Gandhi, The Family
|Rahul Gandhi at a rally in Ernakulam, Kerala. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The family itself acts like royalty, gently floating above the rough and tumble of national discourse. They've lived in taxpayer-funded housing for more than 60 years..... Add to this the uncertain electoral appeal of the dynasty's bumbling heir apparent, 42-year-old Rahul Gandhi, and you begin to see why it may be time for India's de facto royal family to borrow a trick from Europe and leave the grubby business of politics to lesser mortals. ..... But things would likely have turned out differently had independence movement leader Mohandas K. Gandhi not taken a shine to the articulate and energetic Jawaharlal. From the 1920s onward, Gandhi transformed Congress from a party of petition posting lawyers to a mass movement. At independence in 1947, the Mahatma backed Nehru to become prime minister over Sardar Patel, a leader better known for organizational skills than charisma. Nehru ruled until his death in 1964. .... Nehru "had no hope or desire that his daughter would succeed him." ..... She served her first term as Congress president in 1959 while her father was prime minister. Indira -- whose legendary imperiousness earned her the moniker "the Empress" -- acquired her last name through marriage to Feroze Gandhi, a minor freedom fighter unrelated to the father of the nation..... Key cabinet appointments, and even some senior bureaucrats, trace their authority to Gandhi -- not Singh. ..... India already treats the family like royalty. Take, for example, the delicate matter of Sonia Gandhi's health. .... Or how about the fact that even though he has been a member of Parliament for eight years, nobody is quite sure what Rahul Gandhi stands for. ..... Thanks to generations of marriage outside their small Kashmiri Brahmin community and a long stint in the public eye, the Nehru-Gandhis are pan-Indian figures, not closely identified with any particular region or caste. In a country as dizzyingly diverse as India, that's preferable to the current system of rotating quotas that resemble a cross between U.S. affirmative action and the EU presidency. (Mukherjee, a Bengali Brahmin, will follow Patil, a Maratha woman, who followed A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, a Tamil Muslim, etc.) ..... Rahul comes across as a Prince Charles-like figure, essentially well-meaning but out of sync with the world. His policy-related comments and actions tend to be episodic and weirdly self-absorbed.The Kennedys are not it. The Gandhis are not to India what the Kennedys are to America. That is not a valid comparison.