On a Sunday night, Congress President Rahul Gandhi accompanied his mother Sonia Gandhi for medical treatment abroad. By Monday morning, this had become a hot topic of discussion on social media. And the coverage of this “news” by leading media houses once again opened doors for frenzied attacks on Gandhi by BJP supporters and trolls.
While Rahul Gandhi’s winding path to national politics has always been strewn with a mix of professional and personal criticism, this is different. The insensitivity shown by the media and the BJP trolls towards an old mother being accompanied by her son for treatment is nothing but a display of contemptible spinelessness.
Will be out of India for a few days, accompanying Sonia ji to her annual medical check up. To my friends in the BJP social media troll army: don’t get too worked up…I’ll be back soon!
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) 27 May 2018
— Ananthkumar (@AnanthKumar_BJP) 29 May 2018
— Ananthkumar (@AnanthKumar_BJP) 28 May 2018
We wish well for Sonia ji’s health. Women of Karnataka also await Cabinet formation so that the state Govt can start serving them. Can you ensure Karnataka gets a working Govt before you leave?Everyone on social media hopes that you will keep us entertained from there too 🙂 https://t.co/doxO36Xva8
— BJP (@BJP4India) 28 May 2018
In the past few years, the media has become increasingly occupied with the private lives of politicians, especially the Gandhi family. And most of the times, it has crossed the thin line between responsibility and whisper campaigning.
In Indian culture. caring for parents is a way of life.
But what the media fails to understand is that scandalising an ailing woman’s life is an act that makes rational discourse seem elusive. If not for faithfulness towards media’s core job, then for the sake of Indian values and traditions, such acts need to stop. Indian culture and tradition has always advocated that caring for parents is not just a duty, but a way of life. All religions and cultures teach us to take care of our parents.
In a country where it is believed that parents are the Visible God; where it is believed that the ideals of universal divinity appear physically as mother; and where it is believed that respecting, serving, and worshipping parents is the ultimate goal of a child – when, in such a country, a son is ridiculed for accompanying his mother for medical treatment, it speaks volumes about our shifting mindsets.
Not only in India, but even in western cultures, where individualisation and independence exist in a high degree, children are expected to take care of their parents.
So, when a politician takes his mother for a medical check-up, it shouldn’t raise eyebrows – rather, it is conduct that many of us need to follow in the present times, where abusing and abandoning elderly parents is a rising phenomenon.
The decision to help his mother navigate her way through turbulent times is personal to Rahul, and nobody is entitled to comment on it. If he is a man who understands the demands of his family and is ready to fulfil them, who are we to judge him?
Do the ones who mock him understand even a wee bit about the filial obligations they have towards their elderly parents? I guess not. And maybe this is the reason why Rahul Gandhi’s foreign trips with his infirm mother continue to trigger political opponents and critics.
If Rahul Gandhi understands the demands of his family and is ready to fulfil them, who are we to judge him?
Indian media fails to capture the true picture
We have come to an era where travelling with your mother for her medical check-up has become a contentious issue. Many Congress adversaries have shown their disgust over the simple act of a man who couldn’t think of leaving his mother alone when she needs him the most.
On the other hand, when the Prime Minister of the country lives away from his nonagenarian mother, we call it an act of selflessness – an act to serve the country without personal ambitions. Well, in my opinion, taking care of your elderly parents, in no way distracts you from serving the nation – as long as you have the will to do so.
Alas, the Indian media’s lens fails to capture the true picture, time and again.
How many of us sent our aging parents to stand in bank or ATM queues to get cash during that period of chaos? Did you?
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets his mother once or twice every year with a coterie of reporters, we get elated. Why is it that his meetings with his mother become a matter of public announcement? Why is his frail mother a bankable card for him during events that need public sympathy?
The very fact that she was sent to a bank to exchange her INR 500 and INR 1,000 notes during the demonetisation drive, even though she has six children who could have done that for her, shows how Narendra Modi is an expert in minting publicity.
When Modi meets his mother once or twice every year with a coterie of reporters, we get elated.
I wonder how many of us sent our aging parents to stand in bank/ATM queues to get cash during that period of chaos? Did you do that? I, for sure, can never imagine my elderly parents standing in overcrowded bank queues for hours, as long as I am there!
Then again, how many of us would let our 90-year-old parents travel alone in an auto to cast their votes? You must think and answer.
If all these well-choreographed photo ops are acceptable to the Indian media, then what’s wrong with accompanying your mother for a medical check-up for a serious illness?
It was in the year 2011 when the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi travelled to the US reportedly for a cancer surgery. From that time onwards, Rahul has travelled with his mother many times for follow-ups and annual check-ups – and that doesn’t seem to go down well with his critics.
Earlier this year, when Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar went to the US for treatment of allegedly an advanced stage of pancreatic cancer, nobody expressed reservations about his decision.
In fact, Congress supporters wished him well, instead of trolling him for going abroad for medical help. This in itself is a stark reminder of the ideological differences that lie between the Congress and the BJP. While the Congress supporters heaped “get well soon” wishes on Parrikar, the BJP’s supporters are never out of expletives whenever Sonia Gandhi goes abroad for her medical condition.
Even Bharat Mata will want a child to take care of his mother, without challenging his love for the nation.
Judge the political by the political
While reflecting on what the nation is gradually becoming, we can’t take away the fact that Rahul Gandhi’s several untimely visits abroad have contributed to the grilling he has to face while travelling with his mother for her medical check-ups.
I feel that he needs to curtail his foreign visits, especially the ones where he goes abroad to celebrate birthdays, New Year, and even festivals.
Like on Holi this year, he was in Italy to be with his maternal grandmother. Though the gesture may be affectionate, these days are very important in a politician’s life, and he should have been here to celebrate the occasion with his party leaders and workers and bond with them.
He must realise that a politician remains in the public eye 24/7. That’s the price one has to pay for being in public life – where nothing about your life remains private, and everything becomes public.
But then again, this in no way justifies the criticism his US visits for his mother’s medical check-ups have received.
There may be several reasons to rail against Rahul Gandhi. You can hit out at him for his style of politics or his electoral defeats – but not for being a dutiful son.
Likewise, pouring scorn on Priyanka Gandhi for not accompanying her mother for her treatment is fatuous.
This New India we are entering – where a son is questioned for caring for his mother, where a daughter is questioned for being unable to travel with her mother, where personal and political activities are measured on the same scale – is unlike the India we were once proud of.
Even Bharat Mata will want a child to take care of his mother, without challenging his love for the nation. So, this narrative that calls for politicians to turn their back on their family in times of need is setting the wrong precedent.
Perhaps it’s time we paid a little more attention towards judging the political by the political –and not by personal duties. Democracy will never suffer if a son takes care of his family. Never.