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The channel – which cannot be named but rhymes with How Now Brown Cow – has given us the mother of all exposés – Rahul Gandhi watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi at a cinema in New Delhi, a mere six hours after his party’s loss in the Gujarat elections. A mere six hours later! Is there no shame? What could be more damning proof of his political dilettantism, wonders the channel in a lather of righteous indignation. Its 24×7 hard-working hashtag generators whose salary and promotion depend on how outrageous they can come up with a stinger far more lethal than any lightsaber – #AreYouSeriousRahul. The unpatriotic might say #AreYouSeriousTimesNow? But they do not understand the blood, sweat, and tears the media expends to bring us every episode of Rahul Gandhi, the Phantom Menace who hides away sometimes in undisclosed foreign locations and sometimes in movie theatres in Delhi. That the newly anointed president of the Congress chose to do something as frivolous as see a film at this critical juncture is bad enough. That he chose a videshi film just makes it worse. What was wrong with Fukrey Returns? But wait, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. There is a hidden message here in Rahul Gandhi’s movie choice that the BJP ignores at its own peril. The young leader is learning and as he girds his loins to bring back the Congress from the brink of oblivion, what can be a more appropriate film to watch than The Last Jedi? This is a film about a rag tag group of Resistance fighters, their backs to the wall, being pummeled in battle after battle by the First Order whose dreadnoughts are gobbling up the galaxy. There is a tired Princess, battle-weary, trying to rally her fading troops together and keep the morale up, even from her hospital bed. This is about a new generation of fighters being primed to take over the cause. The Resistance hopes that a blue-blooded warrior, once destined to lead them, will show up to keep the spark alive. But alas, he is sitting in a faraway foreign location, gloomily pondering the meaning of life, reluctant to get back into the action. Meanwhile, the old master, an enigmatic creature usually given to cryptic aphorisms, returns from the shadows to give sage advice and show there’s still some fight left in him. Luke Skywalker returns. And the Congress, sorry the Resistance, escapes fighting another day. Sounds familiar? If this particular channel had been more a shade more intrepid we could have learned what look flashed across Rahul’s face when the dastardly Snoke said “Fulfill your destiny.” Did he wince when that young whippersnapper Rey dared to lock horns (aka lightsabres) with the all-powerful Snoke, sitting on his throne, who snarled “Pathetic child. I cannot be betrayed, I cannot be beaten. I see his mind, I see every intent.” Did that Snoke then look into Rahul’s eyes and hiss “I also see secret meetings with Pakistanis?” Did he nod knowingly every time Supreme Leader Snoke gloated about his impending downfall? “The Resistance is doomed,” said Snoke. “150 seats for the First Order.” And if he recognised his arch opponent in Snoke, he surely saw an old mentor in Yoda. Did he look wistful and SMS Manmohan Singh when Yoda tells Luke – “The greatest teacher, failure is”? It’s a lesson Rahul should know with every pore of his being. Indeed he must have been channeling Yoda when Rahul told the press later “But yes, we could have won. Some shortcomings were there.” Very Yoda-esque, Master Rahul. In fact, The Last Jedi could offer crucial lessons for the reinvention of Rahul. This is a film that punctures the notion of the mythic action hero. Its red-blooded heroes, spoiling for a fight, more often than not end up with plans that misfire.
Its real heroes are the likes of the far less flashy Admiral Honlo, a triumph of measured maturity over masculine machismo. Rahul too has tried to be the swashbuckling hero rushing to the rescue of Dalits and farmers. None of that has worked. Now he’s trying to set a different political style, the one epitomised by Michelle Obama when she told the Democratic National Convention “When they go low, we go high.” This new Rahul will not countenance a Mani Shankar Aiyar’s neech remark. This Rahul insists he does not strive for a BJP-mukt India the way they might want a Congress-mukt Bharat. This Rahul tells his party that it might lose a battle, but not the war. “My Congress brothers and sisters, you have made me very proud. You are different than those you fought because you fought anger with dignity. You have demonstrated to everyone that the Congress’ greatest strength is its decency and courage.” Or as the lowly Resistance mechanic, Rose Tico tells Finn when she saves him from going down in flames, “This is how we win. Not by fighting what we hate but by saving what we love.” Could The Last Jedi be a secret leadership manual for Rahul 2.0? The new Rahul might not last. The record books will say that in the end, he did lead his party to defeat yet again even if his party gave the BJP a “jhatka” in Gujarat. Moral victories don’t form governments. But in this campaign the BJP certainly trained all its guns on Rahul, the man it once dismissed as a political nobody. In the process, they gave him some of the gravitas he sorely lacked. He was as Snoke said “just a child in a mask” but somehow their firepower turned him into something larger than life. “I want every gun we have to fire on that man. Do it.” And the troll armies fired a barrage of lasers. “More… more.” “Do you think you got him?” The question for the Congress now becomes was that the real Rahul we saw on the campaign trail in Gujarat or was it just an astral projection of the Congress’ last Jedi? Could the Force require to keep this projection alive be too much to bear? The unmentionable channel may be on to something. But the Congress should not lose heart even if it forms no government anywhere. The biggest lesson The Last Jedi had was for the party. At the end a young slave child, sweeping the stables, casually uses the Force to pick up a broom, signaling that anyone, however humble, can become a keeper of the Force. Star Wars is finally telling us that blood is not destiny, the fight is not an inheritance to be passed from Leia Organa to her son. Is this a lesson the Congress is ready to absorb? Or perhaps that’s exactly what Rahul was trying to tell his party. “The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.”
Sandip Roy is a freelance journalist based in Kolkata Published in arrangement with The Wire