Weird wannabe- Rahul Gandhi's journey from all-night party to daylight nautanki

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For someone who  remembers that Rahul Gandhi’s spontaneous response to Mumbai 2008 was to party  all night in honor of the forthcoming nuptials of his pal Samir Sharma, the aam aadmi bonhomie his inner circle  contrived in the city on Friday, cut little ice.

Political observers  like your writer concluded, correctly, that the fact that Congress’s  PM-in-waiting felt it was perfectly moral to live it up at a night-long  farmhouse party – where other guests were privately shocked at his very  presence – meant that the ruling UPA intended to take the worst-ever  Pakistan-sponsored fidayeen attack on the country’s commercial capital in its  stride.

The conclusion was  confirmed when Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, accompanied  by son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Vadra, attended the wedding of the  son of their crony, former union minister Satish Sharma, a few days later.

If India’s most  arrogant political family, which dominates the ruling coalition at the Centre,  does not think it fitting to avoid private revelry in the immediate aftermath  of a commando assault from the sea, which left 195 persons dead and took over  60 hours to subdue, Islamabad can hardly be blamed for treating New Delhi with  contempt. That is why once Uncle Sam forced Union Home Minister Pakistan  Chidambaram to agree to resume dialogue; Islamabad rubbed his nose in dirt by  postponing the SAARC meet!

News reports at the  time of Mumbai 2008 suggest that the ‘sangeet’ party, which took place barely three days after the three-day slaughter at Taj,  Trident, Shivaji Terminus and Chabad House, saw the Congress princeling  partying hard till 5 in the morning. After all, his childhood buddy and  US-based furniture designer, Samir Sharma, was getting married. The venue was a  sprawling farmhouse at Radhey Mohan Chowk, beyond Chhatarpur, a haven of those  who lead charmed lives.
  So rarefied is the atmosphere in these circles that Rahul Gandhi was unaware  that the rest of the nation was busy cancelling scheduled celebrations, even  weddings. So while the kith and kin of 195 dead (and scores injured), either  mourned for their dear dead, or cared for their wounded survivors, the Congress  party’s PM-in-waiting rejoiced with 800-odd Page 3 types at an extravaganza  hosted by Leena Musafir, sister of Samir’s bride-to-be. *

Although Sonia Gandhi has made it an  unwavering practice to accompany the Prime Minister or Home Minister to every  tragedy-struck spot and grab media space, and hence flew with the Prime  Minister to Mumbai as well, I am not aware if the Amethi MP ever visited the  city to meet the families of the heroes or victims of that commando assault on  the city.

Rahul’s current visit to Mumbai comes on the  heels of Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s controversial visit to Azamgarh, UP,  where he met the families of alleged terrorists and cast aspersions over the  facts of the Batla House encounter in Delhi, in which Inspector MC Sharma lost  his life. I mention this because Uttar Pradesh, like Bihar and Tamil Nadu, is a  state from which citizens migrate to Mumbai in quest of a livelihood.

And if there is one thing common to the  states whose sons and daughters run to Mumbai for a living – it is that in all  these states, the polity, regardless of the party in power, has been  Muslim-appeasing (what is called secular). This means there is a connection  between Muslim-appeasing politics and lack of development, which triggers  outward migration to states where private enterprise ensures the means to  survival, even if poor governance is unable to ensure a modicum of facilities  for dignified living; hence Mumbai’s world famous Dharavi and other slums. *

Indian citizens who come to Mumbai because  the constitution gives them the unfettered right to live and work anywhere in  the country, must remember that it is the lack of opportunities in their home  states that has driven them to this metropolis. Certainly their own hard work  and enterprise add to its allure, but the ‘equal rights’ of the new citizens of  the city cannot legitimately negate the ‘equal rights’ and respect of native  residents.

If Mumbai is not to suffer a slip disc,  someone will have to glue together the vertebrae of two sections of its  citizenry, with empathy and compassion.

This cannot be done by a covertly contrived  commingling with commuters in a suburban train during a four-hour visit; it  needs political sagacity and will. Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray is not  wrong to mock Rahul Gandhi’s made-to-look-spontaneous visit to a local ATM; he  cleverly lambasted the Centre for using Mumbai as a source of Any Time Money.

Rahul’s security arrangements were competent  – as indeed they should be – but as the Sena leader pointed out, similar  security for the common man would rule out terrorist attacks altogether. Who can  argue with that?

It was a mistake by Rahul’s inner circle of  advisers, who rustled up a fairly cute drama to thumb their noses at the Sena  threat of black flags, to not inform the chief minister of their plans. By  forcing Ashok Chavan to wait under a tree for two long hours to receive the  princeling, they made a mockery of the dignity of the Chief Minister’s office.  Nor were they vigilant enough to stop the Minister of State for Home from  picking up Rahul’s shoes, probably to ensure no one stole them as a souvenir –  though he clarified that he took charge of them because they were too close to  the pedestal of Dr Ambedkar’s statue! Quick thinking, that!

