Each time you watched Rahul Gandhi take to the stage during his Gujarat election campaigns and explain before a waiting crowd that the GST is nothing but ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, you must have wondered what’s wrong with the man. Whether he’s really a dumb, fit enough for his famous sobriquet ‘Pappu’? You must have squirmed in disgust as to how a responsible politician can mislead the masses. Simultaneously, you must have got curious to know which school Rahul Gandhi got his economics lessons from.
However, let me tell you he’s perfectly all right and that he’s got his lessons from the best school of a politician – the dusty by-lanes of Indian politics.
Politics is all about reaching out to the masses and making an everlasting connect with them; it’s a bonding made stronger with deft communication, apt vocabulary and noisy rhetoric. The greater your ability to connect with the rank and file of the profanum vulgus, the better is your chances in politics. Add a bit of theatrics and voila! You’ve got what it takes.
After 17 or so defeats in successive elections, Rahul Gandhi now seems to have learnt the ropes. Many political observers and analysts believe that Rahul has found his tongue. He’s discovered the art of communication, at least to the best of his limitations. ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ serves the best example.
GST brought with it two ‘miseries’ to the common people; the first, disruption in normal economic activities of the small traders and second, complexities. Close on the heels of demonetization, GST brought another commotion in the life of the common man, especially small traders and businessmen. They’ve their experiences to believe GST is bad but the government has its data to prove it’s good. In the scenario, a clever politician knows that theoretically speaking, GST can’t be opposed. It can be defeated only through canards and polemics.
A polemic of lies and derision is the best anecdote to constructive ideas.
‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ invented that polemic of lies which the disgruntled aam aadmi was looking for and Rahul Gandhi made the most of it. The masses were exhilarated at the description. Each time Gandhi twisted the microphone and uttered the phrase ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, the crowd went berserk in jubilation and he listened to the catcalls of the jeering audience with a conceited smirk. He knew he had given expression to the anger of the millions. He didn’t know himself what it exactly meant. He need not, either. His job was done.
No amount of pedantic discourse or academic description can destroy the effects of a ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ narrative. Today, no one remembers what Arun Jaitley said to counter the Gabbar Singh jibe, though he said all those academically correct things. Yet, people only remember what Rahul said. And that’s the art of making a connect.
A good many people are disenchanted in some way or other and a section of media has worked overtime to prove that the government policies are anti-people. Mainstreaming the cash economy and forcing people to live in transparent glasshouses has its own challenges.
The political wisdom says a politician must use the situation to the best of his abilities. Hence, the Congress has exploited the disenchantment of the masses to the best of its ability and fed on the ignorance of the people. Gandhi knows that the aam aadmi, like him, has no appetite for facts or analysis nor it believes in lengthy explanations. The common man needs off-the-shelf concepts, and few catchphrases, to describe his pent up emotions. The ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, fits the bill precisely. In this political campaign, the government hit the hustings with facts, figures and analysis and it lost audience. The Congress hit the campaign with polemic and lies and it struck an instant chord with the masses. The media, always hungry for the catchphrases, multiplied the effect.
In the post-truth politics, what matters more is perception and catchphrases do wonderful jobs in shaping perception. It may be a lie or bullshit is another matter. Politics, anyway, is never about teaching the truth. Nor it’s about accountability. Misleading the masses is intelligent so long it fetches votes. And, Gandhi needs votes.
So, you thought ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ is a sheer bullshit. But then you thought of university economics. For politics, ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ is an intelligent theorem. It fetches votes. As I said earlier, economics is the best means to harness politics. Hence, no wonder if the ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ catchphrase enables the Congress and its new chief recover some of the lost grounds in Gujarat.