The word “bhaiyya” is clearly Rahul Gandhi’s verbal crutch. Think of it as a security blanket. He uses “bhaiyya” as a snuggling device. It keeps him warm and secure against political wolves threatening to break his door down.
I was listening to his speech in Bardoli, Gujarat this morning and couldn’t help notice the preponderance of the word throughout his speech. “Bhaiyya” literally means brother in Hindi but in his mind he obviously uses it as something gender-neutral, more like “folks”. Ironically, he uses it even when he is talking about women’s rights.
It is as if “bhaiyya” is an imaginary friend that Rahul uses as a sounding board and “bhaiyya” always seems to concur. Of course, Rahul’s dependence of “bhaiyya” has been noted by others but I doubt if anyone else has offered such mock serious psychoanalysis.
Rahul is probably aware of his frequent use of the term and how it might come across as an expression that rescues his thoughts from going astray.
In this particular speech, once you get past the kind of superficialities that instantly engage me, he does make a fairly effective counter against Narendra Modi’s passionate and politically expedient rediscovery of Sardar Patel. While it is convenient for the right wing politicians such as Modi to see Patel as some sort of an outlier in the pluralistic/secular narrative within the Congress Party so assiduously championed by Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the historical fact is that he was as much wedded to it as the other two leaders. His phrasing of his own ideological constructs may not have been similar to Nehru’s or Gandhi’s but it would be a mistake to think that Patel was in essence any different from the two.
I have discussed this issue at some length with the noted historian and scholar Rajmohan Gandhi, who also happens to be one of Gandhi’s many grandsons. My understanding from these discussions has been that Patel’s vision of India may have been somewhat different than Gandhi’s and Nehru’s in terms of specific details but its was still as deeply influenced by the idea of humanistic pluralism that Gandhi stood for.
Now that I have shown you that I can make serious talk, let me return to my familiar shallow zone. Rahul’s “bhaiyya” should be urgently given an identifiable personality. I think it would be an interesting exercise to create a visual of what this “bhaiyya” might look like based on the contexts in which he resorts to the term.