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Comment: The Unpardonable Sin

RAHUL Baba has had many tragedies in his life, but the major calamity is the family in which he has been born. This happens to be the First Family of the country. He did not choose to be born to Sonia and Rajiv, nor was he prepared to defend his title at an age when his friends were starting to enjoy life.

Anything he says or does makes news. The cameras of the electronic media are eternally focussed on him 24×7. His whispers are noted, his yawns counted and if he closes his eyes , he is breaking news on national television in all its channels.

Recently he committed the unpardonable sin of actually falling asleep in the Lok Sabha. And horror of horrors! This happened while the atrocities being perpetrated on the Dalits were being vociferously debated..

In the face of irrefutable audio-visual evidence, it was impossible to deny the allegation as all politicians are trained to do. Even then some brave hearts sprang to his defence with the explanation that while his eyes were indubitably closed, he was not actually sleeping.

Naturally, the other side riposted, if he was not sleeping, what was he doing?

Well, the defenders of the faith said, we do not know what he was actually doing at a particular point of time. But knowing his hyperactive mind which was always in a state of intense introspection, they could make an intelligent guess that he was doing any of the following:

  • He might be reflecting on the problems faced by the country, which are various and numerous and difficult to resolve.
  • Or, he might be cogitating on the decline and fall of the Grand Old Party, and internally and silently lamenting the poor state of its present political presence;
  • Or, he might be ruefully recollecting the kind of leadership he had provided to the party leading to the aforementioned decline and fall;
  • Or, he might be reflecting on where he should go this time for a fresh bout of introspection and for how long, without Mama raising her arched eyebrows.

One particularly loyal and pugnacious lady argued at length that the poor lad was not used to hot and humid weather. He is compelled to shout slogans and lead rallies for hours together, thus rendering his tender eyes dry from the inside. When he enters a cool, air-conditioned space like Parliament House, the natural tendency is to shut the eyes and to let the tear glands work, so as to irrigate the cornea with cool refreshing fluid. That is what the poor boy is doing now, she concluded.

A very obedient looking specimen from the South certified that Rahul was very much awake and alert. Since he entered the House that day, he had personally consulted him on momentous issues and had received clear intelligent decisions. Obviously when he shut his eyes, he did not shut his mind off. He was thinking.

In India we laboured under the mistaken notion that only illustrious leaders of Nehru’s stature could succeed him as PM. Journalists vied with one another to predict, “After Nehru who?”

Many more elaborate explanations were offered, but we need not repeat all of these. Let us see how his enemies view this phenomenon of closed eyes.

A particularly vicious looking leader from Bihar, who carries the reputation of being a Bahubali, alleges that Rahul enters Parliament as if he is a part-owner. Obviously he labours under the misapprehension that he enjoys some kind of diplomatic immunity once he enters the holy precincts. The speeches bore him stiff. His snooze is a befitting response to all these loudmouths who are convinced that they are the equals of Cicero and Mark Antony in oratorical skills.

A more sedate critic says that we are all being unfair to the young man. This is not the appropriate age for a young man about town being cooped up for hours, listening to the ponderous pontifications of boring speakers who speak for hours playing to the gallery and mouthing sentiments they do not feel. A normal youth of his economic status and upbringing would consider it extremely plebeian behaviour to get up from bed anytime before noon. His day would start around 3 pm and he would actually treat the evening as a preparation for late night parties, attending which is the really serious business of living.

Some observers of the political scene raise the question of whether Rahul is fit to hold the post of Prime Minister, for which he so obviously aspires. They have obviously not read the sage advice tendered by President D’Gaulle of France: ‘When I was a child, I was told that anyone could become President of France. Today I know it to be so.”

In India we laboured under the mistaken notion that only illustrious leaders of Nehru’s stature could succeed him as PM. Journalists vied with one another to predict, “After Nehru who?”As events unfolded after his demise, we had a succession of PMs who included such luminaries as Charan Singh, Chandrashekhar, VP Singh, Narasimha Rao, IK Gujral, Gulzari Lal Nanda and so on.

A particularly picturesque PM was HD Deve Gowda, whose main claim to fame till his elevation to the PMship of this great country was that he slept loudly and snorously on the back benches of Parliament. When people made fun of his great propensity to sleep, he was unfazed. He held his cabinet meetings the same way, leaving the conduct of his meetings to the Cabinet Secretary. India was none the worse for having a perpetually sleepy Prime Minister.

THE moral of the story is that Rahul will make an excellent Head of Government. We have a precedent to buttress this claim.

We cannot let the sleep habits of leaders to pass judgement on their suitability for leading the nation. Narendra Modi is by all accounts a successful PM, but we have it on his own authority that he barely sleeps 3 hours in a day. A medical specialist would immediately diagnose him as a patient of sleep apnea and prescribe the C Pap machine for improving his breathing and give him at least six hours of sleep every night.

A politically savvy leader is happy to see Rahul wiling away his time in useless activities like yawning, sleeping and so on. The more he sleeps, the better for his political opponents. In fact, it would be sound strategy to let Rahul sleep on and let India become Congress-free at the earliest juncture. There should be an all-party conclave to forge a strategy to lengthen the duration of Rahul’s daily dalliance with Morpheus, the Greek God of sleep.

If Rahul sleeps, India wins!

MK Kaw is a former Secretary, Government of India. (The views expressed are those of the columnist.)

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