Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rahul Gandhi lies to the people

A good editorial in the New Indian Express (one of the very few coming out in Indian MSM).

"When former President A P J Abdul Kalam said Indians should build a knowledge society to achieve our national aims of economic transformation and world leadership, he did not realise that some would try to take a shortcut. Yet shortcuts never work. Take the Tamil Nadu chief minister, Mr Kalaignar, for instance; he has an honorary doctorate when he should have been bestowed a Master of Maladministration instead.

Even that will be snatched from him some day, going by the way he is busy with his children’s political careers, neglecting the fact that Tamil children are being killed by Sri Lankan warplanes.

Another example of a shortcut is the degree honoris causa given to liquor baron Vijay Mallya, a man in debt of approximately Rs 15,000 crore these days. True, his contributions to society are multiple and weighty: this columnist has himself cheered Mallya through many a Sunday afternoon’s drunken haze. Do not be judgmental. After all, Mallya did get back Gandhiji’s chappals from an unscrupulous American collector who had the temerity to demand India increase expenditure on healthcare (no honorary doctorate for him!). And as Mallya bragged on TV: “Gandhiji was a great man because he made India famous in the world with his philosophy”.

Yet that quote is not half as brilliant as tennis player Sania Mirza’s when she got her honorary doctorate: “I always wanted to be a doctor”. This is ironic not because degrees honoris causa have nothing to do with medicine, but because its recipients are not supposed to use the title “doctor”, even though bullies like Mallya insist on being called “Dr”. So in future, you may call him Dr King of Good Times (or just Dr Times).

Rahul Gandhi, as Express reported this week, took a different shortcut to fulfilling Kalam’s dreams. His nomination affidavit to the Election Commission says he received an MPhil in Developmental Economics from Cambridge University in 1994-95.

He made the same claim in 2004. Cambridge University, however, says that he was registered for an MPhil course in 2004-2005 (yes, we do not know if he even completed the course), and that it was not in Developmental Economics but in Development Studies (one of the four papers he took was titled “Developmental Economics”).

He also failed one of the subjects, National Economic Planning and Policy. This is not surprising for a man who can’t even remember what degree he’s sitting for. You would hope that a possible future ruler of India would try to master this paper. Maybe Rahul did not try hard because he believes in free markets (but if that is the case, why did he take this course in the first place?). So he didn’t do the MPhil out of intellectual interest, but to pad his CV with a respectable academic qualification, having flunked out of prestigious institutions in India (St Stephen’s) and the USA (Harvard) before collecting a degree from a college in Florida, a state known for having the best “party schools” in America.

Why would Rahul Gandhi falsify his CV? One reason: maybe he does as his Mum advises.

After all, she too falsified her affidavit by claiming to have attended Cambridge University, when all she attended was a language school in the town of Cambridge (she attributed it to a “secretarial typing error”).

But Rahul has not heeded his Mum’s repeated advice to take on more responsibility in government, so we can count that explanation out. Maybe he has a girlfriend somewhere (and in all fairness he should publicly reveal her name, so that we know the name of a potential prime ministerial candidate 20 years from now), whose parents insist on an educated son-in-law. But since youngsters today don’t listen to their parents, we can discount this theory. Maybe he thinks you need an MPhil in Developmental Economics to open a Swiss bank account.

The only plausible explanation for Rahul’s mysterious MPhil is that he thinks it will give him an edge in Uttar Pradesh during the elections. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. At this point, the two states with the most exciting races (in an election which everyone accepts will give a bits-andpieces Lok Sabha) are UP and Andhra Pradesh. UP is more of a cliffhanger because it has 80 seats and it is a four-way contest which, of late, threatens to become a twoparty fight. This is because of the other young Gandhi, namely Varun who, according to Outlook, falsely claimed to be a graduate of the London School of Economics, and whose speech against Muslims remains an issue in the Hindi heartland (as opposed to the Congress party’s attempts to pacify shoe-throwing Sikhs in Delhi and Punjab).

UP Chief Minister Mayawati has played along with the BJP’s none-too-subtle attempt to polarise the electorate by jailing Varun under the National Security Act, attracting those voters he repelled to her party, the BSP. Suddenly, the Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav does not know what has hit him, other than the fact that he is being end-played. The panic is evident in the squabbling in his party between trusted lieutenant Amar Singh, and key western UP party leader Mohd Azam Khan. Mulayam would not have been pandering to Azam Khan if he did not feel queasy about Muslim support of late.

And while Mulayam is being end-played, the Congress is being squeeze played. Rahul, who is in charge of UP, had put a brave face to the cavalier way in which erstwhile allies have treated his party; he said the Congress would contest on its own in UP and Bihar as it was time to build the party in the Hindi heartland, necessarily a long-term project.

Yet the Congress is non-existent in UP; it may not win any seats other than his or his Mum’s. In Bihar, recent Congressman Pappu Yadav and Jagjivan Ram’s daughter Meera Kumar are said at least to have realistic chances of entering the Lok Sabha. In UP, not only does the party not have its house in order, it lacks the mortar and bricks to even start construction of its house. Rebuilding the party in UP is not just a long-term project, but a very-long-term project.

Perhaps Rahul’s phantom MPhil is intended for just that: to build the party. After all, it makes him look more respectable than rabble-rousers like Mayawati or Mulayam.

Picture the average UP voter, entering the polling booth and thinking: “Rahul is an MPhil. I will vote for Congress.” I can’t picture it either. Obviously, if Rahul had the intellectual stamina to sincerely pursue an education, he could have added to his knowledge, he could have trained himself in rigorous thought, and he could have combined that methodological thinking with the experience his privileged position provides him, and come up with a sensible and practical vision for India. Who knows — he could have convincingly preached the knowledge society and become as popular as Dr Kalam.

Instead, he took the shortcut.

About The Author:
Aditya Sinha
is the Editor-in-Chief of The New Indian Express and is based in Chennai.

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