Imran Khan has made the right noises about India in his first speech after the win.
At the time of writing, a man dismissed and described derisively as “Im the Dim” is about to be sworn in as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. Never mind how he did it. Never mind that critics are bound to say he is Rawalpindi’s puppet. Never mind all the charges thrown at him by people in Pakistan, India, the rest of the world. It is what he does next, that’s important. Will the puppet cut the strings that support him and possibly, rein in those mustachioed generals — a feat no earlier PM has achieved? Will he become his own person, assert himself and rashly tell America where to get off? Will he foolishly rave and rant against India and further antagonise Pakistan’s neighbour? Will he happily get into bed with China and cut short-term deals with the dragon nobody trusts and leave future generations to pay the price? Who knows?
Imran Khan has made the right noises about India in his first speech after the win. Not even the explosive and exploitative book about him written by ex-wife Reham Khan, has managed to dent his ambition and winning streak. Despite the lethal timing of Reham’s book, which contained tantalising details about Imran’s sexual conduct and personal peccadillos (what exactly he did with uncooked kaali daal, for example), Imran today has seen his long cherished dream come true. A dream that remained his main driving force, even when he struggled to win a few seats and provide a modicum of credibility to his fledgling party. The man did not waver for a moment. First wife Jemima Khan talked about his “tenacity” while congratulating him. Whether or not one agreed with his vision for Pakistan, it was more than apparent Imran was in the political fray for keeps. This was no flirtation. His commitment was passionate and unidimensional. Perseverance paid. And all those who mocked the man with his ravaged good looks for being nothing but an international playboy may have to accord him a little more respect hereon.
There is a lesson in there for us in India when it comes to Imran’s unexpected rise to the prime ministership (still to be officially confirmed). A man who had been written off as someone who didn’t stand a chance in hell is having the last laugh. Rigged or otherwise, Imran is going to be a major player in the hood. And instead of inviting Donald Trump as India’s mehmaan for Republic Day 2019, Narendra Modi might consider Imran. He can give him some more “jadoo ki jhappis”, as he had his predecessor Nawaz Sharif, who is now languishing in jail, along with his politician-daughter Maryam, while his ailing wife struggles for life. Imran has made the right noises about India in his first speech after the win. This is Pakistan. This is “normal”. Instead of being judgmental, we should turn the camera lens to our own backyard. What happened across the border could well happen here. And Pappu could become India’s next Prime Minister. Don’t laugh! That one hug and wink has changed the game forever. Of course, the personal histories and political trajectories of the two men are not identical. But there are similarities that cannot be ignored. Rather than compare Rahul Gandhi to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, it makes far more sense to pitch him against Imran, now that elections 2019 are upon us. Mr Gandhi’s speech in Parliament, with all its flaws and lies, made people sit up and take notice. He is not the only liar in Parliament — so that part can be overlooked. It was his delivery and boldness. Nobody could have imagined Pappu to be this assertive and aggressive. Yes, even I want to know what he was on? Whatever it was, I want to smoke some of it too! Then came the hug that made national and international headlines. And before we could recover — the wink! Conspiratorial and cunning. A real masterstroke. Had Prime Minister Modi reacted with more maturity and like a seasoned statesman, Mr Gandhi would have looked like an absolute ass. But Mr Modi gave him the psychological advantage by his own petulance and low blows. Not cool! If mimicry could win political debates, Johnny Lever would be PM. Demolishing rivals is generally child’s play for our Prime Minister, whose clever word games and punning skills have scored countless debating points in the past. This time he made a huge error — he blinked. Imagine! A wink and a blink could change the ballgame next year. It’s all about optics and perceptions these days. Pappu grabbed the moment and in under one minute, he transformed his image. The young in India applauded his cheekiness, while deploring Mr Modi’s kiddish comeback. All of a sudden, Mr Modi became “old world”, while Mr Gandhi captured the future. Smart move.
Regardless of what happens next, as of now there is reason for euphoria in the Congress camp. Unlike Imran, Mr Gandhi has zero experience of politics on the ground. He airdrops into the political maidan as and when his fancy takes him. Between holidays in exotic locations, our man shows up periodically to do his bit for mummyji and the party she leads (oh yes — still). Mr Gandhi’s designation is not important. It is enough if he hangs around and dimples. If he also chooses to speak — that’s a bonus. In the minds of the people, no other potential candidate exists within the Congress Party. Though even Mr Gandhi’s most ardent supporters must know this much: a well-timed wink cannot save a party during a savage election. For that, a party needs a cohesive strategy, commitment and the trust of a billion-plus citizens. Pappu can wink, saala. But can he win?