Monday, January 30, 2023
HomeOpinionRahul Gandhi could do with some public display of humility

Rahul Gandhi could do with some public display of humility

Rahul Gandhi cannot pretend 2014 and 2019 did not happen. To even begin to build a new image, he has to demonstrate humility.

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It is rare in Indian politics to see a politician show humility in public, leave alone apologise. Everyone understands that a politician, particularly in the visual age, must always project righteous confidence. Apology is seen as an admission of one’s failings, humility a sign of weakness.

Yet, there are times when a politician could do with admitting mistakes, showing humility, and even apologising. One such instance was the 2015 Delhi assembly election when Arvind Kejriwal repeatedly apologised for having resigned from his first stint as Delhi chief minister after just 49 days.

It was obvious that Kejriwal had resigned with bad excuses, just so that he and the Aam Aadmi Party could concentrate on the bigger prize, the Lok Sabha elections. This had earned him the moniker of ‘bhagoda’ or a runaway. How were the people of Delhi expected to trust such a man again with the same chief minister’s chair? Kejriwal apologised and ran a campaign promising he will serve a full five years this time — “Paanch Saal Kejriwal”. As it happened, the people of Delhi gave him a historic 67 out of 70 seats.

Indira Gandhi had a similar experience in 1980. After badly losing an election over the Emergency in 1977, she repeatedly expressed regret and apologised for the “excesses” of the Emergency, even as she defended the need to impose the Emergency. She also showed humility by taking to the masses — taking an elephant to reach a Dalit basti that had seen a massacre, for example. Similarly, it has helped the Congress in Punjab that Manmohan Singh apologised for the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.

The Times of India front page report | 13 April 1977

Also read: Don’t stop at Raghuram Rajan. Here’s a list for Rahul Gandhi’s interviews

Public display of humility 

Rahul Gandhi recently did a video chat with Raghuram Rajan, where he asked the economist questions about the Indian economy. This is odd, because we usually see politicians answering questions.

T.N. Ninan has echoed many on social media by saying that this makes Rahul Gandhi look like a leader without a vision of his own. A leader is by definition supposed to have the answers to people’s problems.

That is true for most leaders. But Rahul Gandhi’s credibility is so low that no one is impressed with the solutions he offers. Just a year ago, the people of India rejected his leadership so strongly that Rahul Gandhi lost even his own seat of Amethi. In his 16 years in politics, Rahul Gandhi has very little to show for himself. He has never held any governance or administrative post so that we can judge his abilities. And to the extent we can judge his abilities as a politician, he appears incompetent and callous. He can’t even get the better of the Congress’ old guard, and goes abroad so often we can’t tell whether he’s in India on a given day or not.

For a leader with such an image, if he stands up and says, “I know how to solve India’s economic crisis,” it has no credibility. The problem is not that the message is poor, but that the messenger has no credibility. For example, Rahul Gandhi may have been early in pointing out the gravity of Covid-19, and yet Narendra Modi has sky-high ratings in his handling of the crisis.

For Rahul Gandhi to be taken seriously, he needs to do some PDH — Public Display of Humility. Being seen asking Raghuram Rajan questions won’t make Rahul Gandhi a leader, but to get to the point where he can be seen as fit to lead the masses, he first needs to show the humility of someone willing to learn.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi’s chat with Raghuram Rajan makes it look like Congress doesn’t have solutions

‘I stood completely alone’

To see how Rahul Gandhi is completely lacking in humility, it is important to recall his response to the Congress party’s big election defeats in 2014 and 2019.

In 2014, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi addressed the media. Rahul spoke first, then Sonia. Rahul was seen smiling ear to ear, looking happy as though the Congress had won a majority. Why he looked so happy, one is yet to figure out. Rahul Gandhi spoke a few sentences in English, including, “As vice-president of the party, I hold myself responsible for what has happened.”

