Rahul 'much more talented' than Rajiv: Khushwant
Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi is 'much more talented' than his father, the late Rajiv Gandhi who was 'not really a leader' but 'a boy scout' with some 'good ideas but none of them extraordinary.' These are the views of maverick writer Khushwant Singh who compared the two leaders in his latest book Absolute Khushwant: The Low Down on Life, Death and Most Things in-between, written along with columnist Humra Quraishi
He (Rahul) has a vision and that's very important. I'm impressed with him, impressed with the way in which he's conducting himself. He has the right attitude. Even if much of what he does only amounts to gestures, the thinking behind them is right," wrote 95-year-old Singh in his latest book.
The grand old man of letters lauds Rahul's efforts for 'taking on' Mayawati and the Shiv Sena on their own turf and highlighting the 'shameful' realities of the country by staying with 'lower castes and sharing their food'.
'He has taken on Mayawati in her own territory. It is a brave thing to do. He himself seems to have no caste or class prejudice. What he has been doing in Amethi, staying with the lower castes and sharing their food -- I don't thing that you can criticise him for that,' wrote Khushwant.
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Image: Pawan Kumar / Reuters
'Rahul has taken on Mayawati, Sena in their own turf'
Singh praised Rahul for 'the manner he took on the Shiv Sena in Mumbai (February 2010). He lambasted the party for attacking non-Maharashtrians and said publicly that Mumbai was for all Indians. Then he went to the lion's den and dared them to do their worst. He walked around the streets, and travelled by local train.
'He is not being patronising; he is highlighting a shameful reality in our country. Even in the twenty-first century there are untouchables in our society and they live wretched lives,' Singh wrote in his book published by Penguin Books.
'The Shiv Sena goondas failed completely. Hardly any Maharashtrian joined the Shiv Sena protests against Rahul. It was a very well-planned move for Rahul and his advisers. It was good theatre,' says Singh.
Image: Rahul Gandhi alights from a local train in Mumbai
Photographs: Sahil Salve
'Rajiv wasn't really a leader'
But when it comes to Rajiv Gandhi, Khushwant Singh says he was 'bullied into a position he wasn't equipped to handle.'
Khushwant Singh says Rajiv was 'pleasant enough, and had some good ideas, but none of them extraordinary.'
'He wasn't really a leader. And I don't think he was cut out for politics. He followed in his mother's footsteps and made many of the same mistakes. Even the positive things he did, like telecom and computers -- the plans had started in Indira Gandhi's time,' Singh wrote.
The author says Rajiv 'bungled in Sri Lanka; he even fired a secretary in a public press conference! His role in the Shah Bano case and in the Babri masjid incident cannot be denied. Both were big blunders that were irreversible and did long term damage.'
Image: A file picture of Rajiv Gandhi addressing an election rally
Resist flatterers: Khushwant's advice to Rahul
Singh also criticises Rajiv for making the statement, 'When a big tree falls, the earth is bound to shake...' during the anti-Sikh riots in New Delhi triggered by the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984.
'He could have easily stopped the massacres. All he had to do was to go out and say, 'This must stop' and call in the army. But he didn't, he almost justified the carnage with that remark. I cannot imagine his great grandfather (Nehru) allowing such a thing to continue,' Singh says. 'Sanjay was dynamic; Rajiv was just a boy scout.'
The writer, known for his column With Malice towards one and all, says Rahul is becoming a mature leader and may assume the charge of prime minister if the Congress wins the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Khushwant Singh remembers advising the young Congress leader to 'resist flatterers and to hold back from accepting any portfolio,' when Rahul came to meet him at his home.
'We didn't talk about his grandmother (Indira Gandhi) or his great grandfather (Jawaharlal Nehru),' he said.
Image: Rahul Gandhi at the Golden temple in Amritsar
Photographs: Munish Sharma / Reuters