Greatness thrust upon Rahul and Bilawal It’s a conspiracy of circumstances against India and Pakistan

Given a choice, both Rahul Gandhi and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would not like to be what they are today. The crown prince of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in India and the heir apparent of the Zulfikar-Benazir empire in Pakistan are on top of the who’s who list by default.

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SYED TAUSIEF AUSAF

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Given a choice, both Rahul Gandhi and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would not like to be what they are today. The crown prince of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in India and the heir apparent of the Zulfikar-Benazir empire in Pakistan are on top of the who’s who list by default. Cruel turns in the lives of their parents have made them celebrities overnight and therefore many a parallel is being drawn between the two otherwise nobodies.
Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi had no intention to join politics. A professional pilot in Indian Airlines, whose flight path was Delhi to Bhopal, Rajiv was dragged into politics by Congressmen, who knew that their survival depends upon the continuity of the Gandhi brand.
A suave, polite and good-looking family man, Rajiv knew little about running the party. But shrewd veterans trained him to be a cunning vote-seeker. I can recall seeing at 6, Race Course Road a patchwork deliberately done on his white khadi kurta to convince gullible masses of his simplicity. He did not know how to speak in public. In one of his Republic Day speeches he used “hum ne dekha,” “hum dekh rahe hain” and “hum dekhenge” 56 times. He also had his share of controversies, the most prominent of them being receiving kickbacks of Rs56 crore in Bofors scam and opening the doors of the Babri Masjid for pooja. The decision to send Indian Peace-keeping Force to help Colombo wipe out the LTTE was the blunder of his life and a woman Tiger took him out for that.
Benazir Bhutto was a bubbly, Westernised and bright student with an ultra modern outlook, who would accompany his father on foreign trips. Her black and white photos with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi during the days of Simla Agreement are part of every connoisseur’s collection. Like Rajiv, she also studied in Western colleges. She never spoke correct Urdu. Her impeccable English and cut-glass accent could turn a native speaker green with envy. Once, during a political meeting, she (in)famously said, “khamosh ho jayen, azaan baj raha hai” (keep quiet, prayer call is being played). Independent TV channels regularly made fun of her Urdu devoid of grammar.
Benazir’s political pedigree, her glamorous looks, and her so-called reformist attitude were a potent combination. Like Rajiv, she was also twice prime minister, and was campaigning for a return to power when she was assassinated. Rajiv was also blown up in a public rally while preparing for elections.
Benazir’s father was deposed, imprisoned, and finally executed after a 1977 military coup. Rajiv’s mother also met with a violent death when she fell to the bullets of two disgruntled Sikh bodyguards.
Benazir’s two terms as prime minister, from 1988-90 and from 1993-96, both ended in controversy and charges of corruption against her and husband, Asif Ali Zardari. Corrupt to the core, Zardari was known as Mr 10 per cent. His 10 per cent cut in every tender and government deal was an open secret when his wife was at the helm.
As the Bhuttos are accused of stealing billions of dollars and buying Surrey Palace and other properties in world capitals, Rajiv was accused of taking a huge sum as commission in the Bofors deal and stashing the money in a Swiss bank.
Rajiv fought the 1989 general election but suffered a heavy defeat because of charges of corruption and incompetence. Benazir’s government was also shown the door because of charges of nepotism and graft.
Zulfikar and Indira were good friends. There was a good chemistry between Rajiv and Benazir too and now it is the turn of Bilawal and Rahul to carry on the business. Both are heavily protected. Both crave for freedom as enjoyed by ordinary folks. Bilawal confided to Dawn when he was 16 that he missed being able to play cricket. To another friend, he wrote: “I envy your freedom.” Similarly, Rahul is unable to enjoy parathas and jalebis at the famous Chandni Chowk shop in Delhi. The maximum he can do is go shopping at an upmarket mall with a security jamboree and inconvenience to commuters.
Both young men did nothing to earn the glory they have today. History has thrust greatness upon them. But they can prove their critics wrong by doing away with the deep-rooted corruption in the rank and file of their parties. When the time comes for them to take the reins of power, both will be mature and experienced. They can turn around things in their countries by getting rid of sycophants, self-seekers, opportunists and political liabilities. Both are capable of evolving Indo-Pak friendship and take it to a height.
But are political dynasties good? Certainly not!   Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has a mixed record and Benazir did little useful for her country. The dynasties block the emergence of genuine politicians, and thus smother political awakening and development. Such considerations however are confined to the books of political science. The brands are well heeled as we saw in Pakistan and India. It is a well-hatched conspiracy of circumstances in both countries. And voters are not ready to wake up.
[The writer can be reached at [email protected]]