LONDON: Sam Pitroda is the global chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress. Most likely he was the organiser of the events during Rahul Gandhi’s recent visit to the United Kingdom. Pitroda is Gandhi’s silent shadow. Rahul Gandhi is the MP from Wayanad in Kerala, the former president of the Congress Party and apparently their international spokesman. After speaking to MBA students at Cambridge, Rahul Gandhi was hosted by Labour MP for Ealing Southall, Virendra Sharma, at an event in a parliamentary committee room for Labour and Congress supporters, including Seema Malhotra and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi. The sound system at the meeting was not working, which was ironic as Rahul said he was frequently deliberately switched off in India. Rahul is a soft-spoken person, which made it difficult to hear the questions and answers. Alternate questions were put to him by Mukulika Banerjee, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, and Sanam Arora, founder and chair of NISAU, the Indian student and alumni network. Rahul Gandhi’s answers were much the same whatever be the question, suggesting that he had a script that did not allow lateral conversation.
Rahul Gandhi was in the UK ostensibly to talk about his Bharat Jodo Yatra, presenting himself as a man of the people, which, however, slightly conflicted with the introductions given to him which emphasised his privileged dynastic heritage. Also, there was a vibe on social media about how handsome and eligible the Gandhi scion was. Attention was lavished on his wardrobe, which varied from a western fashioned suit and burgundy tie, to a Nehru collared suit in which he posed GQ-style outside the House of Commons.
All his talks centred around the leftist media’s narrative about India. Independent journalist Isabel Hilton felt his Chatham House talk lacked substance and policy detail. It was interesting to note on the Chatham House website that they have only one India expert, plus Ben Bland, who heads the Asia-Pacific program, and 12 Chinese experts. What Gandhi meant when he suggested foreign intervention is anyone’s guess. One source suggests it could mean foreign financial intervention for Congress’ 2024 election campaign. Congress president Indira Gandhi set a precedent for this when fighting the Communists in state elections in 1971 (West Bengal) and 1981 (Kerala).
Rahul Gandhi’s visit did not attract any mainstream media attention and he did not hold any meetings with incumbent ministers. But he did enjoy a lunch with David Lammy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary. Lammy has often targeted India on human rights issues and on India’s stance on Ukraine. Rahul Gandhi has a long-standing affinity with the UK Labour party. In 2018, Rahul Gandhi, during the time he was Congress president and first began holding public speaking events in the UK, met with Sir Keir Starmer, now leader of Labour Party—this was the year before India’s 2019 general elections and during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. It is no coincidence that this badmouthing of India tour is the year before the 2024 general elections and the Congress is trying to revive their chances against the BJP electoral machine.
Some in the UK consider the inaccuracies and divisions that are currently being peddled as actually undermining democracy.