The Reluctant Politician, an Entitled Prince, Pappu who watched Chhota Bheem on Pogo… these are just a few of the names which have been attached to Rahul Gandhi over the last decade or so. Though I have never bought into the malicious media campaign that was run against him, I did believe that Rahul is not the person who can lead India. “A nice guy, but not fit for Indian politics,” was my general opinion about him till a few months ago.
And then Rahul started walking on his dedicated 3,500-km walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir with the idea of unifying India under the banner of the #BharatJodoYatra
Does an entitled prince walk 3,500 km, and walk daily, with such consistency? Why would a reluctant politician even continue to be in politics after being maligned to this extent by a vicious campaign through mainstream and social media channels? Wouldn't he just take off from India, go live somewhere else and enjoy his wealth that he has apparently accumulated thanks to his family’s connections? Surely Pogo is available in every other country too and Chhota Bheem can be viewed there. Why is he still staying back to face more brickbats and abuses and trolling from a paid IT cell cadre that is just waiting for him to make one small slip?
Any other man (or woman) in his position would have been completely shattered with the amount of vitriol that has been openly spread about him right from targeting him, to his mother, to his sister… his entire family. Why does he still carry on? Reluctant Politician? Entitled Prince? Hardly!
That’s when I decided I had to make an effort to understand this guy for what he is. Fortunately, I got the opportunity to talk to Rahul while walking with him and make a small assessment of what made the man tick. Let me say, clearly, that Rahul is no Pogo-watching Pappu as the Bharatiya Janata Party through its media partners is trying to make him out to be. He is an extremely well-read and intelligent person. His way of talking is unlike any other politician that you have ever met. Most politicians, however good your relationship is with them, are highly patronising; they try to intimidate you in the conversation and/or overpower you. Even when they do something for you, they make it sound like a big favour and as if you have to feel obligated to their kindness.
Rahul is like your friendly neighbour. He is like the guy who lands up at a chai tapri and whom you have a casual conversation with. He is soft spoken, easygoing and extremely candid. He doesn't hold back and he doesn't come across as a know-it-all but more as an I-want-to-know. He questions you, he is interested in your answers. He links his responses to your answers and doesn't do a monologue like some people we know (Mann Ki Baat, anyone?).
When he looks into your eyes, you see kindness. When he smiles at you, you feel the warmth. When he puts his arm around you you are not uncomfortable one bit. He is aggressive when he wants to be, but not forceful. He is assertive without being imposing. He is devoid of the ruthlessness but doesn’t fall shy of resolve. Maybe that’s why, when his party leaders jump to the BJP, instead of trying to woo them by hook or crook he just starts rebuilding.
He seems like a guy who will not compromise on his principles. Maybe that's why when his party loses elections he still doesn’t change his stand but continues to remain firm on his ideology. Rahul is definitely one whom you can bank on to fight for you, if you are right, even if he suffers personally. That’s the confidence you get from him. Twenty minutes is not a long time to know everything about Rahul… but 20 minutes is enough to know that whatever is being peddled against him is absolutely rubbish.
Now, I am not sure if such people will manage to win elections in India (I hope they do), but if one needs to be cunning, mean, ruthless and crafty to be a politician — I can already think of one who is so — I wouldn’t touch that person with a barge pole. Rahul, I would hug anytime again. If you ever hear anyone saying, “But there is no alternative,” believe me, they are wrong. Rahul is an alternative and a very strong one at that, too — that is, if the alternative you are looking for is unifying love and not divisive hate.
Irrespective of whatever future has in store for Rahul and for India, I sincerely hope that Rahul and his Bharat Jodo Yatra are a tremendous success.
Disclaimer: You may have noticed that despite having conversed with Rahul at such close quarters, I continue calling him Rahul, not Rahul Ji, not Rahul Sir … and I call him so with full respect and endearment, because that’s the type of guy he is.
Darshan Mondkar runs a manufacturing MSME, and loves narrating tales which turn the political and social into the personal. He is especially known for his disclaimers