Yesterday, at PM Modi’s special event for “exam warriors,” one Girish Singh, a Class XI student from Delhi asked the Prime Minister the following question (rough paraphrase):
My Board Exams are next year. But you also have a board exam coming up in 2019. How are your preparations for that?
I really wanted to listen. And the crux of the answer brought tears to my eyes. After some general remarks regarding karma, hard work and optimism, the Prime Minister said (again, slight paraphrase)
“Many years ago, there used to be a party called the Jan Sangh. Its symbol was a deepak. I was a member of that party. Those were the days when we didn’t even have the money to paint our election symbol the deepak anywhere. With great difficulty, we managed to find 103 candidates to contest the Gujarat elections for our party. And it so happened that in the election, as many as 99 candidates lost their deposits. But four deposits came back. We in the Jan Sangh were so delighted that we had a celebration for saving those four deposits. We celebrated, we ate mithai. It is this attitude that has carried us from there to here.”
You may not be a BJP supporter. You may be a supporter of Congress. Or even some regional party. Perhaps you are not even interested in politics. But you know that there is a lesson to be learnt there.
What is your dream in life? Perhaps you are a student preparing for Board Exams. Do you dream of going to IIT and getting a high paid job? Do you want to become a doctor? Do you dream of becoming a great scientist and winning a Nobel Prize? Do you want to become an author or a poet?
It doesn’t matter. There is a lesson for you to learn from the way the BJP and the Sangh Parivar have built themselves up in India’s politics against “impossible” odds.
What do I have to learn from the Congress? What do I have to learn from Rahul Gandhi? That, if my great-grandfather was rich and powerful, I don’t have to work for a day in my life? Is that supposed to be a lesson?
I don’t blame Rahul Gandhi for being born into the Dynasty. Obviously, he did not choose to be born in it. But the fact remains that his life provides me with ZERO actionable lessons. He was born a privileged prince, I was born a common person. There’s literally nothing I can do with information about the life he has lived, immune to failure no matter what.
If there is a lesson from Rahul baba’s life, it is roughly this: Lottery winners are lucky. That is a tautology. There’s nothing I can do with that information. Can you?
When we were kids, every story that we heard from our elders and every story that was in our school textbooks was supposed to end in a “moral.” A common theme was something like this: the rich kid has everything in life, grows arrogant and lazy and treats everyone else poorly. Meanwhile, poor kid works harder because he gets nothing handed to him.
Finally, a day comes when the poor kid grows up and becomes much more successful than the rich kid. You could easily name lots of movies and TV serials with the same basic plot.
For me, that is also the story of the BJP/RSS versus the Gandhis. No matter what the Gandhis did, every action of theirs was praised to high heaven by courtiers in media, academia and popular culture. This is not limited simply to courtiers praising Rahul Gandhi merely for taking a break from vacation to campaign somewhere, or gushing desperately to write “Rahul has come of age” every time he manages to spell his name correctly. This has been happening for decades. Let’s just ask a few simple questions:
Who brought the Emergency? Congress did. But which party is repeatedly accused of being fascist? RSS/BJP!
Which party runs purely on hereditary privilege? Congress. But which party do our intellectuals accuse of having a casteist and/or feudal mindset? RSS/BJP!
Which party has massacred millions of people across the world? Communists. But which party is repeatedly accused of being violent? RSS/BJP.
Which party made a deal with the British about dividing India? Which party presided over Partition riots that killed 30 lakh, people? Which party’s leaders were at the breakfast table of the British every day? Who benefitted most from the deals they made with the British?
Yet, who got “credit” for the independence of India? Congress!
Who got accused of riots and of conspiring with the British? Not the people who presided over Partition riots that killed 30 lakh people. Not the people who were at the breakfast table with the British Viceroy every day. But the RSS/BJP got blamed.
No, seriously. Please see here Sudheendra Kulkarni’s blog on NDTV explaining why RSS thought is the real reason for the division of India. Did you know?
The Congress tried to ban the Sangh multiple times. Another example of their belief in freedom of expression. But despite all the crushing odds, the RSS/BJP survived. Just like the moral “rich kid vs poor kid” theme I was talking about.
Not only did RSS/BJP survive, they thrived. And one day they stood up so high that they dwarfed the Grand Old Party of privilege.
There is a lesson there. And you can learn it and apply it to your own life. Whether or not you support BJP.
Right now, the Congress Party is reduced to just five Chief Ministers. There are three Assembly Elections happening right now. You would think that Rahul Gandhi would be moving mountains to capture power in those states.
But, no, the rich kid doesn’t care. Rahul Gandhi made a summary appearance in Tripura yesterday, almost a formality. Who is sweating hard to win Tripura? Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. They have 14 Chief Ministers but they are fighting for more.
A lesson to be learned there. Because in the Gujarat elections of December, Amit Shah, now party President, voted at the same place where he used to be a booth worker. It is only when you know what it means to work hard and achieve the success that your life contains lessons for others.
But Rahul can’t care about Tripura. It’s too small for him. It has just 2 Lok Sabha seats. But the BJP knows the value of 2 Lok Sabha seats. Back in 1984, their entire tally was just 2!
One difficult day in 1958, Atalji sat down with Advaniji to his side and assured him, Phir subah hogi (There will be a new dawn). It’s the courage that comes from knowing that you are building something from the ground up. The taste of mithai from the celebration of 4 candidates saving their deposits in Gujarat… that is the taste that stays with you and propels you to six consecutive victories in the state.
You may not be a BJP supporter. But you know you can always learn something from them and strive to make your life a little better. To aim higher. To work harder. To battle the odds no matter what. And then, ask yourself: is there anything you can learn from Rahul Gandhi? Anything at all?
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.