This appeared in Mumbai Mirror....
So, whose daughter are you, anyway…?
Full disclosure : I am partial towards Priyanka Gandhi. There. I’ve said it. My soft corner for her has nothing to do with her politics. Or the party she is willy- nillly ‘belongs’ to. So, in my case, there’s nothing official about it. I have never met her. Chances are, I am unlikely to do so in future. Despite that, I like her. I guess one can call me her fan girl ( or rather, fan woman). I don’t have a problem with that, either. The thing is, one suspends logic and rational thinking around people who exude high wattage charisma . Priyanka is such a person. Which is another reason that makes one wonder why the Congress party kept its ace card under wraps till it was too late. Priyanka could ably conduct a master class in PR . Her people skills are awesome. And she is a total natural when it comes to campaigning. If, in earlier elections, it was her relaxed body language and effortless charm that wowed the media and voters, this time, it’s her feisty and aggressive frontal attacks, adopting a completely different body language, that has captivated Priyanka watchers. Will she emerge as the most important game changer for Rahul-Sonia-Congress? Unlikely. Chances are a great deal of wound licking will take place later this month. But that is not Priyanka’s fault. Poor Priyanka has an albatross around her neck ( Robert Vadra ).And now, some sections of the press have deliberately distorted Narendra Modi’s innocuous comment to DD (“Beti toh beti hi hoti hai”) and said NAMO wants to play her Daddyji! For once, my sympathies are with Narendrabhai.
However, I do come across countless ‘Unclejis’ who want to play Daddyjis and pull out this silly card when they want to hit on young girls. It is seriously puke making, but it happens. I have always had a problem with middle-aged men claiming, “ You are like my own beti,” when they are introduced to PYTs. Translated, it means : Don’t mind if I paw you, baby. Generally speaking, the lechy expression in their eyes gives the game away instantly. There’s nothing remotely paternal about it. And yet, this rubbish about creating instant ‘betis’ is a sentiment endorsed and applauded by our hypocritical society. We live in an unambiguously patriarchal system to begin with.Add to that political mischief mongers who specialize in twisting words. Besides, as Priyanka herself pointed out sharply, she has a father. His name is Rajiv Gandhi. And she isn’t looking for a poor substitute! So there!!
It makes me sick when elderly men eagerly hug and squeeze nubile girls and trot out those seriously annoying words (“ Namastey beti…. come, come, come… give uncle a hug… you are like my daughter”). It’s time more young women stood their ground and snubbed such creeps by saying, “ Hello!!! Uncleji… you are certainly not like my father. Now, get your filthy hands off me and behave yourself before I start screaming!” If more girls were to do that, there would be less Tejpals in our midst. Of course, in the case of Namo and Priyanka, the story has an entirely different subtext. Modi’s detractors didn’t waste a minute before pouncing on his generalized quote on daughters standing by their families (which is an entirely fair statement to make). It was maliciously twisted to suggest he had referred to Priyanka as his daughter! Tch! Tch! Who said this wasn’t going to be down and dirty fight? Perhaps it was a shrewdly thought out strategy to disarm the rival camp…. after all, the entry of Priyanka Gandhi was the ultimate masterstroke (no matter that the timing was hopelessly off). Rahul had already been written off as a threat to Modi, in any case. Then along came this one woman army - Revolver Rani clad in Khadi - spewing fire and giving it back to Namo, taunt for taunt! That must have shaken up the Modi bhakts, who hastily regrouped to come up with a strong Plan B. But before they could move ahead with it, the Congresswallas went into attack mode with the ‘Beti’ remark. Capitalising on the confusion, Priyanka struck back and pointed out that her father Rajiv Gandhi had ‘sacrificed his life for the country’. She made Rajiv Gandhi, the ultimate martyr and regained control of the situation. Unfortunately, this move backfired. If there are red faces around, they belong to the Congress.
As they say, all is fair in love, war and politics. No doubt Priyanka is on a roll, wading into crowds, ticking off her minders, and doing what she does best – connecting with people. It’s all good. But what can the poor woman do with Pink Panther – her hubby, Robert Vadra? Did the Congress campwallas realize the implication of that ‘she’s like my daughter’ controversy which would have automatically made Mr. Vadra, Narendra Modi’s ‘damaadji’?! Ha ha ha!
This appeared in Asian Age...
