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The big lie – Is there a madness in the method of the Rahul Gandhi campaign?

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Jai Menon
Pro Bono Consultant

For the 2019 elections, Rahul Gandhi appears to have decided that the way to victory is to lie, and lie outrageously. Someone has convinced the chap that it is a winning strategy. Whoever did it is going by the notion that “people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it” (A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler, His Life and Legend by Walter C. Langer).

There is another more frightening, though less likely, possibility: that no one convinced him of anything, and the Gandhi heir honestly believes that the nonsense he is spouting are not falsehoods; that “Modi gave Anil Ambani Rs 30,000 Crore”, and that the Supreme Court agreed with him that “Chowkidar Chor Hai”. If that is so, rather than being given a shot at the prime ministership, the gent should be dispatched forthwith for psychiatric assessment. Whatever the case, his aides, advisors and sundry sycophants should be hiding their faces in shame. But that emotion seems to have deserted everyone at the top of the Indian National Congress (INC).

Let us be charitable and assume that the Congress Party’s prime ministerial candidate has not depended solely on his own intellectual capacity. It does seem like he has taken the advice of professional political campaign consultants, most probably a combination of foreigners of Indian origin, local social climbers and some US/UK based Cambridge Analytica types thrown in for good measure.

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Not surprisingly, the Big Lie strategy has all the hallmarks of a group of people who are inexperienced, at least in the Indian political milieu. Their approach is easy politically, grabs people’s attention, keeps the message simple and gets a lot of media attention. Hence the Rafale refrain: “Chowkidar chor hai”, i.e. “Modi is a thief” who “stole 30,000 Crore rupees and gave it to Anil Ambani”.

Note here: “The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous” (Joseph Goebbels, 12 January 1941. Die Zeit ohne Beispiel. Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP. 1941, pp. 364-369).

This is exactly what Rahul Gandhi has been doing. In short, his campaign managers are not playing to his strengths (if any) but against his weaknesses. From all appearances, the man has the attention span of a fly on a glass window, and the persistence of the same. Hence the easy-to-remember, simple phrases mentioned earlier, repeated over and over and over again.

Large segments of the public might just listen to these wild pronouncements and dismiss it as just “Rahul being Pappu”. But it is not as simple as that, since “in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation…more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods” (Project Gutenberg of Australia – Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler translated by James Murphy).

The man who is contemptuously referred to by hundreds of millions across the country as Pappu may be running a campaign on borrowed brilliance, but understand who it is borrowed from. Then recognize the true madness underlying the method. Streaks of this madness come out now and then. Anyone who has carefully watched his public appearances, speeches and interviews will come away with an uncomfortable feeling that there is a fundamental instability there, but cannot quite pin it down.

Take the case of the latest media fiasco by the Gandhi scion, the now infamous “TV interview for print only” run by India Today (and even that only in excerpted form). This is what he had to say about Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “Everyone told me Mr Narendra Modi can’t be defeated. I said, Yeah, you really think so?’ I asked them, Tell me what Mr Narendra Modi’s strength is.’ They said, His strength is his [incorruptible] image.’ I said, Okay, I’m going to rip that strength to pieces. I’m going to take it and shred it.’ And I’ve done it.”

Now visualize that. There is a certain feral rage behind those words by Rahul Gandhi. And follow it up with this “Eventually, there’s going to be an inquiry on this. And he can’t escape it”, referring to Modi. Note that the language is that of an outsider. This is not someone grounded in Indian civilizational values speaking. No Indian politician will address someone of his father’s age in this way (only 6 years between Modi and the late Rajiv Gandhi).

Such comments are an unwitting revelation of what appears to be vicious and vindictive personality, bred with a sense of high entitlement and probably prone to bursts of anger bordering on mania. These characteristics may be inherited from the maternal side (a reading of Tavleen Singh’s masterpiece Darbar should affirm that), and from the paternal side (recall the antics of Sanjay Gandhi).

At the end of that interview, Rahul Gandhi says: “Understand me for what I am. Listen to me carefully and judge me for what I am.” If there is one thing the Big Lie strategy has succeeded in doing, it is in making sure that people are now indeed listening carefully. They have begun to understand this particular Gandhi for what he actually is. And they are in the process of judging him for it.

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Jai Menon
Pro Bono Consultant

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