Congress President and great 2019 Liberal Hope Rahul Gandhi is really bad software which keeps updated with endless versions. Nobody has probably received more image makeovers than him…
1. The Sphinx (Pre-2004)
The Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty is treated like royalty and shrouded in secrecy. Their Right to Privacy trumps the fundamental rights of 1.36 billion Indians. Before 2004 nobody knew anything about both Pappu and sister Priyanka and who would enter politics and whether both of them would.
Pappu was treated with kid gloves and travelled all over the world in his private cocoon, the security of which was sponsored by the Government of India. He was always seen as a future Prime Minister of India, though who was always in Priyanka’s shadow as she had captured the public imagination at that time.
2. The Gentleman (2004)
Pappu entered politics with a bang. A great debut. A win in Amethi. A Congress Prime Minister. After his mother turned down the Prime Minister’s post, he officially became the Heir Apparent and got far more respect in the Congress party than Prime Minister Manmohan ever could.
Pappu cultivated a calm gentlemanly political narrative and rarely got angry or engaged too much with any politician or media house. Then he got a triple whammy in the 2007 elections. He was promoted to Congress General Secretary, Chairperson of Indian Youth Congress and National Students Union of India.
3. The Statesman (2009)
This is probably his peak. Pappu campaigned in many Lok Sabha constituencies and Congress saw an unexpected jump from 145 to 206 seats. The media and public went with the Singh is King Nuclear Deal narrative, but that was thrown into the dustbin within the Congress and full credit was given to Pappu.
In fact some even boasted that Manmohan would be kicked upstairs to the India President’s post in 2012, Pappu would be made Prime Minister and lead the Congress to 272+ seats in the 2014 elections. Many bought into this narrative.
4. The Angry Young Man (Run up to 2014)
However that fell apart in 2010 with the Commonwealth Games scam which looked as damaging as Bofors at that time. However 2011 proved to be worse with the 2G scam and Anna Hazare’s August Kranti. It was all over by the 2012 Coalgate scam.
Pappu was protected. The party now became scared to announce him as Prime Ministerial candidate for 2014. Since the people were angry, Pappu was presented as the new Angry Young Man. He would roll up his sleeves, sport a stubble, rant and rave like a commoner and even tear up ordinances on a public stage.
But the Indian public in general and Twitter in particular saw him more of a comedian than a real life version of Amitabh Bachchan.
5. The Confused Young Man (2014 onward)
Everyone expected the BJP to win and Congress to lose, but the sheer magnitude of the loss shocked everyone. The lowest Lok Sabha seats the Congress ever got before 2014 was 114 and the highest the BJP got was 182.
So for the BJP to thrash Congress 282-44 was unprecedented and threw the Grand Old Party off guard. And also Pappu and his advisors? Was he the Great Unifier that would bring all the opposition together and challenge Modi? Or was he the Lone Ranger.
Was he the #KhaatPeCharcha “commoner” who would resonate with the masses? Was he the Angry Young Man Sequel returning to his rolled up sleeves and stubble ranting and raving at the establishment? Well he kept changing like a chameleon and the random changing colours made everyone’s head spin. Then he was also presented as a janeudhari Brahmin to appeal to the masses!
6. The Congress President (2017)
Pappu paas ho gaya! Whether you like it or not, Pappu finally became the top ranking opposition leader. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are powerless. Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha are no more. Nitish Kumar is with NDA and KCR may go that way too after 2019. Chandrababu Naidu has accepted Pappu as his master. Arvind Kejriwal is a bigger joke. Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee are confined to their respective states.
With Sonia Gandhi stepping down from the party President’s post, Pappu is finally the undisputed numero uno in Opposition India. Of course it’s not that his personal stature has grown, but the fact that everyone has shrunk around him!
7. The Great Hope (2019)
Make no mistake. The media, intellectuals and Liberals still hate Prime Minister Narendra Modi with all their hearts and souls. In the run up to the 2019 general elections, all of Pappu’s gaffes, jokes, mistakes, foh pahz, misdemeanours… will be totally forgotten and he will be presented fresh for the umpteenth time as the Great Hope of 2019 (the Great Hope of 2014 that was created in 2009 will be simply repackaged).