India is a union of states born of a strenuous negotiation, said Rahul Gandhi, implying it is free to secede at any time
Analysing a nursery rhyme is probably a mistake. Analysing the sayings of a person who might be thinking as deeply as the least of nursery rhymes, is probably even more fraught. But both drip with hidden meaning. Code. Social commentary. It is another thing that time divests them of context and nursery rhymes revert to being just a child’s delight at playtime.
When people fell down in Ringa-Ringa-Roses, they were apparently being picked off by the plague that seized London in 1665-66 and killed 100,000 people. Hence, Atishoo Atishoo/We all fall down. Who knew this as children when we were all busy falling down most happily?
The one that comes to mind today in context of ‘Thus Spake Rahul Gandhi’, not Zarathustra or Superman, with due apologies to Friedrich Nietzsche, the syphilitic, and eventually insane German political scientist, is Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. Her garden is still populated with Silver Bells and Cockleshells/And Pretty Maids all in a row.
In the 18th century rhyme, first seen in 1744, Mary, referred to the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, from the 16th century. The Silver Bells were Church bells. The Cockleshells were heraldic badges associated with pilgrims off to a Spanish shrine dedicated to St. James, and the Pretty Maids were Catholic nuns.
Mary had to be Contrary because it is a Protestant nursery rhyme. There are other interpretations, involving progeny or lack thereof, infidelity, ladies-in-waiting, the other Queen, Mary Tudor, also from the 16th century. Complicated code, certainly.
Why does the Mary nursery rhyme suit Rahul Gandhi as an echo on his most recent foreign sojourn? The Gandhi scion has been working on his alternate reality for quite some time now. He likes being contrary because he knows it teases, and provokes media coverage. It fits in with his burning desire to upset the Modi thela, even the entire Indian applecart.
To wit, Rashtra, Sanskrit for Nation, mentioned long ago by Chanakya, and Nation, the word itself, mentioned in the Preamble to the Constitution, translates as Kingdom to Rahul Gandhi, and not Nation.
This, when challenged by a young Indian student at Cambridge who asserted that an ancient people, with a sense of nationhood, created a constitutional republic for themselves in 1950. Not that the long-winded Indian Constitution gave birth to the concept of nation, or the sense of nationhood, or even the ‘Union of States’. The Indian Constitution is a document that has been much amended in the last 75 years, mostly during the Congress years.
Nation is a Western concept, insisted Rahul Gandhi. As if the notion could not have occurred to a genetic Indian at all, before, during, or after Independence.
But please notice, apart from this interrupting student Siddhartha Verma, the format of all his interactions was that there was no questioning what he said. The carefully chosen and fawning interviewer, saw to it, whether in London or Cambridge. The outrage he caused however is all over the Indian media, with the more salty interpretations visible on social media.
Nobody in Britain outside his band of wannabe Che Guevaras, (Some in need of an English-Hindi dictionary, others in need of assistance to walk, yet others looking for stocks of adult diapers), seemed to notice or care.
It is strange that none of the others in Rahul Gandhi’s retinue, including the normally Machine-gun Kelly Mohua Moitra, seemed to speak at all, or if they did, nobody bothered to report what they said.
Not even the forlorn figure that the Labour Party disgrace Jeremy Corbyn cuts these days. He looked crestfallen, embarrassed, quite apologetic in the photo standing between Rahul Gandhi and Sam Pitroda. He wanted to distance himself from his earlier anti-India pronouncements. The road-roller of official opinion on India from the Tory government has been over his person at least once or twice from the looks of it.
As we know, Britain is about to sign a defence technology transfer pact with India, and is rapidly approaching the completion of a Free Trade Agreement draft that Boris Johnson hopes to sign with Narendra Modi ‘By Diwali’, Party-Gate willing.
Explained: Why Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with UK’s Jeremy Corbyn led to a political slugfest
Questioning India’s ‘nationhood’ reflects Rahul Gandhi’s constitutional and historical ignorance
Rahul Gandhi’s Cambridge saga: When an abandoned, mocked scion cries out for Western approval
‘Defending national interest not arrogance’: Jaishankar slams Rahul Gandhi over remarks on IFS
India is a union of states born of a strenuous negotiation, said Rahul Gandhi, implying it is free to secede at any time. This is the man’s essential wet dream, because to call it an agenda gives it more credit than it can muster. It is a tantrum, translatable as, if I can’t rule India, I want to see it break up.
Rahul Gandhi had been practising some of his ideas even while in India. He suddenly called Modi a ‘King’ in one of his expressions a little while back. Perhaps, the public thought, it was his comeback for Modi calling him Yuvraj, and Dynast and Sahebzada.
This was juxtaposed with ‘he does not listen’, like a piqued housewife. Nor do the institutions of government, he said. Of course, Gandhi was hoping to project Modi’s alleged dictatorial tendencies, but few can compete with him when he works to seriously seem ridiculous.
Rahul Gandhi frequently used his ‘Union of States’ line, the Brahmastra in his repertoire. He had used it earlier in Parliament. It was out of any present context, but how does that bother him? Most of the public could not have cared less about his semantic hair-splitting. The idea that he was promoting the breaking-up of India into little pieces has never been taken seriously or taken root.
It is a fantasy like Rahul Gandhi’s intellectualism. It is propped up by his out-of-power coterie of hangers-on. Who are they? Malevolent anti-nation, any nation, Communists. And ‘Limousine Liberals’. Those who urgently ask for chicken sandwiches in vegetarian Gujarat, rather than the to-do list. Leftist theorists, dreaming of being the next Marx. The Bollywoodian supporter. The Rangeen Sapne brigade of Mungari Lal, brought on by indigestion. Plus, the mythical but ever loyal people who inhabit Jhumri Talliya.
Rahul Gandhi said, to an incredulous, saucer-eyed interviewer in Cambridge, trying to keep up with his acute logic, and not ‘stump’ him with anything at all, that China had promised ‘Prosperity’. They’ve given $100 billion to Pakistan, he said, with assurance. So why is India working on a defence pact with America to prevent China from making India prosperous? He actually looked pleased with himself after this sally.
Psst… Rahul, we run significant bilateral trade deficits with both China and America, as it happens. So, we are helping to make both prosperous, struggle as they might to return the compliment. China has contributed money to your party and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, but the rest of us should be so lucky. You cannot go around saying let them eat cake quite so blatantly, don’t you think?
Rahul Gandhi has apparently not heard of the terms on which China lends, not gives, money. Besides which $100 billion is he speaking of? Nowhere near as much has been disbursed on the CPEC so far, and China is currently very cross with Pakistani payback. This kind of potato to gold money is only paid in the alternate universe Rahul Gandhi inhabits. I am resisting further comparisons out of Alice in Wonderland here, or this entire article will turn into mush.
Stumped he was, despite the best efforts of the interviewer to give/throw him baby easy balls, on the question of a ‘compact between violence and non-violence in Indian society’ (if any). After an interminable pause, when perhaps he could find no connection, Rahul Gandhi finally said ‘forgiveness,’ like a good Christian who is nevertheless a Janeudhari Brahmin. But this was Corpus Christi College after all.
Not bad, actually. If you are advocating ‘mass movements’ and speaking of kerosene sprinkled landscape waiting for a spark, you are likely to be in need of forgiveness. That is for sure. But only after you’ve been through a cleansing ritual involving a drink of gaumutra and dung, on return from your sojourn over the black water.
The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator. Views expressed are personal.
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