Rahul: Come on, chaps. Don’t keep on discussing ad nauseam and wasting time. Tell me what to do.
Jyotir: We told you bluntly. Our advice is very clear. The first stage of introspection is to identify the key questions. And the consensus so far is that the foremost key question is: What is the problem?
Rahul: Tell me again, I have forgotten. What is the problem?
Jyotir: To cut the story short, what is the problem is not the problem. Who is the problem is the problem. And the short answer is: You are the problem.
Rahul: That is cool. That is real cool. I give you inner party democracy. And you repay my debt by laying the entire blame on me.
Jyotir: Who else to hold responsible? If we had won, we would have assigned the credit to you.
Database manager: It is my duty to inform you that today is the 30th day. Our Supreme Command has decided that 57 days of introspection is the maximum that the nation will stomach!
Rahul: Exactly my point! We cannot stretch this introspection gimmick too far. Even Jesus Christ got only 40 days and nights in the desert.
Sachin: I have always said that Rahul’s sabbatical should be about a month.
Digvijay: You chaps count us as the older group. Age might be a deficiency, but some of us are still fresh at heart. The youngsters are forgiven certain lapses as whimsical fads, but even these have to be within limits.
Ahmed: I agree. Every day that passes makes it more and more difficult for us to face the cameras and answer embarrassing questions.
Anand: They ask us what you are introspecting about, why it is taking so long, when the answer stares everyone in the face.
Rahul: What is that answer? Will somebody tell me?
Sachin: We told you just now.
Rahul: Sorry, I was not attentive. Would you kindly repeat it?
Sachin: You are the problem.
Rahul: Oh that? Okay. I won’t contest that. Nobody is perfect. But do we have an option?
Digvijay: No we don’t. And that is the tragedy. Now if Priyanka had been a boy…
Ahmed: No point dreaming up imaginary scenarios.
Anand: We have to make the best of a bad bargain.
In-charge, Tutorial Team: We tried our best. See what a hash he made of his interview with Arnab Goswami. After all that tutoring!
Jyotir: I don’t think we are being fair to Rahul. You gave him some oneliners about gender parity, the role of women, the significance of bringing youth into mainstream politics, the crucial importance of RTI and Lok Pal and so on.
Sachin: So whenever he wished to evade a question, he talked of inner party democracy, rights of women, RTI and the rest. And Arnab’s style everyone knows. The more Rahul tried to stray, the more he brought him back to the track. Till it all became a joke.
Rahul: Yeah, a sick joke! That is an Arnab speciality. I realised later why Modi had walked out of the studio when he tried to grill him on the Gujarat riots. If Modi could not face him, what chance did I have?
Anand: I think our Media Team floundered on the decision to field Rahul in a one-to-one interview and the Tutorial Team did not coach him well.
In-charge, Tutorial Team: It is easy to blame us. In these matters, one has to think on one’s feet and improvise. That only comes with experience.
Sachin: Okay, forget about the interview. Where did Rahul get out-manoeuvred by Modi during the 2014 Lok Sabha poll?
Digvijay: I think Modi was lucky. He succeeded and nothing succeeds like success.
He played several gambles and because the time was auspicious for him, all his moves succeeded.
Ahmed: I agree. Look at how he got nominated as the prime ministerial candidate. How he eliminated stalwarts like Joshi, Advani and Sushma. How he converted the election into a Modi versus Rahul contest as if it was a presidential poll in the US.
Anand: Even jibes got converted into votes. Mani Shankar tried to denigrate him as a chaiwallah’s son. He has converted that remark into his defining trademark. He is extremely clever.
Jyotir: The trouble with all of us Indians is that we respect cleverness, not honesty. Modi was able to get out of his scrapes with seeming ease. Look at how he did not let even a single court give a finding against him for the Gujarat riots. He buried Snoopgate several fathoms deep.
Rahul: Sorry, friends. I don’t think this introspection is taking us anywhere. To my mind, we should answer some pointed questions. Question 1: Why did the Congress lose? Question 2…
In-charge, Database: We have collected all the possible questions and surveyed them in opinion polls. In the hierarchy of importance, these questions rank as under:
1 to 10: Dynasty 11 to 20: Corruption
Jyotir: Hold on, let us not create a huge question bank and then get lost. Stay with Question 1.
Anand: I would say the Congress lost because of the Dynasty.
Sachin: What Dynasty? The Gandhis are not the only dynasty in Indian politics. Jyotir is the Scindia dynasty. I am the Pilot dynasty. You have the Karunanidhi dynasty, the Abdullah dynasty, the Yadav dynasty and so on and so forth.
Ahmed: Where does dynasty not play a role? Look at the legal profession. Ram Jethmalani and Mahesh, Lakshmi Mal Singhvi and Abhishek, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant. The corporates are all dynasty. The entertainment industry is all dynasty. Why pick on poor Rahul?
