I begin this piece with a quote from the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, who wrote in “The Revolt of the Masses” that was published in 1929, that “The characteristic note of our time is the dire truth that the mediocre soul, the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be mediocre, has the gall to assert its right to mediocrity, and goes on to impose itself where it can.” When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the other so-called spokespersons of the Congress keep repeating the mantra that Rahul Gandhi has “outstanding credentials to be nominated” as the Prime Minister, it validates Ortega’s observation about the commonplace mind trying to impose a mediocre soul on the country. What are these outstanding credentials that are being touted by the PM? Apart from him being born in the Family with its appurtenances of abundant wealth and privilege; as also the fortuitous circumstance of a respected surname, Rahul Gandhi partially typifies Ortega’s mass man who “is the self-satisfied specialist in a post-industrial society who knows expertly his own corner of the universe but is ignorant of the rest: a ‘learned ignoramus.’ The mass man is interested in automobiles, anesthetics, and all manner of sundries. And these things confirm his profound lack of interest in civilization itself. For all these things are merely products of civilization and the passion he displays for them makes more crudely obvious his insensibility to the principles which made them possible.” Partially – because he does not qualify to be called an expert knower of the corner of his own universe. The UPA has only two power centers – and he happens to be one of them. Yet, he comes up with an intervention at a press conference conducted by one of his own ministers and proceeds to trash and tear up an ordinance that had been approved and passed by the Central cabinet. We know that the Central cabinet does not move a finger without the prior approval of the first power of centre. Another time he chooses to intervene when Prithviraj Chavan, the CM of Maharashtra, and his cabinet reject the Adarsh scam enquiry commission’s report. It is obvious that he does not know what is happening in the corner of his universe, as otherwise he could have used his power and influence to prevent such decisions from being taken in the first place.
Rahul Gandhi does not know what he is expected to do. It seems he is much more comfortable in the role of a vigilante, one of those comic-book superheroes, who suddenly appear on a scene, perform their acts, and vanish into the thin air. Whenever some responsibility, like leading the election campaign in a state, has been assigned to him, he has inevitably come a cropper. His academic credentials remain shrouded in mystery and controversy. When Manmohan Singh was appointed as the Prime Minister, a series of e-mails was doing the round of the web highlighting his academic qualifications, calling him the highest qualified Prime Minister in the world. It is a different matter that this highly educated and vastly experienced bureaucrat presided over the most brazenly corrupt and inefficient government in the history of independent India. But, at least, he has a resume that can impress leaders of the international community who would find it hard to deny him an audience. On matters relating to the economy, he would be familiar with all the terminology and the jargon that passes for high thinking. Rahul Gandhi, I am afraid, would find it hard to explain the difference between fiscal and revenue deficits.
The shrill Indian media has been barking at Narendra Modi and the Aam Aadmi Party to explain their visions for the future. Sagarika Ghose of CNN-IBN had imperiously twittered ten questions to Modi that she wanted him to reply. Arnab Goswami, another one from this tribe of obnoxious and supremely opinionated news anchors has questions of all and sundry, but his campaign “the nation wants to know” has no questions for Rahul Gandhi. The electronic media today is increasingly adopting the aspirations of the mob. The mob like the TV camera has no historical memory – it considers only what is within its immediate field of vision, not the complicating facts beyond it. The Economist, in the leading article “Would Modi wreck India or save it?” wants “an unambiguous public demonstration that he abhors violence and discrimination against Muslims” as “a bare minimum.” Otherwise, this newspaper will not back him. Nowhere have I read that Narendra Modi has requested The Economist to endorse him for the Prime Minister’s post.
One does not have to look too far to see how Rahul Gandhi would perform if he were to become the PM of the country. Just look at the state of Uttar Pradesh, where another scion of a political dynasty has been the Chief Minister for some time now. Both Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav come from almost similarly privileged backgrounds, appear to have similar intellectual capabilities, and have lived lives that require no effort. A life of entertainment and convenience produces ever shallower leaders. Nor are such leaders well advised. Such shallow and childlike leaders and advisors would, by the very virtue of their lack of wisdom and experience, eventually commit the kind of ghastly miscalculation that would lead to general catastrophe of some kind. Countries with young populations are subject to political violence. With Third World populations growing dramatically, and becoming increasingly urbanized, leaders have to become increasingly ingenious in resolving crises that are inevitable due to an ever increasing demand for basic necessities, jobs and services. They have to have the ability to negotiate with an increasingly complex web of international corporations and markets that are becoming the real arbiters of power in the current world. Jeffrey Sachs, the well known professor of international trade writes that “good government means relative safety from corruption, from breach of contract, from property expropriation, and from bureaucratic inefficiency.” The UPA government, led by the “highest qualified Prime Minister in the World” has failed in all the above criteria. What are those “outstanding credentials” that this Prime Minister sees in Rahul Gandhi which are, until now, hidden from us?
Robert D. Kaplan”s succinct statement that “avoiding tragedy requires a sense of it, which in turn requires a sense of history” encapsulates the tragedy of the Congress party that has got itself trapped in a time warp where the beginning and the end of everything is contained in the Gandhi surname.
To conclude with another quote from Jose Ortega y Gasset: “An ‘unemployed’ existence is a worse negation of life than death itself.”