“We fought the polls with love”, declared a beaming Rahul Gandhi after his party’s spectacular win in Karnataka. It was Rahul Baba’s Mother’s Day gift to la madre Sonia Gandhi, as fans of the “Famiglia-G” ooh-ed and aah-ed over cuddly pics of ma-beta hugging each other. It was one of those rare candid pics of Sonia Gandhi which caught her cracking a smile, which btw, suits her far more than the trademark scowl. Beti Priyanka Gandhi Vadra posted her own Mother’s Day selfie with mumsie, showing both clad in winter gear, and grinning rapturously. Why not? Millions of Bharatwaasis were doing the same… exulting at the numbers which gave the Congress a staggering 135 seats in a 224-member Assembly. Best to see it as a triumph of the voter. And not read too much into the big win. I mean… why not learn the lyrics of ‘Çalm Down’, the super-hit single of Selena Gomez and Rema (real name Divine Ikubor), the Nigerian singer, who was in India at the same time, wowing fans and winning the Internet with his effortless people skills and charm.
Those words — people skills and charm — that’s what did it in Karnataka. Rahul Gandhi’s ambitious Bharat Jodo Yatra played a big role in spreading positivity in an ocean of hate and suspicion. It’s possible Rahul himself may not have fully comprehended the monumental impact of the 150-day Long Walk, when he began it in Kanyakumari in September. Agreed, politics is a dirty, cynical game largely peopled by thugs, but just one simple idea of walking across the vast country in the name of unity and meeting thousands of citizens face to face, led to a major transformation: one that may see further amplification in the months ahead. Karnataka could well be the tipping point, the game-changer, in what may be the most savage general election India has seen. Rahul does not hold a magic wand, nor does he possess a success mantra. But as a leader of his dysfunctional, fragmented political party, with all its inbuilt weaknesses and absurdities, he demonstrated what it takes to touch people’s lives and extend hope for a better tomorrow: love.
Caste and corruption were the two main hurdles in Karnataka. Rahul can neither eliminate nor contain these deeply entrenched issues, that often bewilder the most learned political gurus. Each state of India comes with a specific DNA. Caste and corruption form the main strands of its composition. The open and avoidable fight for the chief minister’s post has unsettled many voters and disheartened the party leadership sufficiently for Sonia to step in and make a late-night call to the sulking and furious D.K. Shivakumar, in a successful bid to break the deadlock, after five days of suspense. He reluctantly agreed to play second fiddle to Siddaramaiah, who claims to have more MLAs with him. Sidda has got the CM’s job and been rewarded for successfully delivering Karnataka to his political maa-baap. Deft and timely handling of the impasse could have spared everyone the embarrassment of having to listen to sidelined DKS cribbing about the lack of gratitude and courtesy extended to him — he seethed nobody “acknowledged’’ him for being the main man behind the win. Making matters still more awkward, D.K. Suresh, the designated deputy CM’s brother, declared they were “not happy” with Madam’s decision, but willing to make the “sacrifice” in the larger interests of the party and Karnataka.
This is where even the most astute political leaders like Sonia Gandhi go horribly wrong. They fail to read the ambitions of their own trusted people, and end up losing them to rivals (think “24-carat traitor” Jyotiraditya Scindia). Instead of gloating over the victory, the party leadership should have prioritised placating a disgruntled man (DKS). They didn’t. DKS is known to be a tough-talking, dynamic go-getter, but at the moment he’s like a wounded tiger licking his wounds, waiting for the next chance to strike a weakened prey. He has assured his followers he won’t resort to “blackmail”, or “backstab” anybody, which is most gentlemanly of him.
Meantime, political watchers in the state are holding their breaths before the grand celebrations at the Kanteerawa Stadium, where the red carpet was rolled out, only to be rolled up hastily on Wednesday, after Sidda’s supporters jumped the gun. High drama is expected at the swearing-in on Saturday: what fun! This will be a different sort of red-carpet event from the ongoing one at Cannes, where, for the life of me I cannot quite figure out what a desi actress called Esha Gupta is doing as a part of the official Indian government delegation. Her gown was tantalising for sure, with its thigh high slit, and artistically exposed chest, but I’m not sure Esha’s super-hot “lewk” represented the glory of “Índian culture” — whatever that nebulous term means. Then we heard a clearly out of her depth Sara Ali Khan strenuously and earnestly talking about her own “Índianness” (wot dat, missy?) while underlining the importance of Indian cinema being showcased on a global platform. Good try. But a bridal lehenga on the red carpet?
Meanwhile, my favourite BJP minister Kiren Rijiju has been demoted for being a naughty boy and talking too much in the classroom. He got it in the neck for shooting his mouth off and terming the Supreme Court’s collegium system “opaque” and “alien to the Constitution”, subsequently making it worse by adding: “It is the only system in the world where judges appoint people known to them.” Ouch! Perhaps Kiren Rijiju thought he was being a super-loyalist. But hello! The party bosses thought otherwise: “Over-smart… speaking out of turn… not following the script…” From the law ministry to ministry of earth sciences??? Hota hai, bhai. When any minister exceeds his brief and grabs headlines, you know the person will be swiftly cut down to size, till the Principalji decides you’ve been punished enough and allows you back into the classroom.
Excuse me while I go check out what Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is wearing on the red carpet in Cannes… and if her daughter Aaradhya is clad in a matching gown. Till then, I’m handing it to Michael Douglas for making the best acceptance speech at Cannes so far, when he was awarded an honorary Palme D’Ór and called a “forever star” by presenter Uma Thurman. Said Douglas disarmingly: “I did wonder how I lasted this long? 76 years old? I’m even older than the festival…” Seekho! Seekho! That’s how asli legends — in showbiz and politics — slide away gracefully … Samjhay?