Is Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi the ultimate bromancer of desi politics? In this climate of acrimony and hate, is Rahul bringing in saccharine, feel good politics; a kind of touchy-feely maha bhaibandhan, as is being witnessed in Uttar Pradesh?
Can anyone forget the swoony, hereditary clique that Rahul and former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah formed, with Twitter declarations of friendship and intimacy?
Rahul may not share “bhaichara” (brotherhood) with Lalu Yadav’s children Tejashwi or Tej Pratap, but he is looked at fondly by Lalu as a “young, nice, good gentleman”.
Perhaps, there’s a Jayant Chaudhary waiting in the wings? Or a Chirag Paswan? Like all bromance dudes, is Rahul the kind of guy that every other guy in politics wants to have on his side?
The joint press conference held by UP chief minister and Samajwadi Party inheritor Akhilesh Yadav and Gandhi may have had its contrived moments of bonhomie and cordiality, but the alliance underlined a personal intimacy and friendship rather than political expediency and rewards.
“Yeh dil ka alliance hai, milke jitenge” Rahul rhapsodied, a far cry from the political alliances of the last generation, where warring leaders never talked about each other, but came to bald arrangements for quick political gains.
Just the other day, NCP’s Sharad Pawar, the slippery veteran leader who is constantly under a threat of exposés from the Modi government, didn’t chew his words when he reached out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stitch up an alliance in Maharashtra should the BJP want to dump Shiv Sena, its partner in the state.
It was an open offer, without the pretensions of friendship or intimacy, and was said matter-of-factly, for a flimsy truce.
But the run-up to the Rahul-Akhilesh pollmance was showered with the confetti of goodwill, harmony and warmth, with both calling out to each other’s sweetness and humaneness.
If Rahul reached out first with his “Akhilesh is a well-meaning boy” response to a journalist’s question during his UP campaign as early as July 2016, Akhilesh, as if on cue, was quick to respond to why he had called Rahul a “good human being and a good boy”.
“If two good human beings meet, what’s wrong?,” the UP CM said, thus declaring they were of the same stock.
The bromance went on for the next few months when Akhilesh defended Rahul’s “khoon ki dalali” remark targeted at Modi after the surgical strikes in Pakistan last October.
Akhilesh had then said that the Congress VP must have made the remark after due thought.
It’s not the first time Rahul has inspired bromance and brotherhood. Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah has been a keen pal of Rahul Gandhi, right from the time their parties clinched an alliance in the beleaguered state.
Apart from wearing matching karakul caps during poll campaigns, a crucial note in the bromance, Omar and Rahul have jumped to defend each other despite the strains of the political coalition in Kashmir.
The amity was seen even after the two parties split in the J&K Assembly elections in August 2014.
As early as 2010, a normally reticent Rahul went out of his way to defend Omar when the Valley was up in flames, saying that the then CM Omar needed “support and time” and that Kashmir is not a “part-time, but full-time” problem.
Omar reciprocated cordially on being asked whether he would continue to support Rahul after his disastrous first television interview. The then J&K CM said that Rahul should not back down but give several more interviews.
Rahul is such a bromantic that he had words of appreciation for BSP Behenji Mayawati – and she’s not even a bloke.
He was near-expansive in his praise for the former UP CM when he said, “I respect the personality of Mayawati. The BSP made few mistakes. But my respect for her remains intact… Mayawati’s ideology is not harmful for the country so do not compare Mayawati-ji with RSS.”
He hasn’t even spared his party’s Rajya Sabha sport nominee Sachin Tendulkar, who, by the way, has been so callous that he barely attends Parliament. But Rahul didn’t hold himself back: “He is a friend of mine. He’s a great cricketer, more importantly, he is a wonderful human being.”
A Rahul-Akhilesh-Omar bromance however would be complicated, what with their history of betrayal, duplicity, survival and the tense and complicated relationship their leaders (read parents) shared once.
Yet, despite their conflicts of interest, the political heirs have been supportive of each other, almost saying, let’s get on with our lives.
If one is the face of a declining national party trying to assert itself, the other two show that regional parties are crucially relevant on the national stage.
It was not surprising that at a joint press conference, both Akhilesh and Rahul ignored the question of the latter being a PM candidate in 2019. Akhilesh simply said, “We are glad to work together.”
Has Rahul’s chalice of “power is poison” runneth over with love and bromance?
With all the utterances of a Ganga-Yamuna confluence of friendship, of stopping Modi and BJP’s politics of hate and despite a metaphor muddle of their party symbols – the hand guiding the cycle to being the two wheels of the cycle – it was a joshing, frat fiesta.
It seems, they are all going for bro.
(The article first appeared in DailyO)