Mullah Nasruddin spread out his ornate carpet on the front lawn of his house. He did push-ups on the carpet to become strong enough to protect his house… Meanwhile, thieves from two separate gates behind him tiptoed into his house. Friendly neighbours at the front gate alerted Mullah that his house was about to be burgled by two gangs.
Mullah laughed at them with supreme nonchalance. “You are wrong that they are two gangs”, he said. “They are together in this scheme and I know what they are up to.”
“What are they up to?” asked the neighbours.
“If I run to chase out one group, the other will steal my carpet”, said Mullah, rolling his eyes cunningly, and did another push-up.
The neighbours beat their breasts, even as they saw the burglars cart away every item in Mullah’s house.
The Mullah story possibly has universal application, but caution may be in order before transposing it on Rahul Gandhi’s athletic performance at the St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School in Mulggumoodubin, Tamil Nadu. He left a Class 10 student, Meroli Shenigha, panting for breath in a competition.
Rahul, 50, did 14 push-ups in 10 seconds, something of a record. A yen for physical fitness is in his DNA. For his great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, yoga was incomplete without an extended shishasana, or headstand. But while Nehru was private about his exercises, the great-grandson is demonstrative. Nehru may also have been proud of his Kashmiri Pandit heritage, but never of ritual religiosity. In his will, he wrote that he didn’t want any rituals for his cremation. His colleagues, more “Hindu” than him, thought it unwise to have the last rites of the country’s first Prime Minister, a Pandit to boot, be concluded without the Vedic rituals.
Taking his cue from there, Rahul Gandhi’s most reliable town crier, Randeep Singh Surjewala, declared him a “Janeudhari” Brahmin, a declaration that Rahul seems to have taken to heart, touching base with every temple in town. Not to be outdone, sibling Priyanka too has been wearing tilaks on her forehead, large enough for a “yogini”. She has been dipping in holy rivers in severe cold. If her brother has added gymnastics to his repertoire, Priyanka has fallen back on ethnic tourism in fancy dress. With expert ease, she plucked “two leaves and a bud” in Assam’s tea plantations.
The Gandhi siblings are busting their guts to hold onto the carpet as in the Mullah story. As for the Congress Party (The House), senior members have already bolted and joined the BJP. The remainder are running helter-skelter because the Gandhi family is unwilling to show them the road ahead. It is possible that they themselves do not know.
The Gandhis’ state of funk may have been enhanced last week by Gujarat where, contrary to the promise of 2017, the Congress has been beaten to a pulp by the BJP in the local body elections. Indeed, new entrants like the AAP and Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM, have impressively opened their accounts.
The “G-23” Congress letter-writers are what rural folk in North India call “Shivji Ki Baraat”, representing all manner of fauna. Ghulam Nabi Azad has been grieving since at least the 2019 elections: “They are not asking me to campaign”. Those were days when Rahul, as Congress president, had resorted to practical politics -- he would not be seen with Muslims during elections because that would enable the BJP to polarise the vote. What Rahul appears not to have learnt since then is that policies and strategy, not tricks, build a party’s elan. When in the 2019 general election, the BJP won 303 seats as opposed to the Congress’ 52, Rahul owned up to his responsibility and resigned as party president.
A chapter in the Congress’ and the nation’s political history was over. Or so one had thought. But no, his cohorts like Mr Surjewala would dance around him with deafening chants of a “Congress revival”.
Kuchch to hotey hain Mohabbat mein junoon ke aasaar/ Aur Kuchch log bhi deewana bana detey hain (As it is, there are signs of monomania in obsessive love. Self-serving busybodies further enhance this streak).
Slowly, one saw him trek back from the political wilderness, to attempt, like Sisyphus, the climb again without ever bothering to ask -- why is there so much focus on a leader with 52 members in a House of 545? Why does the media, which is owned by industrialists and controlled by the ruling party, heap such generous attention on the Gandhis?
Because they are no threat. Anything of a leftist hue, with the capacity to mobilise the people on a platform of roti, kapda, makaan… healthcare, universal free education, etc must be thwarted. Going by this criteria, the Congress is no threat. Policy differences between the BJP and the Congress are minimal. Foreign, economic, even social policies are more or less similar.
The BJP’s anti-Muslim stance is for Hindu consolidation. The Congress’ studied neglect of Muslims serves the same purpose, only with better table manners. Also, the Gandhis and the residual Congress serve as an essential counterpoint in the BJP’s musical score.
Essentially, the establishment has a high comfort level with two ruling class parties. One of them may be down and out, but it must remain in occupation of that slot. A vacuum will open up the chances of confusing, unknown amalgamations making a bid for power.
How long can the Mother, Son and his sister hang by a thread for sheer survival? The G-23 are at the moment willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike – just sending out hints but hesitating to go further.
These hesitations may well give way to a day of the long knives in May after the results of the elections in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry are out. If the Congress does well enough to preserve its self-respect in even two of these five states/UT, the Gandhis may yet be able to keep the carpet. But should they be trounced in all five, well, they had a better lookout. Little wonder that the all-round uncertainties are promoting a buzz about a “national government”, an absurd thought unless the RSS and India Inc show interest.