The Hari Putar Dialogues - 53
(The Hindustan Times ; Amethi ; 13 April : Countering Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's comment that the Congress party was a "budhiya" (old lady), Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka Gandhi said Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate LK Advani have misconceptions about their age.
"Modiji aur Advaniji ko apni umra par kuch confusion hai aur woh apne aap ko jawan samajhte hain, isi liye wo Rahul ko baccha kehtein hain (Modi and Advani are confused about their age and they consider themselves to be young. That is why they call Rahul a kid)," Priyanka told reporters after a public meeting in Amethi.
Priyanka has been campaigning for Rahul and Sonia in their constituencies Amethi and Rae Bareli for the past few days.
Replying to a reporter's query on Saturday, Priyanka Gandhi said that if Advani, 81, and Modi, 58, consider themselves young then it is good for them.)
Putar: There is a report in The Hindustan Times today about Priyanka Gandhi telling reporters that Modi and Advani from the BJP have misconceptions about their age.
Hari: What does she mean?
Putar: Advani is 81 and Modi is 58 years old, but they think they are younger than they are, because they consider Rahul Gandhi to be just a kid.
Hari: How old is Rahul?
Putar: He is 38 years.
Hari: That's not so young. Priyanka is right to say he cannot be considered to be a kid anymore. But why is she making these remarks about Modi's and specially Advani's age?
Putar: It may be because there were remarks made earlier targeted against Manmohan Singh speaking about his frail health. The Prime Minister has recently had a heart by pass surgery.
Hari: It seems that health and age of the leader is an issue in this election.
Putar: All over the world there is now an increasing emphasis on the health of leaders. In the American elections candidates have themselves seen playing golf or tennis so that the public thinks of them as physically fit. The issue of fitness is not only confined to the leaders. Mr Modi commented that the Congress party has become like an old woman.
Hari: Why is that?
Putar: Because it is one hundred and twenty five years old you see.
Hari: In the media sometimes the Congress is now referred to as the Grand Old Party like the Republican Party in the US. That was clever of Modi to put a different spin on the age of the party.
Putar: Modi also said that the BJP is only thirty years old, and therefore youthful enough to lead the country.
Hari: But, Mr Advani, the leader of the BJP is not so young, is he? As a matter of fact both leaders, Mr Advani as well as Mr Singh can be seen to be a bit fragile in terms of their age and general fitness.
Putar: That's ironical considering that more than half of India's electorate is under the age of twenty-five.
Hari: And that's why Rahul Gandhi has spoken about Mr Singh being a youthful person in mind and spirit.
Putar: As far as India's political leadership is concerned, in this time of a global economic crisis physical fitness apart, what is important is that the person we elect must be capable.
Putar: Advani and Manmohan Singh may both be too old to be taken seriously for the post of prime minister in the next election. There seem to be indications that for the next election the Congress will project Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate.
Hari: Mr Manmohan Singh has even endorsed Rahul Gandhi as suitable for the post of prime minister in the future.
Putar: In the Amethi press conference, Priyanka Gandhi too reiterated that her brother is capable of becoming the prime minister of the country. "I never said that he (Rahul) will become the PM but I said that he has all the qualities of becoming the PM in future," she clarified.
Hari: I read recently that Rahul Gandhi has expressed satisfaction that his sister wants to help him and the country.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: We should have merit-based politics in India and a person's origin, caste, religion and family background should not matter. That may take time to happen in India, and for many years ahead the Gandhi name will continue to carry weight with the people. Do you agree?
Hari: You are right.
Putar: But there is still a possibility of giving importance to merit.
Hari: What do you mean?
Putar: Rahul has expressed satisfaction that his sister might want to enter politics to help him, but what about Priyanka herself?
Hari: What do you mean?
Putar: Why doesn't she consider herself as a suitable candidate? While Rahul Gandhi does appear sincere and dedicated, some would say that Priyanka has greater charisma, commands a greater presence and possesses leadership abilities that he lacks.
Hari: I think there is probably an internal decision that Rahul is more suitable.
Putar: Internal decision of the party or the family.
Hari: Both, I guess.
Putar: Let's consider the family. This means Priyanka, Rahul and their mother Sonia Gandhi, doesn't it?
Hari: I suppose so.
Putar: And Sonia prefers Rahul for the position.
Hari: Quite possibly.
Putar: And Priyanka has keen interest in politics but as far as the top position is concerned she is willing to take a back seat for her brother's sake.
Hari: Also possible.
Putar: Now is this internal family decision a merit-based decision? Does it reflect a gender bias and putra moha or is Rahul truly more capable and deserving than Priyanka?
Hari: I don't know, Putar.