Then Sonia Gandhi spoke, reading out text in Hindi, solemnly, immediately making her son’s quick words in English look casual. Sonia Gandhi’s tone and words both conveyed humility: she said the Congress party obeyed the decision of the people with humility. While congratulating the new government, she expressed hope that it would not compromise with India’s unity or national interest. “I am the president of the party, so I accept the responsibility for the defeat,” she said.

As Sonia Gandhi spoke, Rahul stood next to her, cheerful and smiling, fidgety and casual, making faces and gesturing to individuals in the audience. It was as if he was posing for the cameras after winning an award, completely marring a sombre moment Sonia Gandhi knew how to observe.

Cut to May 2019, five years later. Rahul Gandhi was party president. Sonia Gandhi had gone into semi-retirement. He faced the press alone, party communication chief Randeep Surjewala by his side. Rahul Gandhi did not look ecstatic this time, but he did not come across as sombre either.

Neither his tone nor his words carried the humility of someone accepting defeat. His tone was that of someone who had been vindicated. “I had said in my campaign that janta is malik (the people are owners),” he said.

He did not even say the customary words about accepting his responsibility in his opening remarks. It was only when a journalist asked if he accepted responsibility that he was forced to say: “cent per cent”. If the journalist had not asked the question, Rahul Gandhi would have been able to get away without even this tokenism.

Soon thereafter, Rahul Gandhi insisted he wanted to resign from the post of party president. He let it be known he was doing so because he felt the party’s top leaders had let him down in the campaign.

It took him over two months to put out a 2-page open letter (in English). This letter said he was resigning to take responsibility. But, with that obligatory sentence out, he proceeded to take the moral high ground, talking at length about how he has been fighting the BJP’s idea of India. At one point, he wrote in an apparent reference to his party’s old guard, “At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it.”

Nothing about his tone, body language, or words suggests Rahul Gandhi genuinely accepts responsibility for the 2019 defeat.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi’s chat with Rajan shows why he should stop doing press conferences, like Modi

The world has let Rahul down

In Rahul Gandhi’s self-assessment, he is the innocent guy wronged by everyone: by his party seniors, the BJP, the media, and even the liberal intelligentsia.

In his perception, he has not been doing anything wrong: his gaffes; his endless foreign trips; his wrong assessment that ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ was working; the last-minute NYAY campaign; his inability to form meaningful alliances; his failure to carry forward momentum from the Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh election victories; his failure to put up a coherent campaign on unemployment.

If Rahul Gandhi has to attempt the impossible task of rising like a phoenix from the ashes, he must first have the ability to put aside his ego and admit his mistakes and failures, and have the humility of a learner.

Instead, very little changed in his ways since May 2019. The list of Rahul Gandhi’s political errors he refuses to correct is a long one. Just three examples:

1) His obsessive international travel: he was in Seoul when India was erupting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

2) His ability to miss the moment: It took him about 10 days to visit riot-hit areas in Delhi in February.

3) His negative campaign: it took a pandemic to make him understand the value of playing constructive opposition.

The more Rahul Gandhi fails, the more he refuses to change. Why should he change when he doesn’t think he’s wrong at all. It’s the world that is wrong and will correct itself one day and admit Rahul Gandhi was right.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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  1. Rahul Gandhiji is truly evolving as a leader. Congress will be stunningly voted to power in 2024.

  2. He should first show some intelligence and stay away from gimmicks. The old method of big promises and blind support to leaders do not work these days. Politics is not where he should be.

  3. “The Print” is following the footprints of “The Hindu”… denigrating Congress Party and glossing over third front leaders thus helping Sangh Parivartan forces. .. There no doubt that Rahul Gandhi is a man of integrity without a tint of hypocrisy and he nurtures collective leadership and promotes young and dynamic leaders in the party .The columnist hides Rahul’s apologetic statements of 1984 riots and he even removed Sajjankumar, HKL Bhagat and Tytler when they were all powerful… it’s politically childish to blame him on his foreign tours.. Your magnifying glass is not magnifying enough to find fault with Rahul

  4. He needs to avoid advice of “rent a journalist ” who prospered by being middlemen for his government and became pauper due to demonetisation . He has enough to enjoy a lifestyle of luxury for next 10 generations. Just enjoy life and avoid stupid SUPPORTERS.

