E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: In the second decade of the 21st century, India has two Yuvrajs trying to lord over all they survey.
The first Yuvraj is on the cricket field: Yuvraj Singh.
A brilliant fielder at cover-point and a batsman who can hit the leather off a cricket ball at will, he is every captain’s dream colleague.
This Yuvraj is a teen prodigy who came good despite a stormy upbringing: His partnership with Mohammed Kaif when India chased down England’s 326 to win the NatWest series, after being 147 for 5, is part of Indian one-day cricket folklore, second only to the win at 1983; make that third only to the World Cup win in 2011.
When he hit six sixes off a hapless Stuart Broad over in a Twenty20 match in 2007, even his critics had to sit up and say “wow”.
“Critics”, because Yuvraj Singh was not having the same success in Test match cricket. A nervous starter, he was vulnerable against both the short-pitched ball and the turning ball in the early part of an innings. Eventually he lost his place in the Test team to Suresh Raina.
To add to his woes, he was injury-prone, lost the vice-captaincy of ODI team, became overweight, and somewhat overbearing. He began making news off the field, even going after a pesky spectator who called him a ‘water boy’ because he was in the game only as a twelfth man.
From such a precarious down-in-the-dumps position, Yuvraj Singh rose like a Phoenix in the just-concluded World Cup. He worked hard on his fitness, lost weight and became the original mean and hungry looking man, batting and fielding like a man possessed.
He even sharpened his spin bowling to such a nagging length that he was difficult to score off and took more wickets than the main spinner in the team, Harbhajan Singh. He was adjudged ‘man of the match’ four times, eventually being declared the most valuable player of the tournament when in the finals he took important wickets and stayed with his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to fetch India a famous victory after 28 years.
This is our first Yuvraj, who, despite a stormy childhood at the hands of his father Yograj Singh, started as a precocious talent, went into the doldrums and a period of uncertainty but bounced back and delivered when it mattered most and fulfilled his promise.
His aura is now firmly back.
The “water boy”, Clive Lloyd said, “was drinking from the fountain’.
Our other Yuvraj also plays in white, but in a different field: politics.
Quite unlike the other Yuvraj, Rahul Gandhi burst on to the scene with a “home” advantage.
He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His bloodline was impeccable. His parents were happily married. Being the son of the most powerful and influential Congressman, Sonia Gandhi, he didn’t have to work his way up into the “team”. He was captain material from the day he entered the park.
The crown prince: if not Royalty itself, he was the closest to Royalty in a democratic context.
With his great grandfather (Jawaharlal Nehru), his grandmother (Indira Gandhi) and his father (Rajiv Gandhi) having all been prime ministers, the trajectory was clear for this Yuvraj from the day his mother heard her “inner voice”. Congressmen openly admit this Yuvraj has to only choose the time and day when he would like to become PM and the incumbent will readily make way.
This Yuvraj doesn’t have to bother about critics who criticise him, because they don’t.
This Yuvraj’s teammates doesn’t have to bother about the taunts of rivals and teammates, because they don’t.
This Yuvraj doesn’t have to bother about spectators who make fun of him, because they can’t get close to him.
Sure, he works hard like the other Yuvraj, travelling extensively in his continuing ‘Discovery of India’, campaigning in constituency after constituency. He even tries to get down from his ivory-tower SUV and mingle with the aam janata especially the young. And, he hasn’t shown any undue haste to become prime minister.
Sure, he says the kind of things people like to hear. He says he is against the pomp which most Congressmen fall prey to such as motorcycle outriders and the “lal batthi” (red-light) syndrome. He admits that he had it easy but wants to democratise the party to allow youngsters to enter politics.
Still, success eludes this Yuvraj unlike the other Yuvraj.
Except for the childlike enthusiasm of the ‘Amul Baby’, the nation doesn’t know where he stands on the key issues of the day. Be it talking about “Kalavathy” or joining protesting farmers, the only arrow in his quiver seems to be symbolism.
His stand on substantial issues like Maoism, poverty, inflation, terrorism, etc, are unknown.
He holds on to his two-nation theory of India as if no other thought passes between his ears.
Worse, he has exhibited a penchant to put his foot in the mouth that exposes his limited knowledge of the Indian political system and the freedom struggle. His statement that ‘his family had made sacrifices’ to the country was met with strong criticism, perhaps deservedly so. The WikiLeaks cable that showed that he felt the growth of radicalised Hindu groups posed a greater threat to Indian security than Islamic terror groups, evoked guffaws.
So far, this Yuvraj hasn’t done anything spectacular to show that he has it in him to lead the nation despite the red carpet laid out for him. Indeed, if he was the other Yuvraj he would have been dropped from the team.
If this Yuvraj doesn’t come up with the numbers, doesn’t show leadership qualities soon, his ascendency to the throne will be regarded as a pure dynastic ritual rather than as any achievement that propelled him to that exalted position.
Whereas the cricketing Yuvraj changed his work ethic for the better which got him handsome rewards, the politicking Yuvraj is still only gardening the pitch, after taking guard nearly a decade ago.
Surely, it is time the crown prince Yuvraj took a leaf out of the commoner Yuvraj and belted some sixes and announced himself in the IPL—the Indian Political League.
Else, “We, the People” will be entitled to ask, why and not why not.
Photograph: Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi watching the 2011 World Cup semifinals between India and Pakistan in Mohali (courtesy PTI via The Times of India)
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