Why Rahul Gandhi’s outburst against the government strains credibility
The voters of Andhra Pradesh had been so loyal to the Indian National Congress from the very first general election that even when large parts of the country threw the Congress out after the Emergency was lifted in 1977, the Telugu people stood by Indira Gandhi. She wielded so much power that she could overlook the claim of every senior party leader and appoint the diminutive T. Anjaiah as chief minister. So beholden was Anjaiah to the Delhi durbar that he spent more time in Delhi than Hyderabad. He was loyalist par excellence.
Then one day Rajiv Gandhi landed at Hyderabad’s Begumpet airport, wagged his finger at Anjaiah, admonished him for some reason on the tarmac, in full view of the state’s council of ministers and the media, got into his plane and flew away to Delhi. Poor Anjaiah was reduced to tears. The media captured that unfortunate moment.
That photograph, of Rajiv admonishing Anjaiah and Anjaiah’s pathetic expression, was splashed across every newspaper in the state the next day. The revulsion of the Telugu people at New Delhi’s arrogance generated a sympathy wave for Anjaiah, which N.T. Rama Rao immediately took advantage of. NTR swept to power on Anjaiah’s bent back.
Those who have inhabited Delhi’s durbar have always been given a reality check every now and then by the ordinary people of this subcontinent. If Rajiv had good reasons to upbraid Anjaiah, he could easily have done that in private. Why did he have to do it on an airport tarmac in full view of the media? Everyone concluded that Rajiv was either arrogant or immature.
The Anjaiah episode sprang to mind as I watched Rahul Gandhi seek to project himself as the angry young man of the Congress Party rebelling against the sleaze and the corruption of his seniors. It would have been one thing if Rahul had in fact publicly upbraided someone known to be sleazy or corrupt and ejected him from a position of power. That would turn him into a hero. Instead, he chose to embarrass his own party spokesperson, who was first defending a decision of the party’s own government and was then forced to criticise it, and worse, he embarrassed the entire government by describing a decision of the Union cabinet as “nonsense”.
Perhaps the decision was wrong. But why was this view not expressed when the issue was