  5. Why are we expecting a leader to write in Hindi? Because it’s our national language or will it address to more individuals?
    The writer has pointed out this so that the reader will make a negative image of Gandhi. Why was this article not in Hindi?

    And what is wrong is asking questions to Raghuram? Does the BJP government or for that matter any political party anywhere in the world has all the answers? If yes, we would have never seen any crisis.

  6. Where have all the comments vanished so suddenly? And why? Is ‘The Print’ also following the NDTV policy? I saw at least 19 comments only yesterday!

  7. Mr. vij,
    Keep advising him and his party.
    By following your advice , someday donkey will become Chetak.
    Article is like a piece of paid media

  8. You can’t display which you don’t have. Public is not blind. Nor he is intelligent enough.

  9. Greatest job of journalism by asking RaGa to show humility in public for whatever reason. Will this media and journalists ask same thing from the present incumbent in power, perhaps Never. Because starting from Gujarat till today no harm was inflicted on Indians be it riot or demonstration, gst or lockdown to name a few. He has bestowed huge benefits on crores in lockdown, in newly created jails, starving and walking thousands of miles to their homes, getting beaten by police and state Government on the way and many Died due to shear exhaustion and fatigue. But print is happy because yesterday one video has been released. Greatest Indian Journalism.

  10. old habbits die hard. He should come down from royal thiking. meeting poors when nearing elections and keep opposing all things against a performing govt is not victorious path. Besides, bad alliance in some states.

  11. How much money has he contributed by Rahul Gandhi. Has any one checked that just speaking and propagating.

  12. Usual defaming much do u get for this? Shame on you…show some dignity while writing..

  13. Unfortunately, Rahul is not at all interested in serving people. He is just forced into the family business of, what the family thinks, running the country.

  14. Rahul Gandhi has proved time& again being deadwood for the Congress party. All the other young promising potential leaders have been kept on a backburner for almost 18 years . This has created a vacuum at the top. BJP lead by Modi filled up the vacuum deftly . If the Congress does not want to learn from their blunders of looking forward to Rahul Gandhi , no God can help them ever. Legacy of 134 years meets the dust courtesy inept Rahul baba .

  15. A good listener can only be a good A leader who doesn’t listen to other is a good dictator not a leader . we all know that no one knows everything so what Rahul Gandhi has this time is the right thing at right time

  16. I respect the author’s opinion. Everyone’s entitled to his or her views. But I sincerely feel that, its time we put an end to trying to find fault in Rahul every time he sneezes or even lets out his breath. Just because a person smiles in defeat, he or she can’t be said to lack humility. That’s a harsh assessment, in my book. May be he has too much of it(humility) in him. Regardless of the endless insults on him & his family, he still refuses to indulge in the same. I agree that Rahul’s not a great leader…let alone close to being one. It is true that there are certain sections(may be even more) of people, who are disappointed with the lack of mass leadership material. We more often than not, tend to see Rahul’s leadership through the prism of Nehru-Indira-Rajiv Dynamics. If it were any other party it would not have mattered, but this is the CONGRESS – The Grand old Party, The pillar of our freedom moment that we are talking about. Whether we agree to disagree, Congress has not other option not today, not tomorrow other PAN-INDIA Face other than the Sonia-Rahul-Priyanka trio, who can keep the party folks(leaders, workers) united. Given the fact most of the leaders in the Congress, are highly educated but, power hungry, self obsessing intellectuals. The only way Congress without Gandhi’s would become a reality is either when congress ceases to exist as a party or when the entire Gandhi clan voluntarily resigns from the Congress’s primary membership. Both the above scenario’s, no matter how much they may seem to be closer to reality, is not going to happen. The country needs the Congress, more than ever, may be not the current crop of leaders or leadership in its current state of mind, but these are testing times for our country…! We need a strong opposition. May God Help us All.

