In 2005, Rahul Gandhi told the Press that he could have become Prime Minister at the age of 25- if that's what he wanted. Sadly, it isn't what he wanted. Many of the qualities we now find repulsive about him, would have been virtues had he put his shoulder to the wheel and stood for election. A 25 year old who makes mistakes learns from them. A 52 year old shirker can't suddenly turn into a worker.
Why did Rahul refuse to step up to the plate? Sunanda K Datta Ray's book 'Looking East To Look West: Lee Kuan Yew's Mission India, suggests that Singapore's great leader influenced him.
The following is from the Straits Times-
Mr Lee told Mr Gandhi
(Rahul spent a week as Lee's guest in 2006)
that the 'name recognition of his ancestry' gave him 'an enormous advantage' but could easily be squandered without luck and proven ability.
This was foolish. Provided Rahul wasn't as corrupt as his father and provided he didn't piss off any terrorist group, his 'name recognition' protected him from political ruin even if luck was against him or he didn't have a particular skill. The voter would say, 'it is good he has learnt this lesson. He is young and will be more careful in future'. True, there might be 'anti-incumbency' and 'pendulum politics' but no other politician in India had the same type of 'name recognition'. Rahul and Rahul alone would be seen as the most viable alternative to the current administration.
Lee Kuan Yew himself had made mistakes- more particularly in his backing of union with Malaysia- and then course corrected. He was sometimes unlucky and there were areas in which he had no great ability, but he stayed the course and bequeathed 'name recognition' to his son and heir. One reason for this was his pugnacity. He told the US that he was not like the puppet they had in Seoul or Saigon. He had sent the message that his Government could not be bought. When the US denied the specific charge he had made, he called a Press Conference and showed an apology letter from Dean Rusk. It was this fighting spirit which kept him in power even after Malaysia ejected Singapore from the Union.
'Because his drawing power is very big and can vanish in one term at the helm,
That's not what happened to Rajiv. Corruption brought him down but once VP Singh's coalition fell apart he was on his path back to power. Then he said in a Press Conference that he might send the Army back to Sri Lanka. The Tamil Tigers knew they had to kill him- that too in Tamil Nadu- before he became PM and his security cover was increased.
he should not take over until he has had enough experience to understand how it all works, and surrounds himself by very able people to run it,' Mr Lee told the author of Looking East.
Lee had no experience when he became PM at the age of 36. Ironically, his political career was boosted by British accusations that he was a crypto-Communist! He sided with the Government in its purge of Leftists in his own party in 1956. Some may call this pragmatism but to many at the time 'opportunism' or even 'gangsterism' were the hallmark of his politics. However, like Taiwan and South Korea, Lee was smart enough to jump on the 'export led' growth model at exactly the right time. That's how he could pay for both populist measures- investment in Housing and Schooling- without pandering to corruption and identity politics.
What Lee's advise should have been was 'get stuck in. Learn on the job. Just ensure your country imitates the economic policy of smart countries once as poor as you. Put in a technocrat at Finance and try to squeeze out corruption by appealing directly to the voters.'
Mr Gandhi should avoid high office, until he had built up a competent team and, even then, it would be sensible to 'not promise something they could not deliver'. Mr Lee further told the author: 'If Rahul is wise, he should not take the lead position until fully equipped to understand all parts of the complex and very intricate whole.'
But nobody has that understanding! That's why there's a Cabinet and a professional Civil Service! There's only one way to learn how to be a Minister- actually become a Minister. True, if like Modi, you are suddenly put in as Chief Minister, you may still succeed if your opponents accuse you of killing terrorists when that's what the voter wants. Modi prevailed because Advani had let him pick his own team. Success as CM enabled him to succeed as PM. Meanwhile, Rahul & Co cut off Manmohan at the legs but refused to replace him with anybody. Rahul's attitude was that 'power is a poison'. But he'd neither drink it himself nor let anyone else drink it for him. Modi then had to take the role of Nilakantha Siva- the God who swallows poison to save humanity.
This interaction could also explain the kind of politics Mr Gandhi is trying to craft.
One where he does nothing and nothing gets done.
Looking East discloses that Mr Lee hosted Mr Gandhi for a week following a request from his mother, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who after a 70-minute conversation with Mr Lee said he was 'a friend and well-wisher of India' and that: 'As a friend, he has also criticised us, but we have always listened to what he has to say with great, great respect.'
