Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi in his 10 years in politics has dramatized a great deal of symbolic acts. Here are some of them...
1. Eating in a Dalit home: He initially received a lot of good press for doing this and spending time with the aam aadmi. Not only did he eat food in a humble home, but he also spent the night there. He was even seen carrying a big pan with a worker. Of course much later this became the butt of jokes and today nobody takes it seriously.
Kumar Vishwas of the AAP claimed that he visited one such a home and helped them out by helping to build a roof over their heads, trumping Pappu.
2. Travelling by local train: In one of Pappu's visits to Mumbai, the Shiv Sena was planning to stage a black flag demonstration against him. Pappu skipped his helicopter ride and went to an ATM and withdrew money and bought tickets for a local train which he took much to admiration of onlookers.
While he was hailed for travelling like an aam aadmi by many, it totally took the wind out of the Sena sails.
3. Power is poison statement: In one of his speeches, he spoke candidly of the difficulties of ruling and the fact that his mother (Congress President Sonia Gandhi) told him how power was poison.
Pappu may have got away with it had it not been for Twitter and the jokes came non-stop. Later his mother also thundered how the BJP was sowing the seeds of poison in the country and that also became a matter of ridicule.
4. Publicly Calling ordinance nonsense: The Congress was shamelessly bringing in an ordinance that would have nullified court action against convicted legislators. While spokesperson Ajay Maken was soundly defending it, Pappu came and called it nonsense and said it should be torn up.
While it had great dramatic effect and was for a noble cause, some pointed out that the President may have been on the verge of sending the ordinance and this may in effect have just been a face saver.
5. Actually tearing up a list: In a rally in Lucknow, Pappu attacked the BSP and SP for not meeting their pre-poll promises. Then he took out a sample list of promises, read them out and tore it up and threw it down for effect.
Those were his glory days and the crowds cheered him on for that and so did the TV news channels.
6. Congress primaries: Pappu wants to empower the aam aadmi and hence he has brought in the concept of primaries and also says he will bring in common people into the Congress system by giving them tickets for the elections.
The only irony is that he himself is part of a dynasty and favours other dynasts like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot. Will he open up the post of Congress President to the common man?
7. The Arnab interview: BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi rarely gives one-on-one interviews and hasn't been grilled by an anchor after his candidature was announced by the BJP. Pappu decided to do one up on that.
"Justice" Arnab Goswami, the loudest and most obnoxious TV anchor, was chosen to show that Pappu could face the fire. But this backfired spectacularly and the interview cast Pappu in really bad light and he was at the butt of non-stop jokes on social networking sites.
8. Solidarity with NE protestors: The gruesome killing of Arunachal student Nido Tania sent shock waves throughout India. In New Delhi, Pappu decided to join a group of protestors and express solidarity with them and speak to them.
Arvind Kejriwal also jumped in later. While it's great symbolism, it's pretty sad that a future Prime Minister and a sitting Chief Minister are doing this instead of actually governing and bringing about changes in the system to prevent such things from happening in the future.
Had Pappu indulged in all this symbolism in his first term as MP from 2004-09, becoming a minister from 2009-14 and actually bringing about changes in the system that he is talking about, then a lot more people would have backed him for Prime Minister. But all this symbolism (nautanki for his detractors) has been running for 10 years now and may even continue for 5 more years if a stable NDA2 is formed in the coming months.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.