  17. Very well studied and penned article. It is so sad that the Congress party, not GOP, is unable to bring out a leader who has intellectual capabilities to lead the nation. Rahul just doesn’t have any attributes to lead even a gram panchayat. He has now passed a situation where he could have proved himself to be a good Minister. He is at best a good entertainer.

  18. Rahul Gandhi has no future as he could do n nothing in 16 years he has been in politics.
    Congress too is doomed if it clutches on to Rahul and the Gandhi family.

  19. Why this writer wants Rahul to succeed? What is his vested interest??
    You can not make some one a leader. Leadership is inherent quality, it can be honed but not generated de novo.
    To entrust this huge, fractious nation to someone of Rahul’s caliber will be catastrophic..
    Bring Shashi Tharoor, Sachin Pilot, or Deora and try them for few years.
    Please spare us this experiment, we have seen him enough.

  20. Only in India the opposition is held so accountable and the ruling govt and its leaders are not scrutinized. As Indians we have a huge weakness: we are deeply communal people. Modi knows it. He knows he does not have to perform. He just has to keep the communal flames alive. He will keep winning. I agree with the author on RG. Only point I wish to make is: no matter how good RG is or how bad Modi is … does not matter. Communal Indians who are maybe 45-50% of Indians will keep voting for Modi.

  21. Mr Rahul has to work hard. Unite all Congressmen. Discuss with youth and old. Can become again the Congress president. Lead the party boldly. Get involved in people’s problems. Wishing him all the best.

  22. More than humility, RG needs to see good work, whatever, done by the present government. The problem is, opposition always talks against everything. Even without gauging public mood and sentiments.. it’s more about incompetence rather than attitude.

  23. One is asking for the impossible when asking Rahul to be humble, or to show some humility. In the first place, Rahul has only scorn and ridicule for the Prime Minster of this country and always mocks at him. This alone totally disqualifies him from the prerogative of making any serious comment or critique of the political scene, despite his ‘presumably imminent’ crowning as the President of the Congress party. That only exposes the bankruptcy of the Congress, and not any great acumen or ability of Rahul.

  24. Are you repenting about what you wrote last week after reading Mr Ninan’s article ?
    or you were asked to redo what you did ..
    sorry , dear .

  25. The author is trying to draw water from a dry well. RG is what he is, take it or leave it. The voters have already left him even in his pocket borough. Now it’s upto the author and his ilk. No point in labouring ad nauseum on what RG should do. It’s strange that in a republican state the author and those like him still hanker for incompetent dynastic rule. RG in all probability hates the job and is now getting his back on those who pushed him into it. The Congress is gripped with a death wish and the author needs to stop writing and jump into the fray to make things happen. Act don’t preach.

  26. Good one. Add to the mix, his sense of imperious ‘entitlement’ that he can do no wrong.

    Shekhar Gupta after 2019 polls had observed that Congress has become an ‘NGO’ – a poignant quip:-). In post Covid-world. I see them slide further to a Webinar/ Retweet party, incapable of even the minimum traction so even if they raise valid issues, those will either be ignored by the public, or worse, usurped by BJP/ other opposition party leaving them crying ‘I said it first’ – e.g. change in FDI norms re. China/ Bhilwara model. Gandhi family has become a bad habit for Congress leaders (many of them, achievers and stalwarts in their own right) and they need to start being a bit selfish if they want to save their brand of politics .

  27. Paragraph 7 …..”Rahul Gandhi’s credibility is so low. Rahul Gandhi lost even his own seat of Amethi. In his 16 years in politics, Rahul Gandhi has very little to show for himself. He has never held any governance or administrative post so that we can judge his abilities. And to the extent we can judge his abilities as a politician, he appears incompetent and callous.”
    This answers everything.
    Have you fools at The Print ever wondered why the world laughs at Rahul Gandhi?

  28. !! Asatyam Shivam Sundaram !!

    ‘The problem is not that the message is poor, but that the messenger has no credibility.’
    Go and build some credibility first for yourself’, Shivam We…zzzzzz..

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