I begin this piece with a quote from the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, who wrote in “The Revolt of the Masses” that was published in 1929, that “The characteristic note of our time is the dire truth that the mediocre soul, the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be mediocre, has the gall to assert its right to mediocrity, and goes on to impose itself where it can.”
When the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the other so-called spokespersons of the Congress keep repeating the mantra that Rahul Gandhi has “outstanding credentials to be nominated” as the Prime Minister of India, it validates Ortega’s observation about the commonplace mind trying to impose a mediocre soul on the country. What are these outstanding credentials that are being touted by the Congress leaders?
Apart from him being born in the Family with its appurtenances of abundant wealth and privilege; as also the fortuitous circumstance of a respected surname, Rahul Gandhi “partially” typifies Ortega’s mass man who “is the self-satisfied specialist in a post-industrial society who knows expertly his own corner of the universe but is ignorant of the rest: a ‘learned ignoramus.’
The mass man is interested in automobiles, anaesthetics, and all manner of sundries. And these things confirm his profound lack of interest in civilization itself. For all these things are merely products of civilization and the passion he displays for them makes more crudely obvious his insensibility to the principles which made them possible.
Why “partially?” – because he does not qualify to be called an expert knower of the corner of his own universe. The Congress has only two power centres – and he happens to be one of them. Yet, he comes up, at metronomic regularity, with absurdities that confirm his profound lack of knowledge about anything.
Be it the latest allegation against the Modi government on the Rafale deal with Dassault in France, or the ridiculous question as to why BHEL was not commissioned to manufacture mobile phones and wanting to see Barack Obama’s bed-sheet marked Made in Uttar Pradesh, Gandhi displays complete insensibility to that corner of the universe to which he apparently belongs. He fails even by Ortega’s definition of “a learned ignoramus.” The BHEL absurdity is so beautifully captured in the accompanying tweets.
Rahul Gandhi does not know what he is expected to do. It seems he is much more comfortable in the role of a vigilante, one of those comic-book side-kicks, who suddenly appear on a scene, perform their acts, and vanish into thin air. Whenever some responsibility, like leading the election campaign in a state, has been assigned to him, he has inevitably come a cropper.
His academic credentials remain shrouded in mystery and controversy. When Manmohan Singh was appointed as the Prime Minister, a series of e-mails was doing the round of the web highlighting his academic qualifications, calling him the highest qualified Prime Minister in the world. It is a different matter that this highly educated and vastly experienced bureaucrat presided over the most brazenly corrupt and inefficient government in the history of independent India. But, at least, he had a resume that could impress leaders of the international community who would find it hard to deny him an audience. On matters relating to the economy, he would be familiar with all the terminology and jargon that passes for high thinking. Rahul Gandhi, I am afraid, would find it hard to explain the difference between fiscal and revenue deficits.
The shrill Indian media continuously barrages and harangues Narendra Modi and the BJP to explain their visions for the future, deriding them on Gau-Rakhsha or Swachh Bharat, Digital India, Make in India, and every other scheme that the Government announces for bringing some equity in the lives of the common people. Modi has not given them the free rides that they had become accustomed to with Manmohan Singh. English language TV channels and newspapers are especially virulent in their unveiled hatred for Modi.
Some discredited celebrities have found channels for venting their spleen abroad in such papers as Washington Post and New York Times, in a post-Obama era. These newspapers are equally opposed to both Donald Trump and Modi. Every two-bit anchor feels supremely entitled to roar his or her questions at Modi and the BJP, but when it comes to asking a question of Rahul Gandhi they behave like mice in a biologist’s laboratory. And when it comes to having an audience with the Divine Mother herself, like what happened to Aroon Purie at the India Today conclave, they just curl up and die.
This tribe of obnoxious and supremely opinionated news anchors has questions of all and sundry, in pompously named programs like “left, right, and centre but has no questions for Rahul Gandhi. The electronic media today is increasingly adopting the aspirations of the mob. The mob-like the TV camera has no historical memory – it considers only what is within its immediate field of vision, not the complicating facts beyond it.
The Economist, in a leading article in its 14th December 2013 publication headlined “Would Modi save India or wreck it?” wanted “an unambiguous public demonstration that he abhors violence and discrimination against Muslims” as “a bare minimum.” “Otherwise,” the author had the audacity to add, “This newspaper will not back him.” Nowhere have I read that Narendra Modi had requested The Economist to endorse him for the Prime Minister’s post at any time.
One does not have to look too far to see how Rahul Gandhi would perform if he were to become the PM of the country. Just look at the state of Uttar Pradesh, where another scion of a political dynasty had been the Chief Minister for full five years before the people sent him packing rather unceremoniously. Both Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav come from almost similarly privileged backgrounds, appear to have similar intellectual capabilities, and have lived lives that require no effort.
The British novelist John Fowles, in his book of essays titled “Wormholes” wrote, “A life of entertainment and convenience produces ever-shallower leaders. Nor are such leaders well advised. Such shallow and childlike leaders and advisors would, by the very virtue of their lack of wisdom and experience, eventually commit the kind of ghastly miscalculation that would lead to a general catastrophe of some kind.”
Countries with young populations are subject to political violence. Third World populations growing dramatically and becoming increasingly urbanized, leaders have to become increasingly ingenious in resolving crises that are inevitable due to an ever-increasing demand for basic necessities, jobs and services. They have to have the ability to negotiate with an increasingly complex web of international corporations and markets that are becoming the real arbiters of power in the current world.
Jeffrey Sachs, the well-known professor of international trade writes “good government means relative safety from corruption, from breach of contract, from property expropriation, and from bureaucratic inefficiency.”
The UPA government, led by the “highest qualified Prime Minister in the World” failed in all the above criteria. What are those “outstanding credentials” that people like Manmohan Singh, Shashi Tharoor, and the rest of the rump that passes for leadership in the Congress party, see in Rahul Gandhi that are, until now, completely hidden from our view?
Arthur Koestler writes, “To create innocence, one must have awareness of guilt.” But when the Congress continues to behave without any awareness of guilt, how does it expect to create innocence for its assumed leader?
A captive print and electronic media, a compromised academia, and a plethora of foreign-funded NGO’s that have the mandate to “Break India” along the various fault lines that they think are vulnerable, have taken it upon themselves to prop up this shadow warrior, better expressed as “Kagemusha” by the Japanese, to face the challenge of Narendra Modi and the so-called right wing. I am reminded of Erasmus who had accused the academic mediocracy of “looking in utter darkness for that, which has no existence whatsoever.”
Arthur Koestler, in a paper titled “The Poverty of Psychology” published in 1961, wrote, “The rearguard is still firmly entrenched in university chairs, the editorial offices of technical papers, and other positions of power. In the period of scholastic decline, the orthodox Aristotelians had occupied similar key positions…. ‘They are Folly’s servants,’ declared Erasmus, denouncing the sterile pedantry and grotesque academic jargon of his time.” One wonders how he would react today to the definition of the mediocracy that has taken over most of the “free” academic world.
Robert D. Kaplan”s succinct statement that “avoiding tragedy requires a sense of it, which in turn requires a sense of history” encapsulates the tragedy of the Congress party that has got itself trapped in a time warp where the beginning and the end of everything is contained in the Gandhi surname.
To conclude with another quote from Jose Ortega y Gasset: “An ‘unemployed’ existence is a worse negation of life than death itself.”
Born in Kashmir. Indic by culture. Occasional writer, avid reader. Love serious cinema, but not TV. Eternal student.