Date: 15/11/2013



Indian Express
A surfeit of sycophants
Tavleen Singh Posted online: Sun Nov 10 2013, 04:40 hrs

If Sonia had behaved less like the Empress of India and more like a normal political leader, she would have attracted people.

Every time the sycophants that surround the Dynasty offer us a fresh sample of their limitless sycophancy, I find myself understanding better why India was ruled for so many centuries by foreign invaders. As I am blessed with an unusually active imagination, my mind fills with images of Indian kings of yore being ruthlessly abandoned for the new rulers by their courtiers. Having said that, I concede that courtiers in the Gandhi court are extraordinarily loyal. Perhaps because they know that they could not win a municipal election on their own, perhaps because they know that loyalty is the path to high office.

So they have to demonstrate undying, unwavering loyalty at all times and search for profundities in every ordinary statement or idea that comes from Sonia, Rahul or Priyanka Gandhi. The latest example of this came last week when Jairam Ramesh, a relatively intelligent sycophant, pronounced in tones of wonder that Narendra Modi would be nothing if he lost the next election but Rahul Gandhi would still be an important political leader because he plans for future glories, not immediate gains. He is not thinking of the general election of 2014 but of that distant general election that will come in 2019. Of course it is possible that in 2019 he will be thinking of 2024 and some courtier will once more fall to his knees in praise of his amazing foresight.

It is true that there is a difference between Rahul and Modi, and in view of Jairam’s latest words of praise, the main one is that if Modi started talking about 2019, the BJP would commit him to the nearest facility for mental illnesses. The point I am trying to make, albeit facetiously, is that no other political leader, not even those who head mini-regional dynasties, are so surrounded by sycophants and flatterers as the Gandhi dynasty. Since they have ruled India for most of her years as an independent nation, this culture of sycophancy has done immeasurable harm to our ancient land. But, what is less discussed is the harm it has done the Dynasty.

If Sonia had behaved less like the Empress of India and more like a normal political leader, she would have attracted people who may have given her better advice. This could perhaps have prevented her from reducing economic policy to the distribution of largesse to the poor in increasingly larger doses even after GDP growth fell by half and the rupee lost half its value. Her son has learned nothing from her mistakes and conducts himself even less like a modern politician. I hear on Delhi’s brutal political grapevine that when partymen seek an appointment, they now have to apply on the Internet and state their reasons clearly. “It makes you feel like you’re applying for a visa to a country that doesn’t want to give it to you,” said one frustrated flunkey with a nervous backward glance.

Those who become ‘advisors’ to Rahul and strut about the corridors of power as his loyalists are usually those of the Jairam Ramesh kind who see visionary qualities in banal statements. Having said this, I feel obliged to add that some of the greatest sycophants of the Dynasty are in the media and in the ranks of our top industrialists.

Leftist commentators in the media went on national television to pronounce after Rahul’s “tear up the ordinance and throw it away” speech that he was signalling a revolt against his mother’s policies. A generational change, they gushed, was in the offing. This emboldened him to announce gleefully at all his public rallies that he was proud of what he had done even if Mummy had advised him to choose his words better.

The prize for ultimate, vomit-making sycophancy goes to the captains of Indian industry. After listening to the young prince’s confused and inchoate speech at the CII meeting some months ago, the tallest of our industrialists went on television to say that they had never in their lives heard a more brilliant political speech. Is it any wonder that Rahul now sounds more and more like a man who is very pleased with himself?

Incidentally, Rahul’s response to this sick-making sycophancy has been to tell “rich Indians” that the next government will be a government of young people and the poor. He has said on more than one occasion that in future policies will not be made to please industrialists. To put it less politely he has told rich Indians that they and their businesses can go to hell for all that he cares. What more can be said other than that no group of Indians deserves to be insulted in this fashion more than the captains of Indian industry. It is their fault that nobody spoke up even when major economic mistakes were made.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh