She has been a sweet and an adorable mother. Like all mothers she did everything at her command to fulfil every little wish of her son who ‘got up one morning at night’ - a unique trait of plain speak with extraordinary care for dyslexic jumbling up words when it’s least expected, a uniqueness which has delighted audience and political opponents alike. That kiss on her forehead was in recognition of his latent talent only a mother could see in a child.
She gave him the cover for all the salvos that came his way, many a time because of his own bloopers, and, in the process instilling in him a sense of false victory when it was time to recognize defeat. Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as party president is a classic study of how failures also have a silver lining. That even failures are rewarded. In his case the rewards came pre-loaded with and expectedly with no strings attached. The dynastic umbilical cord was the only prerequisite.
The son realized dynasty is made of different timber; it never errs. It gets everything for the asking when others have to slog for it with no rewards in waiting. So, the post of party general secretary fell into the kitty just three years into becoming an MP and the party presidentship for managing defeats with a straight face and never working to learn a lesson or two from those defeats. That kiss on the forehead was in acknowledgement for being such a great teacher.
The son also learnt how to make and install prime minister and driving the country from the back seat. That kiss on the forehead was for the lessons learnt on that account. That the prodigal son would leverage those lessons learnt at her mother’s feet and add his own foot notes to it by undermining the authority of the country’s prime minister his mom picked up to head the UPA government in 2004 and chose to stick with him in UPA 2.
He might have torn up that piece of ‘nonsensical’ ordinance, his own government and prime minister had shaped, in an act of misplaced defiance but it attracted more boos and brickbats than bouquets in the public domain for humongous embarrassment it caused to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. What was supposed to be an act of coming of age proved to be a case study in self-goal.
That kiss on the forehead was thanksgiving to a mother for teaching him to set sail against the winds when waiting for the tide to pass over was an option within reach.
That kiss on the forehead was also for bequeathing to her son the comfort of being surrounded always by a band of cronies who shall always place dynasty on a pedestal high above the party. The liberal mother allowed the son to pick his own band of loyals while still giving the impression old guards shall ever be respected and dumped depending on the loyalty quotient they enjoy with the Yuvraj - now the party’s de facto numero uno. Ironically, his band of loyals – the Scindias, the Pilots, the Huddas and the Surjewalas are all drawn from dynastic stables.
The mother’s party which once was his grandmother’s party, for which she fought tooth and nail with her own party aides and seniors, though some of them were equal claimants to the party throne, and effected a vertical split and ruled and dictated a bunch of sycophants now belongs to the grandson.
The party which can indisputably be credited with building a fandom around sustained culture of sycophancy has only another baton wielder in the grandson. That kiss on the forehead was a warm acknowledgement of a calm resolve that the party’s USP shall never be compromised.
The kiss on the forehead was also a reassurance on behalf of the dynast that he shall do all that he could to keep his public guessing over party’s stand on critical issues. So Rahul Gandhi shall not mind temple hopping and then attacking Modi’s hindutva ideology to play to his political constituency. That secularism and soft-hindutva can go hand in hand has been his party’s leitmotif for some time now. The grandson seems in no mood to upset that theme in his political game plan.
So while Rahul temple hops a senior colleague is zealously guarding party’s minority vote bank at the highest court of the land locked in legal arguments over a case hearing to stop the practise of instant triple talaq. Quite a throwback to his father’s regime where he could prepare a blueprint for opening of the Ayodhya gates to appease Hindu sentiments and reverse Supreme Court judgement on alimony in Shah Bano case through parliamentary legislation to satiate growing Muslim sentiments. In this respect that freeze frame of a political heir kissing his mother and outgoing party chief Sonia Gandhi suggests status quo more than it suggests harbinger of a change.
The ruling combine of Modi-Shah has done a good job of luring its political enemy to fight the war on its own turf. So they usually end up trapping a victim or two. Mani Shankar Aiyar was their latest catch. The Congress party under Rahul Gandhi was quick to take disciplinary action against Aiyar. But, the Congress reaction was not so much on account of the itch to prepare an ethical battle ground but more in sync with a perceived fear of a political havoc Aiyar’s remark could wreak coming as it did at a time when Gujarat elections were round the corner. A swift action against Aiyar could help control potential damage. Was that kiss on mother’s forehead a reassurance he shall, henceforth, handle things with more political maturity.
Exit polls have predicted another defeat for Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections. But the new party president may have a reason or two to console himself – one, for striking up friendship with new and young players in Gujarat and, two, for taking on Modi’s ‘hatred’ with ‘love’. Gujarat elections have also shown Rahul was more than willing to leave his more tentative self behind, step out of her mother’s shadow and take on the political opponents by the horns. Was that kiss on the forehead a silent resolve to help arrest the Congress slide and change the shape of things to come as the country heads towards the denouement of 2019.