Mummy sent Rahul Baba to stay with Lee Uncle. Something was bound to rub off.
As for Mr Lee, he admits that India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was his political inspiration when he was young.
Because Lee was ignorant of Economics. This didn't matter. As a lawyer, he understood that it is nice to get paid. Singapore needed to sell nice things and thus get paid. The alternative was to turn the place into an outdoor brothel for the US Seventh Fleet.
Meeting Mr Gandhi for the first time, he exclaimed: 'I knew your father, your grandmother and your great-grandfather.' Mr Nehru demonstrated his formidable intellect and prescience when he said once that 'Singapore can well become the place where Asian unity is forged'.
It was the place that the Mountbattens' befriended Nehru thus ensuring British influence over Indian Defense till 1964.
The decades dissolved during the 36-year-old Mr Gandhi's discussions with the octogenarian.
Lee became PM at 36. This is a case of 'do as I say, not as I did'.
Mr Gandhi describes Mr Lee as 'flexible', meaning free of dogma, sensitive to context and seeking to implement the feasible. These qualities make for the politics of practicality condemned by Europeans - those master crafters of 'isms' - as opportunism. Nevertheless, Mr Gandhi obviously sees merit in it.
There's no point being flexible and practical if you don't have a job. It makes no difference whether you are pragmatic or dogmatic or make miaow miaow noises like a cat.
After all, bettering the human condition is not the prerogative of some dead European intellectual.
Give brain-dead moon calves that prerogative.
Trying to do so practically and contextually cannot be dismissed.
More particularly because the thing can't be done impractically and non-contextually.
Mr Lee, having lived through poverty, war, racism and much else, knows suffering, sought to erase it and did.
by caning vandals- even if they happened to be American. Good for him.
Having gone to Singapore to learn how practical, contextual politics is implemented, Mr Gandhi, himself the target of racial attacks,
where? Does cousin Varun beat him up for being too White?
probably sympathised with Mr Lee and his brand of politics. As Mr Gandhi says in the book: 'I am not the kind of person who minds criticism. If it makes sense, I listen.'
God alone knows what makes sense to the moon calf.
This is not to say Mr Gandhi imbibed Mr Lee's politics wholesale. Noting Singapore's controlling tendencies, he says diplomatically: 'You can't have the same kind of control (in India).'
His granny forcibly sterilized millions of men. India can do heavy handed repression better than tiny Singapore.
It is not only India's size and diversity that militates against control, but also its political ethos.
Which Indira showed to be non-existent. She only held elections because she was worried Sanjay's buddies might bump her off and then blame the CIA.
Nor can all of Mr Gandhi's aims and methods be ascribed to the advice of a statesman once influenced by Pandit Nehru. However, the interactions between Mr Gandhi and Mr Lee provide the only direct and plausible explanation of what Mr Gandhi is attempting and how he is trying to do it.
This was written 12 years ago. Rahul was attempting to stay out of power. He succeeded by letting every one know he was as stupid as shit. Perhaps, Lee- like Obama- saw that Rahul was a cretin and thus tried to discourage him from holding any Ministerial office.
Mr Gandhi has said he does not have to be in charge to manufacture change, but he would not have gone to Singapore if he had intended to be a political apprentice in perpetuity. What he will do when he thinks he is ready might be worth waiting for.
At 52, the fellow is going walkabout while this Party perishes at the polls. The change Rahul manufactured was the collapse of the Congress Party. The only question that remains is whether it will be Gehlot or Pilot who splits the Party in Rajasthan. As for Karnataka, will Siddaramiah go his own way if Shivakumar is favored or will it be the other way round? As for Rahul's own Wayanad seat- will the Muslim League decide to keep it for themselves? The Communists are making inroads into their vote bank. Why waste a seat on a guy who keeps going to Temples? Tharoor, who has been sidelined by the party, seems to be cozying up to the Latin Church. His own Nair community may feel the BJP can do little for them. Indeed, the South is increasingly worried about seat redistribution which is due in 2026. Meanwhile, an increasingly Messianic Rahul may walk out of politics into a new role as India's own Greta Thunberg who scolds the environment for having too much hate. Everybody should love everybody- except Hindutva which is totes evil.