Now, a twist in the Pappu story

The BJP is nervous because Pappu seems to be giving it a run for its money. Donning a sage-like beard, Gandhi is traversing the length and breadth of the country, touching a chord.

The word Pappu has interesting connotations.

Simply put, it means someone who is dumb. Of course the charitable would prefer substituting dumb with innocent or simple.

Nevertheless, in Bollywood and politics in that order, Pappu’s origins can be traced to the year 2007 when a comedy film Aur Pappu Paas ho gaya was released. A year later, the lyrics, Pappu can’t dance sala…broke all records.

At the political level, it was initially the Election Commission that cashed in on the Pappu terminology and generously used it to woo voters to come out and vote in a local election.

If it alternated between Pappu vote nain deta to Pappu vote dal le, to woo the electorate, the Election Commission cashed in on the Pappu terminology as never before.

Advertisement giants, too, got into the act and came up with their own Pappu versions: if Cadbury’s found it a good hook to marketing chocolates with a celebratory catchline, Pappu paas ho gaya, Maruti Suzuki used the jingle to dissuade people from buying fake parts, Maruti genuine parts lagaoge to pappu nahin kahlaoge, if you use genuine car-parts you would not be dismissed as Pappu. 

 What has however stood the test of Time, if one may use the phrase in a lighter vein, is the Pappu-Rahul Gandhi connect. It has worked like nothing ever in the recent past. At least politically.

There are different versions of whodunnit, started it all: whether it was BJP’s Amit Shah who slammed Rahul Gandhi or one of Congress’ own who referred to the Congress scion as Pappu, in a bid to praise him or else AAP’s Kumar Vishwas who took on the Gandhi heir during the 2014 elections or even godman turned rape accused, Asaram some two years earlier mocking at Rahul Gandhi at a public rally.

Irrespective, Pappu became a mock-name for Rahul Gandhi and it is one that has stuck like an indissoluble adhesive would.

The BJP, on its part, used it to the hilt to poke fun at him. That Rahul Gandhi turned the tables on the saffron party in Parliament is a different matter.

Minutes before the headline grabbing hug wherein Rahul Gandhi walked across the aisles to give a bear hug to a startled Narendra Modi, he said in Parliament: “I may be a pappu for you. But despite this, I do not hold any anger against the Prime Minister,” Gandhi had said during the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha.

Clearly the day belonged to Rahul Gandhi; he not only stole the limelight but had made the BJP very, very nervous. The spotlight was then on Rahul Gandhi and the bear-hug.

Four years down the line, something similar seems to be happening. The BJP is nervous yet again because Pappu seems to be giving it a run for its money.

Donning a sage-like beard, which Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswas said made him look like Saddam Hussein, Gandhi is traversing the length and breadth of the country.

Beginning September he embarked on a walkathon from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Spanning a distance of 3500 kilometres on foot, Gandhi and his entourage, which transformed into an enthused crowd within days, targeted to walk for 150 days.

Ostensibly the walk or the Bharat Jodo Yatra as it is christened as, was designed to flag issues plaguing the Modi government: unemployment, inflation, polarisation to name a few. However, what it has ended up in doing is rebranding Pappu as a serious, toiling and committed politician rather than one who takes a vacation at the drop of a hat.

For the uninitiated, Rahul Gandhi’s vacations have been a talking point and one that the BJP has milked politically. However, this time around it seems to be running for cover.

With the kind of attention and adulation Rahul Gandhi is getting and the media attention the walk has generated is enough to give the ruling Party sleepless nights.

Even as the BJP has publicly ridiculed Gandhi’s herculean effort, be it on including what BJP perceives as “anti-India elements” or any other, the fact remains that it is developing cold feet over the people-connect that has visibly happened through these gruelling months. And now with Gandhi headed to Kashmir with a nothing can stop this yatra resolve, the saffron Party’s nervousness has peaked.

“We will”, Gandhi told an enthused crowd, “wave our flags in Srinagar”.

That this has coincided with a spurt of Covid cases is another matter.

The Government is clearly on an overdrive. Consequently, the Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya shot off a letter to Rahul Gandhi urging him to suspend the yatra “in national interest”. Mandaviya’s plea: public health emergency and to save the country from the Covid pandemic, as stated in his letter.

Quite expectedly, the Congress sprang into action alleging that the BJP is gripped with a “fear psychosis”. It was none other than Rahul Gandhi himself who took on the BJP on grounds that Corona is where the yatra is: “It’s their new idea. They wrote a letter to me asking me to suspend the Yatra as a new wave of the novel coronavirus may hit the country. All these are excuses as they are scared of India knowing the truth,” Rahul Gandhi said, adding that the BJP sees Covid where the yatra is passing through.

Gandhi is not off the mark. The yatra-Covid has gripped the BJP and it seems to be running helter-skelter not knowing how to handle Rahul Gandhi, the walkman.

Irrespective of the politics, the fact remains that Rahul Gandhi has not only come into his  own but his connect with the people, his speaking from his heart has touched a chord.

All through the 3500 kilometres spread over 150 days, Gandhi showcased himself as a human being who had chosen to walk and see for himself how things are for the people of this country; how there is dearth of love in this, to borrow his quote, market of hate.

More importantly he has dispelled the impression of his being carefree, oblivious and ignorant to what was going on in the country. Therefore the Modi-led dispensation being rattled by what is unfolding, fits in.

The Corona demon may not be threatening for now, but it sure has come handy for the BJP to use as a red flag to checkmate the yatra. That it has, in the process, exposed itself is another matter.

This has also led objective minds to ask the powers that be: Where was this concern when devotees thronged the streets, not in hundreds and thousands but millions, during the Kumbh mela a year ago? Why were norms given a go-by when BJP, Prime Minister Modi included, was busy taking on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and others during the Assembly elections in 2021?

The BJP was then on an overdrive both in the religious and political sphere and later stood to count the dead, thanks to their recklessness.

As against this, its early alert this time around may be a sagacious move but its track record belies its intent. And however much it may wish the people to believe otherwise, the fact remains that the Mandaviya letter is one to create roadblocks in the Rahul-walk which surely is a transformative one both personally and politically.

At the political level, the yatra has brought Congress centre-stage and pulled it out of its slumber.

As for Rahul Gandhi, he seems to have left Pappu far behind. Yet for those who still insist he remains one must accept that even if Pappu can’t dance, he sure can walk, walk well and traverse an enviable distance:  physically, symbolically and politically.