After the BJP loss in the Hindi heartland, Barkha Dutt asks an intriguing question: Has Rahul Gandhi’s metrosexual appeal beaten Narendra Modi’s machismo to help Congress in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh?
What do you think is the main difference between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi?
Men set apart by a 20-year age difference.
Is it ideology…?
You will hear a lot of analysis on these assembly elections and the BJP defeat…
But here is my take.
This is a generational clash between hardline machismo and metrosexual softness.
Between the strongman with the 56-inch chest…
And a mischievous love-your-enemy hug.
And, of course, the wink that followed.
Think about it
For so long now the Modi government has been driven by an aggressive masculinity.
Perhaps this positioning was crafted in response to Manmohan Singh – who was seen to be too silent. And too paralysed in his last years.
But since then the machismo of the BJP has never been dialled down.
They are the tough guys…
Who will protect the nation…
Crackdown on corruption…
And, yes, even take 86 per cent of India’s cash out of circulation.
Because risk-taking is supposed to be a sign of strength
But sometimes tough men can become bullies.
Intolerant of independent opinion.
Cheerleaders of brute force.
Practitioners of communal taunts.
Protectors of murderous mobs.
And generals of troll armies.
It is in this environment of what Raghuram Rajan called chest-thumping…
That Rahul Gandhi, perhaps, saw a moment to make his own.
Now politics is not a hallmark card.
And, of course, Mr Gandhi’s choices will also be calculated and strategic…
But if you hear his press conference right after his party took wins in the Hindi heartland…
There was humility… and no flaunting of male ego.
Instead, there was a promise to learn from precisely those mistakes of the BJP.
And in, perhaps, the most exemplary subversion of machismo…
Rahul Gandhi has chosen to own the jokes about him, instead of growling back at them.
Yes, even the Pappu ones.
Sometimes in life love and politics,
overdone masculinity can become unattractive.
Ask us women.
And there can also be strength in softness.
See you next week.
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