I am not a big follower of mainstream media and do not view any news channel as there is such junk masquerading as journalism. However, only recently, I did see your reluctance Mr Rahul Gandhi in becoming the President of the Indian National Congress.
And so it occurred to me that your story must feature in an English or regional language channel, where you are able to share who exactly is Mr Rahul Gandhi? Allow me to step into your shoes, if only briefly, and share your story as I would have woven it. I have always held the firm belief that lay your story bare and it will earn you more respect than ridicule.
If I was Rahul, I’d share my story thus
For the uninitiated, my name is Rahul Gandhi. I am the scion of the Gandhi family and great-grandson of Late Jawaharlal Nehru – India’s first Prime Minister. My grandmother, Indira was also prime minister and so was my father, Rajiv Gandhi.
My grandmother, Indira, was groomed by her father in the workings of Indian politics. Although she’d mostly spent a lonely childhood, she did maintain close contact with her father through letters. The famous book–Letters from a Father to his Daughter–makes for a compelling read.
Indira’s father had told her that if she wanted to see India, she must visit its heartland. This is exactly what she did when she became the prime minister. Today, in our neighbouring country, we have a prime minister who worked his way from being a leader in the cricketing domain, having also led his team to World Cup victory in 1992. However, for him to make Pakistan like India, Prime Minister Imran Khan must have the ability to rule unchallenged for the next 20 years — to lay a foundation as my grandmother did during her tenure. She established a three tier panchayati raj system. Mind you, this was a Herculean task and it was accomplished by the Congress party.
My father, Rajiv, was a jet-setter. He was a charismatic personality, a pilot by profession and he never really envisioned a life in politics. He challenged the prevailing conventions at the time and married my mother Sonia Maino — an Italian lady whom he’d met while he was studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. He married for love.
My uncle, Sanjay Gandhi, was groomed for politics. Priyanka and I would play in my grandmother’s arms and we were a one big happy family. But I still vividly recall that horrific moment when my grandmother was assassinated by her own bodyguards. We’d rushed to the hospital where we saw my grandmother fighting for her life – her body torn apart with bullets. She succumbed to the injury and both Priyanka and I were shell shocked.
My father was inconsolable. In the forthcoming elections, he came to power with an absolute majority but the feeling that constantly played out was, should we be happy about his win? We feared for his life and we were in constant anxiety about father’s safety. Then, during the course of another election campaign, our worst fears came true — like déjà vu for my family and me.
Our father, Rajiv, was blown to smithereens by a suicide bomber. We were shattered by this ghastly act and our world collapsed in front of us. In the months that followed, we spoke less for words failed to express our sorrow. My mother grieved and we led an even more protected life. All our movements were closely monitored by security personnel.
My mother maintained her dignity amid difficult circumstances. Most women, when faced with such tragic loss, would have perhaps resorted to renouncing their public life and would have chosen to return to their place of origin. However, she gathered herself and despite having lost her mother-in-law and then her beloved husband, she decided to forge ahead and continue the family’s political saga.
My mother feared for the security of her children. Sometimes I wonder what must have played on in her mind to opt to stay put in India. A thousand questions must have raced on; what might Rajiv had wanted her to do next?
She is a tough lady and even in the face of strife, she was able revive the party’s sagging fortunes. She joined the Congress party as a primary member in the Calcutta Plenary Session in 1997 and assumed the party reins in 1998.
Sonia Gandhi worked hard and the party’s cumulative efforts bore fruit when it was elected to form a coalition central government in 2004. Her foreign ancestry was the subject of much debate and controversy just when we thought she could become prime minister.
We were shocked to hear this and opposition leaders lost no opportunity in highlighting her Italian origin. We pondered over what it was that they expected; would extolling the virtues of ganga jal make her an authentic Indian?
She’d given up her western outfits to drape herself in a traditional sari and ate daal and chawal as most Indian individuals would. She learned to speak in Hindi but everything she did was the subject of public scrutiny. Despite the efforts made at learning a new language, the spotlight seemed to be cast on her accent.
In light of the drama that unfolded, my mother assumed a backseat and promoted Dr Manmohan Singh as prime minister. He was a seasoned economist and a good human being.
Growing up, Priyanka and I did not want to be party to politics. My mother explained the legacy I’d inherited and after much thought, I reluctantly set foot into politics in 2004.
Initially, I would suffer unpleasant dreams and sleepless nights. In the course of delivering my services, I once visited a Dalit village where they greeted me warmly and offered me a meal that I humbly accepted. I’ve lived in a protected environment and had never ventured into a Dalit’s village earlier. And when I genuinely wanted to see how they live, I was the subject of media ridicule.
Here I was trying to find my footing in politics and the media and the opposition party never took kind of me. My mother and my dear sister often explained to me that the journey is never easy for everything I say or do ‘can and will be used against me’. I grew a tough hide and started ignoring these negative elements. I needed to be mentally tough and was focused on my work. I would learn on the job.
My family has paid a huge price – one that I do not think any family has suffered. We have tided over losses on account of two assassinations in close succession — of a mother and son. I say they are martyrs of my beloved country India. I am proud of their enduring legacy. I will greet everyone with respect and fight fair and square. To the naysayers, “just wait and watch. I will surprise you!”