234 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu are to be held in a single phase on April 6 and votes will be counted on May 2. The Congress-DMK combine and the BJP-AIADMK alliance are the major groups contesting in the assembly elections.)
This Gandhi while speaking about the alliance between DMK and Congress, said again “The aim of the secular alliance between the Congress and the DMK, if they come to power, is to make education, universal. “We will increase access to education for the poor and women of this country,” Gandhi said while interacting with one of the professors.
He also said that the government sees everything—agriculture, healthcare and education—as a financial commodity. He also said ₹1.50 thousand lakh crores given by the government to five to six big businesses during the coronavirus pandemic should have been diverted to the education sector to make it accessible for all.
What makes an interesting reading is, instead of indulging into amusing and funny videos wearing new dresses, wooing the birds and acting like a voracious reader, this Gandhi, decided to take a tour of southern Tamil Nadu and interacted with salt pan workers. He empathised with them when they narrated their travails, including health issues. He asked on health issues they faced due to years of hard work in salt pans, they pointed out that they had to endure eye related ailments and wounds in the feet that often led to difficulty in walking.
When a woman worker sought government financial support for four months in a year, as during this period they would not have work in salt pans, he said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance had an idea to tackle such an issue too.
He had this solution through his party’s “Nyay Scheme” -- "concept of a minimum income," protecting the interests of workers for the period they did not have work for every single poor family in the country. When the Congress gets voted to power at the Centre, the Nyay plan would be implemented to address their concern of getting income for non-working period, he has also assured them.
Can we recall any such scheme by any government of late? “Irrespective of factors like from which state they hailed or their language or religion, beneficiaries would automatically get ₹ 72,000 a year in their bank accounts till such time they were out of poverty” Rahul Gandhi said knowing he cannot and should not get back on his words later.
An informal meet with saltpan workers, made women comfortable and they flagged the issue of rampant alcohol addiction among the menfolk who spend their hard earned money on consuming liquor urging him for implementing complete prohibition. They also sought plots to build houses by utilising unused sites owned by the Centre's salt department in the region, apart from better wages, a welfare board, pension and improved living conditions of the workmen.
However, a political leader being a political leader has to, and perhaps must play a party card too. On the question of better wages, he quipped, "When we were in government in the UPA we noticed that the wealth distribution in India was becoming very skewed. While a few people were getting "very very rich," many were poor. And now since the BJP has come (to power at the Centre) that has become much much stronger," he said hitting two birds with the same stone, replying to worker’s question and attacking BJP. In a recent viral video, posted especially by Congress worker Archana Dalmia, a teenage girl before his address in Tamil Nadu, dared to ask for an autograph while was about to speak over the mic and was on the stage. He came back to greet her, sat on his knees, gave her the autograph and patted her shoulder gently. The kid went mad in happiness, started jumping. Seeing that, Rahul made her take a picture with him holding her by her shoulders and multiply her happiness.
Such has been his regular gestures, short of arrogance and full of humility. He becomes an unpretentious people’s person that his sister Priyanka Gandhi already is. That often separates the two siblings from the intellectual arrogance the Congress Party is often accused of.
Never a fan of any political party all my life and career, I say with conviction that, whether or not Congress comes back to power, the grace and humility that this educated family is known for, is here to stay.