Rahul Gandhi has amended his Twitter profile as dis-qualified MP. That’s much like what Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe did when he had to join a jousting tournament incognito, after his proud Saxon father had disinherited him. He gave his name on his shield as “Disinherited Knight.” As the gallant knight in shining armour smote down champion after villainous champion, the ecstatic crowd cheered him as “Sir Disinherited”.
We don’t know whether our middle-aged knight in white t-shirt, who trotted from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, would win the tournament of 2024; but let me tell you, Dame Luck often smiles on him. With enemies like the BJP, he doesn’t need friends. Overnight they have made him, who would otherwise have been a convict in a criminal case, into an injured knight, a champion of liberty, and a hero of democracy.
Look at how Rahul came to be disqualified. He had said something silly about the Modi surname in a humdrum poll speech four years ago in the outbacks of Karnataka. Most people who heard it just laughed it away as a PJ. But in this country where even poor jokes have to conform to political correctness, half a dozen Modis felt aggrieved and slapped cases against him for insulting them, their families, and their community. Rahul’s legal eagles didn’t bother to get the cases clubbed or get them dismissed as vexatious litigation.
A magistrate in Surat took up the case that was in front of him, heard both parties, found Rahul guilty of criminal defamation and sentenced him to two years in jail that entailed his disqualification from Parliament. In the normal course of events, Rahul and his cohorts would have made some noise about being hounded with court cases, sought a stay order on the conviction from a higher court, filed an appeal, and gone ahead with another walkathon or a lacklustre poll campaign in Karnataka. No one would have been any wiser, stronger or more popular.
Lalu Prasad, Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav et al would have sympathised with him in public, but said in private, “serves him right,” recalling how he had slighted the sagely Manmohan Singh by tearing up the latter’s ordinance that would have saved him now from disqualification. That’s not what happened. Even before the Surat magistrate rose from his seat after pronouncing his sentence, BJP factotums began firing from all cylinders. They went to town celebrating the conviction and condemning the convict as a casteist, and an enemy of the people who had been going around the world denigrating his motherland. Cabinet ministers pronounced his name in Parliament and outside ad nauseum. In no time, all the ladies and gents in the opposition ran to him asking, “Oh, what can ail thee, knight at arms?”
Rahul replied he had been wronged by Modi and Adani; the opposition added ED. Soon they were all supping together in Mallikarjun Kharge’s house, and vowing to fight Modi, smite at Adani, save Rahul, redeem free speech, hail liberty and promote democracy. Overnight, Rahul became a Patrick Henry who said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”This is the BJP’s problem—nine years in power, and they still think like in the opposition. Usually it is the opposition that hounds the government with charges of corruption and criminality, and the government that acts with restraint. The roles are reversed now. The rulers are barking and hunting like hounds, and the opposition is getting global and popular sympathy as being the hunted hares. No wonder, the world talks of democratic regression in India.