It was a depressing sight: Our nation’s tallest leaders, led by the Prime Minister, standing in line outside the door of 10 Janpath. They were there to offer flowers and express their ‘deep gratitude’ to Sonia Gandhi. For what? For her completing ten years as their boss.
Depressing, too, was an advertisement that appeared prominently in Bangalore newspapers last week: “Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee—Hearty welcome to our Beloved Leader, Symbol of Emerging Vibrant Young India Sri Rahul Gandhiji”. A shade less cringing, let’s admit, than the letter written some time ago by a Hyderabadi Congressman who wanted Sonia Gandhi to nominate him to the Andhra Legislative Council. Wrote he: “Highly Honourable Madam Sonia Gandhi… In 1994 I started Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi Brigade as an independent organisation…”
Two ground rules govern this kind of slavish toadyism. First, it does not happen without the tacit encouragement of the beneficiaries. At the AICC meeting in 2004, ingratiating speeches by groveling netas went on for so long that Sonia told them not to waste time praising her. But, of course, she didn’t mean it. If she did, she could have simply told the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues not to line up outside her door for a silly chore like expressing gratitude on a silly occasion like completing one more year on top of the heap. She didn’t do that because, like all those who get everything for nothing, she loves fawning courtiers.
The second rule of slavishness is that only those on the approved list of the moment are to be eulogised. With Sonia Gandhi consolidating her position, Indira Gandhi has retreated into the background and Rajiv Gandhi has come forward in posters, advertisements and speeches. Similarly, Rahul Gandhi is officially put upfront, making it incumbent on sycophants to mention Priyanka Gandhi’s name only in passing, if at all. In all dynastic systems, hierarchy is important.
The pervasive prominence given to Rajiv Gandhi has triggered a controversy over the Hyderabad airport. In fact, if there is any airport in the country that should not be named after Rajiv Gandhi, it is the Hyderabad airport because it was at the Hyderabad airport that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi publicly insulted Chief Minister T. Anjiah, and thereby wounded Andhra’s atma-gauravam.
An attempt by the late Madhavarao Scindia to name the Bombay airport after Rajiv Gandhi was thwarted by Maharashtrians. But Andhra’s current Chief Minister is a Congressman. He had already moved to prove his loyalty by re-christening the Telugu Desam Government’s youth and land programmes after Rajiv Gandhi.
Indeed, there is an epidemic of Rajiv Gandhi institutions across the land—Rajiv Gandhi Academy of Pharmacy, Rajiv Gandhi Computer Literacy Programme, Rajiv Gandhi National Quality Award, Rajiv Gandhi Vaidyutheekaran Yojana, Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission, Rajiv Gandhi College of Animal Studies. Jairam Ramesh even suggested renaming the MacMohan Line as the Deng-Rajiv Line. It only remains for the Indian Ocean to be named Rajiv Gandhi Mahasamudra.
Now we begin to understand the appropriateness of a caption in The Economist’s latest issue. Under a photograph of a joyous Sonia Gandhi, the caption said simply: “Italy’s most successful politician”.
(Courtesy : The New Indian Express)