New Delhi, Dec 5: These are 'politically' amazing times, definitely. On the one hand, two main political parties of the country--the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress--are fighting an ugly war of words to win the Gujarat Assembly elections, scheduled on December 9 and 14, on the other, the upcoming coronation of Rahul Gandhi as the president of the grand old party has reignited the debate over dynastic politics.
However, there is a twist to the entire debate over dynastic politics, this time.
The debate over whether Rahul is the fittest candidate to rule the Congress prominently features the most hated Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
On Monday, when the Congress with all band, baaja and baaraat (with all pomp, show and strength) accompanied Rahul baba (baby) to file his nomination papers for the election to the Congress president's post, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat during an election rally compared the elevation of Congress vice-president to the dynastic succession among Mughal rulers.
"I congratulate the Congress on their 'Aurangzeb Raj'," Modi said on Rahul's promotion, while addressing an election rally at Dharampur town of Valsad district in his home state.
The PM did not compare Rahul with Mughal emperor Aurangzeb out of the blue. In fact, Modi while likening Rahul to the Mughal emperor was referring to senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, who during a television interview regarding Rahul's coronation tried to bring an analogy between the Mughal dynasty and the Congress party.
However, in times of fake news and distortion of quotes, Aiyar's comments in defence of Rahul's elevation was twisted by the BJP's information technology cell head Amit Malviya who tweeted a video with the text "Mani Shankar Aiyar does it again! Compares Congress rule with Mughal Raj".
Mani Shankar Aiyar does it, again! Compares Congress rule with Mughal Raj! pic.twitter.com/irijmGjWbY— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) December 4, 2017
Actually, Malviya did not tweet the entire video of Aiyar. Those who have watched the viral video of Aiyar as tweeted by the BJP shows the Congress loyalist comparing Rahul with Aurangzeb.
But in the "real" video, Aiyar stated that the rebel leader of the Congress, Shehzad Poonawalla, can contest party presidential election against Rahul unlike during the days of Mughal dynasty.
Speaking at the election rally, Modi latched on to Aiyar's remarks. Modi said: "Aiyar never shies away from showing loyalty to one family. I don't know whether he said this fearlessly or sarcastically. But I wish them good luck for Aurangzeb raj."
Modi asked if the Congress accepted that it was a one-family party. "We don't want this Aurangzebi raj." he said. "For us, the country comes first; 125 crore people of this country are our high command."
This is what actually Aiyar said in the controversial interview which was misquoted by the BJP, Modi and several media houses:
"Ek to, jab Jahangir ke jagah Shahjahaan aaye, tab koi election hua? Jab Shahjahaan ke jagah Aurganzaeb aaye, tab koi election hua? Nai. Pehle se pata tha, ki jo bhi badshaah hai, unke aulaad jo hai, woh hi banenge, woh bhi banenge, aapas mein lade to alag baat hai. Lekin, democracy mein chunaav hota hai, aur Shehzaad Punawala ko amantran mein de raha hoon, ki aapko yahaan aake khada hona ho to aap pahonch jaiye, application dijiye, aapne kabhi Shehzad Poonawala ka naam pehle kabhi suna tha?"
("When Shahjahan took the place of Jahangir, was an election held then? When Aurangzeb succeeded Shahjahan, was an election held then? This was always known that the heir to the emperor will inherit power, although it is another matter if the successors fight among themselves. But, in a democracy, elections are held. I invite [Congress functionary] Shehzad Poonawala to come and file an application to contest the election.")
In the past, Aiyar's comments have created a lot of furore, which includes the infamous chaiwala jibe against the PM. This time, however, the veteran Congress leader was trying to disassociate the Gandhi family from allegedly being a dynasty by bringing in the Mughal dynasty analogy.
Unfortunately, he was not fully quoted and was censored midway by 'mischief mongers'. The result is that the PM went on making wrong statements attributing to Aiyar.
While the BJP's IT cell department might be happy by trending #RahulMughalEmperor on Twitter on Monday, sadly, the whole fiasco once again brought to light how gullible we are in today's time when we end up believing, like the PM did, wrong information because of the unimaginable spread of fake news.
The entire process of Rahul taking over as the Congress boss was going smooth until Shehzad decided to blow the 'anti-dynastic politics' bugle.
The 30-year-old Shehzad, who is the Maharashtra Congress secretary, had alleged that the party president's election is rigged to favour Rahul.
During a rally in Gujarat on Sunday, Modi praised Shehzad for exposing the Congress for its lies. "A youngster Shehzad has exposed the rigging that is taking place in the Congress president poll. And Shehzad is a senior Congress leader in Maharashtra. The Congress Party has tried to muzzle his voice and wants to even remove him from their social media groups. What tolerance is this?" the PM said at a rally in Surendranagar.
After being praised by Modi, the rebel Congress leader thanked the PM on Sunday.
"The person whom I criticised (PM Modi) is supporting me, while the party (Congress) for which I gave my life is criticising me and saying that I am not a member of it."
"Thank you @PMOIndia (Prime Minister's Office). I will continue my fight against dynasty politics -- I will not be cowed down by attempts to silence me," said Shehzad on Twitter.
Talking to reporters in the national capital on Sunday, Shehzad said that the Congress had "no place for Shehzad (himself), but for shehzada (Rahul Gandhi)."
"I have been trying to raise the most important issue of dynastic politics and fair opportunity to the non-dynasts within the party for the past six to eight years. I also wrote to Rahul ji on this.
"Instead of answering my claims about delegates being fixed and one family one ticket rule--they are making baseless allegations against me that I am a BJP agent. I have to become a whistle-blower. I am not spineless like the other Congress leaders," the 30-year-old was quoted as saying by ANI.
All the issues raised by Shehzad are valid and the silence on the part of Congress and Rahul are equally deafening. The Congress should have come clean on the allegations made over the "opaque" process of party presidential poll.
What is more astonishing is that Rahul, who always claimed that he would promote young talent irrespective of their backgrounds, failed to live up to his words and like a despot (definitely not Aurangzeb as suggested by Modi and his team) decided to rule over the Congress.
In fact, Rahul had a great opportunity to end dynastic and feudal politics, as indicated by Assam BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was earlier with the Congress.
Sadly, the trappings of power devoured Rahul, the reluctant politician, too, who in the race to get the top Congress job, forgot to give a chance to his party mates who have worked much harder than him.