Universe has a wacky way of getting even. The wheel has come full circle. Rahul Gandhi who was once lampooned as “Pappu” (a derogatory colloquial Hindi word meaning dumb kid) has turned the tables now. Last five years social media had been deluged with memes, cartoons, and write-ups mocking the Gandhi scion for slip-ups, sometimes unwitting and oftentimes fake or photo-shopped. Now it is the turn of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to acquire the same disparaging Pappu tag. Believers may say that “karma” has finally caught up with Gandhi’s prime tormentor.

Trolls are now on the other side of the fence and are having a field day mocking Modi courtesy the numerous gaffes that he made in public last few weeks. His “radar” and “cloud” theory in the recent air strike against Pakistan and the claim of using email three decades ago even before the software for the contraption was devised, have made him a butt of jokes. Parallel media is inundated with Modi memes, caricatures and comic strips on how to eat mangoes, radars, clouds, emails, and digital camera and so on, unthinkable a few months ago.

A caveat. This is not an attempt to prejudge the election results. The BJP may return to power if projections of some psephologist are correct; Rahul Gandhi-led Congress may or may not head the new government. Nevertheless, Rahul Gandhi has won a psychological war over Modi that was stealthily unleashed on an unsuspecting PM in the last few months.
Dilip Cherian, image guru and founder of Perfect Relations, hints that Modi fell into Rahul Gandhi’s trap and started giving a spate of interviews that ended up as PR disasters.

Taking part in an NDTV discussion on Modi’s image loss, Cherian said the “Prime Minister is responding to Rahul Gandhi’s giving informal interviews and that seems to be working well for Rahul Gandhi and he (Modi) says why not me.” Modi, “a master of image making” had refused to allow anybody to penetrate the inner circle and actually ask questions.

But those who are supposed to write the script should have not made this blunder (clouds blocking radar detection, etc), Cherian said adding “every word uttered by our Prime Minister is analysed by all agencies across the world and psychoanalysis is done.”

Modi’s repeated attempts to deflect attention from the present and resurrect the ghosts of the past – Rahul Gandhi’s great grandfather Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi illustrates his lack of confidence in his own governance record.

The narrative of his humble origins as a poor “chai wala” whom the Lutyen’s Delhi and the “Khan Market” gang are out to fix, media hates him and the Congress is dreaming of killing him, betrays a persecution complex. “Think, Congress has so much hatred for me that it even dreams of killing your Modi,” he said at an election rally in Madhya Pradesh.

The PM also slandered late Rajiv Gandhi saying, “Your father was termed Mr Clean by his courtiers, but his life ended as Bhrashtachari (corrupt) No 1”. Elsewhere he alleged that Rajiv Gandhi used aircraft carrier INS Viraat as a private taxi (32 years ago). Both the allegations have been trashed by informed observers while the monk in Rahul Gandhi lobbed them back at Modi with a metaphysical riposte, “Modi Ji, the battle is over. Your Karma awaits you.

Projecting your inner beliefs about yourself onto my father won’t protect you. All my love and a huge hug.” This hug business is not new. That famous hug on the floor of the Lok Sabha July last year after speaking on the no-confidence motion was the beginning of Rahul Gandhi’s emotional warfare that momentarily disoriented Modi even though BJP mocked him for his forced, unilateral cuddle.

In response to the PM’s attacks, Rahul said: “The source of all negative emotions is fear. I will only hate things I fear. I don’t fear Mr Modi in the least, so I can’t hate him… If Narendra Modi has a 56-inch chest, we have a 56-inch heart.” Rahul has been a passionate practitioner of Vipasana (ancient Buddhist meditation) and that his hug is borne out of genuine love, claim Congressmen.

He has been reading “I Am That” by celebrated spiritual teacher and Advaita philosopher Sri Nisargadatta and has mastered taekwondo, karate and obtained a black belt in aikido. Martial arts and Vipasana meditation is a powerful combo that makes the student grounded and remain in the present.

While Rahul Gandhi had stayed calm, confident and unruffled in the face of constant vilification, the Prime Minister looks rankled and forbidding. RG’s approvals ratings have shot up substantially with even the international media praising him. In contrast, Modi’s standing in the eyes of the global community has diminished.

The Time magazine that ran a laudatory cover story on the PM with the title – “Why Modi Matters” in 2015, published a highly damaging analysis last week with the heading – “India’s Divider in Chief”, a portrait of a grim-faced Modi on its cover. The New York Times and The Economist were among the other publications that carried unflattering articles about BJP and Modi government.

What went wrong and how Modi’s cultivated muscular image took a beating towards the fag end of his term? Street-smart spin doctors? Or anger and obsession with the past? Sages and mind managers say anger is temporary insanity and living in past upsetting. Action/reaction comes from memories and memories are in the realm of past and over 80 per cent memories are negative; hence the emphasis on living in the present.

“What we have named as anger on the surface is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness…” says David Whyte poet, philosopher (The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words). But who will have the last laugh? 56-inch chest or 56-inch heart? Over to May 23.

Kay Benedict is an independent journalist.