The transformation of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, once a naive politician, into the most elastic entities in Indian politics is complete, says Sudhir Bisht.
When I was in the tenth standard, the science teacher asked my class a question, "Tell me students, what is more elastic -- rubber or steel?"
The entire class roared back in unison, "Sir, rubber."
"No, my dear students, steel as an object is more elastic than rubber. Though in common parlance, rubber appears to be more elastic... But because elasticity is the capacity of a body to resist stress and return to its original size and shape when the stress is removed. Elasticity is measured as a ratio of stress to strain..."
The teacher went on and on as a few of us began to wonder what exactly did he mean.
Of course, we later learnt what stress meant and what strain signified in Physics and were perfectly at ease with this theory of elasticity.
What remained stuck in mind was that in the matters of Physics, steel and not rubber was more elastic. Steel, in fact, was one of the most elastic elements on earth.
It wasn’t until earlier this week that I realised that Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi was the latest epitome of perfect elasticity.
This is what happened in the yet another episode of the weekly soap involving Rahul and his sense of history about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Some time in March 2014, perhaps after receiving a quick gyan download of history by his gurus in the Congress, Rahul in an election rally in Bhiwandi said (external link): "People of RSS shot at Gandhiji and today their people talk of him..."
Taking serious offence to the utterances of Rahul, an aggrieved gentleman, a devoted RSS follower named Rajesh Kunte, filed a defamation case against the Congress vice president.
As is well known, the First Family of the Congress party does not appreciate cases being filed against them, especially in the lower courts. The reason for this is unknown.
It could be that the lawyer on whom they seem to have maximum trust, the eminent and honourable Kapil Sibal, may not be able to travel to mofussil town courts to represent them.
Rahul approached Bombay high court to quash the case when the lower court asked him to appear before it.
The high court dismissed his appeal. He then approached the Supreme Court, but the apex court told him that he must either apologise or face trial for his remarks alleging that the RSS was responsible for Mahatma Gandhi's assassination.
The Congress's First family also seems to believe that it is their entitlement to get the cases quashed from the higher courts. However, the judiciary has its own guiding principles which don’t discriminate between a priest and a pariah and thus we often find the Congress VP rolling his sleeves up and down at various public forums.
To cut a long story short, Rahul's lawyer, sensing that the Supreme Court may summarily dismiss his client's appeal to order the lower court to quash the defamation case, pleaded that the Congress vice president never intended to paint the entire RSS as the killers of Gandhiji.
He said his client only meant to point his accusing finger at some people from the RSS. This was a significant climb-down from the earlier position of his client that virtually accused RSS in its entirety of being the killers of Bapu.
The Supreme Court then accepted the plea of Rahul's lawyer which was supported by an affidavit that was submitted earlier in the Bombay high court.
It appeared that the matter would come to a close if the original complainant, Kunte, was satisfied by the new position taken by the original defendant.
It was then that the principle of elasticity came into play.
No sooner than he thought that he had escaped from the case, Rahul was back to his former self.
He tweeted, "I will never stop fighting the hateful & divisive agenda of the RSS. I stand by every single word I said."
He also attached the video of his controversial speech that he made in Bhiwandi in 2014.
Thus, as soon as the young leader thought that the external stress was off his body, he was back to his very acerbic and critical position against the RSS.
He even beats the ability of steel as an object in respect of its index of elasticity.
Leaving matters of Physics aside, a few questions need to be asked of the Congress leader:
• What is his real grouse against the RSS? Is it that he really believes that the organisation was behind the killing of Gandhiji? In which case he should stick his neck out and take a position to that effect in the highest court.
• Is he bitter about the fact that the Saffronites are now praising Gandhi and Patel? In the Bhiwandi speech video, Rahul looks angry that people who opposed Gandhi and Patel are now turning their opposition into admiration for the Congress icons. Let us for a moment assume that all those who oppose Gandhi and Patel are evil people. But if the evil too is trying to tread the holy path, shouldn't he welcome the change instead of opposing it?
• Why was Rahul so hell bent upon quashing the court case that was filed by Kunte? In my memory, no leader has ever gone to jail for defamation in free India yet. The court case would have lingered on for decades and maybe forever. Is it that by bringing the matter to the apex court, Rahul wants to sensationalise the case and project himself as the most strident critic, the most ferocious fighter against the RSS? Is this new positioning to consolidate the anti-BJP votes for the party that finds itself completely marginalised on the national scene?
Rahul made his controversial speech against the RSS in Bhiwandi, which is a Muslim majority city in Maharashtra. It made good politics to link the RSS with Gandhiji's murder just before the Lok Sabha elections.
In the court, Rahul's able counsel did what he was supposed to do -- wriggle his client out of a situation where his client would have been forced to issue an apology to the RSS.
Is Rahul's tweet signifying his immediate about-turn from the stand he took in the court aimed at the Uttar Pradesh elections due next year?
Maybe his gurus have told him that his rival Akhilesh Yadav has provided enough laptops to young people to be hooked on to Twitter, and hence his tweet of standing by his Bhiwandi speech. It may be his attempt to get Muslim votes apart from the Brahmin votes.
Or maybe it's the Prashant Kishor doctrine at work?
Anyway you look at it, the transformation of this once naive politician into the most elastic entities in Indian politics is complete.
Image: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. Photograph: PTI Photo.
Sudhir Bisht is an author and columnist writing from New Delhi. He tweets at @sudhir_bisht.