Uddhav Thackeray  may be wrong in sniffing a conspiracy to detach Mumbai from Maharashtra. But  this cannot be dismissed out of hand as such a move could serve the Western  objective of fully integrating India with the global (read US-controlled)  economy, making money extraction from the Indian market easier, and eroding the  current safeguards that saved the Indian middle class in the American economic  meltdown. Hence we need to be on guard against any sudden and sinister move by  a regime that takes telephonic instructions from New York or Washington DC.

Meanwhile, no one  is being bashed up in the streets of Mumbai. And anyway, the local elements  that have made Mumbai unsafe – in 1993, in 2008 – belong to the community that  is being heavily appeased by our political class, and no one is doing anything  about it.

Uddhav Thackeray’s  overtures to cousin Raj Thackeray and his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are  timely. Both should rapidly bury the past and make up among themselves, and  with the BJP – Hindus need Ram and Shyam on the same side. Raj would by now  have realized that Congress is an unworthy ally – having used him efficiently  to scuttle the SS-BJP victory in the assembly elections, it is now preparing to  sacrifice him in quest of victory in distant Patna. Uddhav on his part must realize  that Raj has political value, and must be given his due.

BJP on its part  must realize that it cannot afford to lose Bihar to an assertive Congress, and  make necessary adjustments. The party foolishly lost Haryana on account of the  arrogance (and wheeling dealing) of some so-called national leaders, but the  new president Nitin Gadkari must know that he cannot afford failure at any  price. Forming the government in Jharkhand was wise; sending two chief  ministers to grace the swearing-in ceremony after Delhi-based prima donnas  created tantrums was intelligent; now staying the course with allies who are  maintaining loyalty is the need of the hour.

Once his formal  anointment is over later this month, Gadkari would do well to ask the Senas to  join hands against moves to bring reservations for Muslims and Christians, as  suggested by the Ranganath Mishra Commission.*

As for actor  Shahrukh Khan, he was right to go along with the concerted IPL-3 boycott of  Pakistani players, in solidarity with Mumbai’s suffering in 2008. It would be  interesting to know if someone in Delhi inspired him to publicly lament the  non-inclusion of Pakistani players. Bleeding heart Chidambaram is an obvious  suspect, though there would doubtless be other candidates for this honor.

The surprise is  that Shahbana Azmi and Emraan Khan (of ‘I can’t buy a house because I am a  Muslim’ fame) kept silent. They did not speak for Pakistan or even for poor  Khan. Regardless of whether My name is  Khan is finally released in Mumbai or not, Shahrukh like colleague Imran  Khan, will get the message – Hell hath no Fury like a Hindu in Rage – and will  henceforth tone down his assertion of an overtly Muslim identity.

As for Rahul baba,  he already knows Mumbai is the easiest city in which to prove that all Indians  have an equal right to work and play in.

The real test of  this doctrine is in Muslim majority Kashmir, where the Hindu community of his  great-grandfather became further victim to that gentleman’s faulty politics and  flawed political understanding, and was forced out of home and hearth two  decades ago.

Let Rahul march to abolish  Article 370, to rehabilitate displaced Kashmiri Hindus in the State, to settle  the 3 million Af-Pakistan tormented Sikhs there, and to enable citizens like us  to own cottages near the Dal Lake.

That is a mission  that would truly show his mettle.

The writer is  Editor of and article first appeared in

Editor –
1.  Now that Rahul Gandhi has travelled by Mumbai’s local  trains, one can hope that he got a feel of the inhuman conditions in which  lakhs of Mumbaikars travel. If Rahul convinces Railway Minister Mamata Didi to  improve the quality of service or Chief Minister Ashok Chawan to start a ferry  service on the lines of Hongkong, his visit to Mumbai may well be worth it.
2.  If Rahul Gandhi and the Youth Congress feel for  Mumbaikars they should ensure that those responsible for Mumbai’s Bomb Blasts  of 1993 and 2006 are convicted. 1993 to 2010 nearly 17 years yet those  responsible for 1993 blasts have still not been convicted. Rahul could instead have  visited the families of those who died in the ghastly July 2006 local train blasts.  He would have won our hearts. But!
3.  Wish politicians realize that Authors and Actors use  them to generate controversies before the release of a book or movie so that they  get free publicity. It is a smart way of reducing marketing cost and increasing  curiosity about the movie or book. Can you imagine the free publicity  Shahrukh’s latest movie, My name is Khan, has got and that too for free.
4.  Another interesting thought. The Govt of India’s  decision to renew talks with Pakistan came a few days after Shahrukh K went  public with his statement on hiring of Pakistani cricket players for IPL 3. Was  his statement part of the Government’s track 2 initiative? Since he is known to  have close relations with the Gandhi family one cannot discount this  observation. Also note that the Govt decision came about one month after the  Times of India launched ‘Aman ki Asha’, an Indo-Pak friendship initiative. Food  for thought!

Also read –
1. Why the Thackeray cousins must unite
2. Subtle messages by Shahrukh Khan Om Shanthi Om
3. Maratha Supremacy in the 18th century
4. How the BMC can be more creative
5. Blasts in Mumbai 1993 to 2009

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