India to move from an Accidental P.M to an Overbearing P.M…?
Now that we know Manmohan Singh really and truly didn’t want the top job second time over ( Thank you, Sanjay Baru), but was forced to accept the wretched position ( boo hoo), it is time to worry. For starters, I find it hard to swallow that anybody can be pushed /coerced/ cajoled/ bullied into saying, “Yes’ to such an irresistible job offer. It’s a little like buying into those old Bollywood stories involving the notorious casting couch. There are any number of highly successful female stars today who claim they were forced to play ball with lecherous producers/directors/music composers/script writers/ cameramen/ and a small army of nasty, badmaash power brokers in the business , before bagging an important role. Remember that old line – “Hai! Hai! Meri majboori?”. Does Manmohan Singh’s predicament sound familiar? Okay, that said, Singh’s projection as a man allergic to the power of the kursi, but merely performing his national duty under duress, is most unbelievable. Hey…wait a minute, having accepted the damn job, wasn’t he obliged to do it well …. or, even at all?
Right now, we are dealing with two chaps who are both aiming for Manmohan Singh’s position. One chap can be called an Overbearing P.M. ( if he makes it). And the other, the Reluctant P.M. ( only a major miracle will get him the coveted kursi). What a choice, my countrymen! Unless, of course we are taken off guard yet again by an outsider. Let’s call that person the Unlikely P.M. This candidate could be a man or woman. If it turns out to be one of our ambitious ladies-in-waiting, then we shall have to ready ourselves for a Heavyweight P.M. If, on the other hand, we are stuck with the man who has the moolah ( well, there are two contenders in this category), we can call that person the Incidental P.M. or the Opportunistic P.M. Since this election is all about ‘ullu banao-ing’ the nation, it is the owl that should be declared our national bird henceforth . In all this ‘jhamela’ ( how the Bongs love using this all- purpose word!), we the voters will be forced to play Bewildered Audience, watching a person in the wings carrying cue cards instructing us to clap/laugh/sigh/ yell/cry/ gag/ or merely keep mum.
Last week’s running comedy show threw up just one mega star – Priyanka Gandhi. Now, here’s the thing. Had her Mummyji and Bhaiyya decided to push her directly into the fray, the story would have been dramatically different. Had Priyanka picked up the gauntlet and taken the plunge, she would have stood a pretty good chance of heading the family business and occupying the well guarded Gandhi gaddi. As it happens, Priyanka was only co-opted to play a cameo in the multi-crore home production. A little like Salman Khan doing some obscure producer a favour by appearing in the finale of a dud movie. Or, maybe even a Priyanka Chopra performing an item number to please a big ticket filmmaker who has yet to cast her in a magnum opus.Priyanka G is one Gandhi with enough star power to dazzle one billion people. And what does her party go and do? They save her for the last, hoping her magic dust will fall on her brother and mother. For, if those two lose, it will be the ultimate humiliation for the family. One from which there may be no recovery. That’s why Priyanka! Since quite a few magnetic political figures have nothing more to them than what is loosely called charisma, there is no need to look for any special gifts or qualifications in Priyanka, either. Surely, her people skills are known to Congress strategists? Surely, they are aware that she makes Rahul look good each time she affectionately hugs him? Surely, her adept handling of media is not a secret? Why then, was Priyanka Gandhi kept under wraps? Mystery piles up on mystery, where the Gandhis are concerned.There are those who insist it is a personal issue, that cannot be publicly aired. If that is so, one cannot argue with it.Priyanka is entitled to keep that part of her life personal. But look – it is Priyanka who is the real political animal in the Gandhi parivar. If she has chosen to stay out of full time, active politics, it must be with good reason – emotional/ psychological/medical. So be it. For with her in the fray (and it can still happen). We would have got An Enigmatic P.M.
If all this is sounding alarmingly like the Theatre of the Absurd, worry not, people of India. We have centuries of Jatra/ Nautanki traditions to remind us of our heritage. Indians love melodrama. We like exaggeration. We base our most profound choices on nothing more than intuition. In a fortnight’s time, we will have a brand new government in power. And a brand new Prime Minister sitting in Delhi. While Modi has all but crowned himself king after casting his vote in Gandhinagar, it is worth reminding him that a cricket match isn’t over till the last ball is bowled. And there are quite a few fast bowlers still around to take his wicket – mind it!