Rahul or Robert: Who blunders the most?

Last Updated: Fri, Oct 12, 2012 05:34 hrs

Let’s not be too hard on Rahul Gandhi now. A man in his forties, associated with a verb like “groomed”, an adjective like “young” and a noun like “scion”, is bound to suffer from an abandonment complex when his mama shifts focus to her son-in-law.

For the first time, Rahul Gandhi went nearly a whole week without trending on Twitter on merit of his faux pas. For the first time, the likes of Digvijay Singh, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Manish Tewari weren’t arguing with news anchors on Rahul’s behalf.

For the first time, Robert Vadra made news for a scandal all by himself. And it wasn’t heading a cavalcade of motorcycles, or carrying foreign currency, or growing a Chulbul Pandey moustache, no sir. It was a real scandal, involving exclusive property in some of the poshest localities of the National Capital Region.

For the first time since he married into the Nehru-Gandhi family, Robert Vadra fought his way to the limelight. He even had the Congress’ top brass defending him and his land deals on television.

He got his usually reticent mother-in-law to speak about him for arguably the first time. And she called him a “businessman”. Not her daughter’s husband, not the blemish on her campaign in Uttar Pradesh, but a businessman, who inked important deals.

Hell, Robert Vadra even got Arnab Goswami angry. Who would have thought Vadra of all people could enrage anyone who wasn’t in the Fashion Police?

For a day, and then two, and then three, Robert Vadra made the front pages of newspapers, the prime time slot of television news, and the top ten trends on Twitter. If his moustache weren’t restricted to, umm, well, Chulbul proportions, he would have twirled it. But it is what it is, and so he did the next best thing to celebrate – came up with a gaffe.

It’s believed that punning is the lowest grade of comedy, and to make a pun involving two semantic errors, such as “Mango people in a Banana Republic”, is as easy as it is marketable.

No wonder, then, that his brother-in-law decided to force his way into the public imagination again. Gaffes, after all, are Rahul’s strength. And if he didn’t displace Robert the first chance he got, well, next thing you know, Vadra would be sleeping in Dalit huts and cutting into their food supply.

And so, Rahul bit the bullet. Where Vadra had allegedly made friends in Haryana, Rahul instantly made enemies in Punjab. He made three statements, each of which was powerful enough to make him trend on Twitter, which he appears to believe is directly linked to his faring at the hustings.

First, by shooting off a random statistic such as “Seven out of ten people in Punjab are on drugs”, he outdid his earlier visions in Uttar Pradesh, where he claimed to have seen burnt bodies and raped women.

Second, by calling India “The Saudi Arabia of the twenty-first century”, he compared a democracy of a billion people, who are poor only if they make less than Rs 35 a day, with an alarming record of foeticide, female infanticide and crime against women, to an oil-rich kingdom that doesn’t allow its women to drive, levies no taxes, and boasts some of the tallest buildings in the world. If at all anyone should be offended, it’s the Saudis. The only thing we’ve got in common is hereditary rule.

Third, he said the money sent to Punjab for scholarships for Scheduled Castes and Tribes is sent back without being utilised. What better way to reiterate the expertise he has acquired on Dalit affairs from treating their homes like B&Bs?

As I write this piece, ‘Rahul Gandhi’ and the hashtag #YoRahulSoDumb have been trending for more than twelve hours. His gaffe has spawned so many fake accounts that several government departments may end up spending a good chunk of the following day blocking them.

The young Congress scion who is being groomed for Prime Ministership 2014 is clearly back in our collective radar. The pretender whose income has gone from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 500 crore in the last three years, by some estimates, will be shoved to the bottom of the front page, and out of the top trends. The nine o’ clock news belongs to a Gandhi again.

As Robert Browning may have said, if he’d had access to the drugs Rahul believes he has seen, “The gaffe’s put him in his heaven, and all’s right with the world.”