Rahul: And how can bachelors like Vajpayee or grass widowers like Modi create a dynasty?
Ahmed: I think this dynasty business is a red herring. It is a good stick to beat Rahul with.
Digvijay: Unfortunately, Modi makes it a telling point. He calls him the Shehzada. That makes the whole thing humorous, as if it is a scene from Mughal-e-Azam.
Sachin: I think you have hit the jackpot. It is Modi’s gift of the gab that needs to be countered.
Jyotir: I agree. He is a very powerful speaker.
In-charge, Tutorial Team: He has learnt the art of public speaking in the RSS. RSS pracharaks are speaking in the vernacular all the time. Atal Behari Vajpayee was an RSS pracharak. So was Modi. Rahul suffers from the usual problem of public school products. He has to get the Doon School out of his system. Even when he farts, he does so in an elongated, Anglicised way.
Rahul: I refuse to take note of such puerile remarks about my alma mater.
Ahmed: You make it sound as if learning one more language is impossible. What about Soniaji? When she first started speaking in Hindi, she had a European accent. But today…
In-charge, Tutorial Team: We are working on it. We have hired three first-rate RSS pracharaks to coach him. There is a good humorous phrase they have coined about the Modi Government being a “Suit-boot ki sarkar”.
Rahul (vastly amused): Yes, yes, that “suit boot ki sarkar” is rich. I am going to use it as often as I can.
Jyotir: No, you are not. That is your problem. When you get hold of something, you wear it down to the bone. (To the In-charge) Please give him a repertoire of 30-40 witticisms for the sake of variety. Okay?
In-charge: Okay. But he has to think up some jokes himself, learn to play around with words.
Rahul: So how does one play with words? Give an example.
In-charge: For example, Modi is converting his name into a mantra. He has coined the phrase “Abki baar Modi sarkaar.” Suppose we discover that like some traditionalist Hindus, he wears a topknot on the crown of his head. A topknot is called “bodi”. So you can twist his slogan to “Abki baar, bodi sarkar.” No urban youth would be found dead with a bodi on his head. Bodi is a symbol of rusticity, being out of tune with modernity, et cetera. Say it. See how it sounds.
Rahul: (with some awkwardness) Modiji kehte hain “Abki baar Modi sarkar.” Everyone knows that Modi wears a bodi. So what it will really be like is, “Abki baar bodi sarkar.” (The entire group of advisers breaks into smiles.)
Anand: That is not bad. Not bad at all. I am doubtful, though, that Rahul would know words like bodi, which are pure vernacular.
In-charge, Database: You have not discussed corruption.
Sachin: Phooey! Is corruption an issue in Indian politics? Look at what Modi has done on corruption.
Jyotir: Or what he has not done. The black money in foreign banks has not come back to India. It is doubtful if there would be anything left in those accounts by the time our SIT reaches out to them.
Ahmed: Modi has not appointed the Lok Pal or the CVC or the CIC. He is merrily helping out his cronies by wholesale amendment of legislation that affects them.
Anand: And who the hell is bothered? I agree that corruption is a non-issue in Indian politics and always will be.
Digvijay: Our real problem is that of strategy. Rahul’s ghar wapsi should happen with a bang. We have to identify issues, collect the crowds, write Rahul’s speeches, send him to far-off places on padyatras and so on.
Jyotir: He should raise issues specific to segments of Indian society like the farmers, the landless labourers, the OBCs, the hill people, the tribals, the people living in deserts and coastal regions and so on…
Ahmed: You are right. Above all, he must not keep quiet. Indian politics is not about dignified silences. You have to be noisy, you have to be brash, you have to stage dharnas, walkouts, gheraos, demonstrations, processions…
Sachin: He must make a ruckus in Parliament every day.
Digvijay: The channels should have breaking news all the time about how Rahul has lashed out at the Prime Minister. Our database chaps should monitor his daily, weekly, monthly and annual output so as to keep him at the top of all the statistical charts…
Anand: Absolutely! I think you chaps have hit the nail on the head. HE SHOULD NOT KEEP QUIET. That is our takeaway from this introspection.
Rahul: Okay, I think we are now making some progress. Let us grab a bit of lunch. Thank you, friends. Rest a while. All this introspection must have worn you out. When I ran away to introspect, I was under the impression that it would be like an extended holiday, I would take several naps during the day and have plenty of rest. If I knew that Mamma Mia would pack all of you after me and how tiring a simple thing like introspection could be I would have opted for a course in Kung fu or jiu jitsu.
Okay, now let me play the role of Shehzada Salim in real life.Takhliya…
MK Kaw is a former Secretary, Government of India