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Slip of the tongue?

Rahul’s remarks in Kerala, if made off the cuff, should not lead to a ‘divisive politics’ slugfest

Whether it was the heat of the moment or well-considered action, only the Gandhi scion would know. But the bullet has been fired and now it is for Rahul and the Congress to bear the recoil. At a recent rally in Kerala, Rahul said: “For the first 15 years, I was a Member of Parliament from the North, so I had got used to a different type of politics. For me, coming to Kerala was very refreshing because suddenly I found that people (here) are interested in issues, and not just superficially but in detail.” Whether it will reap dividends or prove counterproductive to the ‘Grand Old Party’ in the forthcoming Assembly elections is best left to the wisdom of voters but Rahul’s latest statement has provided the BJP with fresh fodder to attack the Congress. To be fair, Rahul is not known for making statements that reek of divisive politics: He is straightforward, to the point and plain, and this is what makes him vulnerable. His statements often lend themselves to the creation of memes, courtesy Information Technology (IT) cells affiliated to other political parties who strive hard to prove that Rahul doesn’t have the “potential” to be a leader, forget about becoming the Prime Minister in future. However, if the statement was made after due consideration, it’s probably time for him to think about changing his advisors. What he said, could still have been conveyed without generating a controversy had he been a little more careful with his choice of words.

On the face of it, there is nothing inappropriate in the statement unless implied meanings are derived from it. But such derivations are common in politics and if Rahul is ignorant of it, it’s his fault. Going by the adage that “politics is all about opportunity”, senior BJP leaders jumped at the chance and accused the Congress leader of indulging in divisive politics for gains in the Kerala elections. In a country where leaders regularly stoop to new lows and then get away by claiming that they didn’t actually mean what they said, Rahul’s comment is nothing to make such a hullaballoo about. Our heads still drop in shame when we are reminded of remarks like “khaki underwear” by Azam Khan or when Mulayam Singh Yadav justified rape, saying “Boys err at times, wrong to hang rapists”, or even Lalu Prasad’s boastful remark that “Bihar’s roads would be made like the cheeks of Hema Malini”. Now, Rahul has cancelled his Left-Congress joint rally in Bengal, apparently to focus more on Kerala. It could be that the southern State seems more promising to him since the Congress’ prospects are rather bleak in West Bengal where the fight is directly between the TMC and the BJP. Well, while Rahul is caught in a storm, the Congress old guard have come up with some sound advice, with Kapil Sibal saying the “wisdom of the electors” should be respected for they know “who to vote for and why”. With leaders of such acumen, balance and maturity still serving the party, one wonders why Rahul doesn’t seek their advice before making such foot-in-the-mouth remarks. Could it be something to do with the internal fault lines? Let’s leave it for the Congress to decide.

Friday, 26 February 2021 | Pioneer

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