There seems to be a phase in the political spectrum of India at present. We can roughly divide it pre-hug and post-hug. Yes, I am referring to the famous hug by Mr Rahul Gandhi to Honourable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi on occasion of No-confidence motion against BJP led NDA on 20th July. A motion which as expected has been easily won over by NDA but marked something extremely interesting towards the possible future of the politics of India.
After the hug, social media is flooded with the ridicules and laughter towards so called 'childish' behaviour of Mr. Rahul Gandhi. Was it really childish? Let me inspect briefly.
Before going towards the hugging issue, let us visit to an article by Haris Jamil published in the Wire magazine dealing with the issue of lack women in Indian politics and why we should be concerned for it (click here). Yes, the percentage is low to such an extent that under representation is a hugely understatement. The arena of politics happens to be the ugly masculine one. The extreme aggressive masculinity is found to be ranged from the parliament to Gram Panchayat. Even though, in Panchayats, there is a reservation of women resulting in official representation of women of significance, the space remains to be a masculine one over the years.
Significantly, in all speeches in recent past delivered by the political parties in street meetings to Parliament, there is an increasing intolerance and personal attack including various forms of character assassinations. Sadly, people holding the supereme positions in Indian politics are also not free from it. Meanwhile Rahul came, and made his "pappu" image popular and won over the heart of those who still believe in politics through friendship and agreement on differences of opinion.
Rahul's hug and few lines like you can call me pappu but I have no hatred for you in my mind are quite in contrast with the nature of politics in India.
Rahul, by the way has done everything to attack the grand narrative of vikash or development and showed why it has never been sabka saath sabka vikash - yes there are visible disparities and skewed nature of india's growth story. While one analyses the content of his deliberation it was filled with facts and in stark contrast to what once amit shah projected as Jumlas- gimmick presentations of false promises.
The major themes which one can decipher are the following-
Game of straight facts
Acceptance of negative stereotyping to make it positive
Neatly bound domains of bad governance
Tactful unveiling of possible corruptions
Softly-spoken firm words
If the entire deliberation of rahul is a soft cake offered to the BJP the hug was the culmination of the revival of friendly opposition.
The hug however is important because of the following reasons.
A. It brings about the politics of friendship in the arena of aggressive masculinity in the sphere for so many years now. On the one hand there is an absence of women in politics and on the other hand even with the women folk's presence in panchayat it remains a masculine sphere. The women who are there in the sphere happen to speak the same language of aggressive masculinity. Choice of words like 'we will eliminate opposition', 'oppositions are enemies' have wider connotations. The increasing number of lynching has something or other to do with such masculine politics of hatread. If you consider your opposition as enemy and then make a wide category of 'others' including the Muslims, Dalits,Christians, different looking people no one can stop lynching. Rahul's hug is expected to curve out some space of politics of a different set.
B. If you look at the body language of the two supereme leaders the one that initiates, bows down and hugs at a moment when he was fiercely attacking the party whose leader he hugs immediately after - Rahul. The other, however, remains seated of course unexpected but could not stand up and accept the grand invitation of friendship and agreement on disagreement - modi.
The former flexible - a demand of democracy and the later is not.
C. The hug signifies India's tradition of tolerance and acceptance of debate and dispute the qualities which the public sphere was about to forget once and for all.
I do not expect post-hug india will be radically changed from its practices. Even if people can the social media and hatred manufacturing paid agencies wont let it happen. But Rahul's hug definitely shows an alternative world of politics is still possible, and desirable. The smile that we have seen on honourable Prime Minister Mr. Modi's face indicates he also knows its possible! We will have to wait for the post -hug politics to appear.