Remember all the jokes about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s frequent overseas trips?
How I laughed!
But now, while researching the overseas junkets of our beloved MPs, I’ve discovered a curious thing. And I’m laughing even harder.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has travelled abroad much more than Prime Minister Modi.
Consider the data.
In the calendar year 2015 and up to date (i.e. January 13, 2016), Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent a total of 55 days on overseas visits.
In the calendar year 2015 and up to date (i.e. January 13, 2016), Rahul Gandhi spent a total of 86 days on overseas visits! That’s more than 1½ times the number of days spent by Modi abroad.
Now, you and I and everyone’s uncle and bhatija and periappa can argue till Laloo’s cows come home about what Modi’s visits have or haven’t yielded India. But this much is certain: Modi’s 55 days on overseas visits and their purposes are all in public domain, not just on the PMO’s site but even on Wikipedia. And since on 54½ out of those 55 days Modi was on official duty (state visits, attending UN/ASEAN conferences and so forth) and I knew exactly where the man was and what he was doing there, I as a tax-payer don’t mind part-subsidizing Modi’s travel expenses – except for Modi’s half-day private visit, on 25th December, when on the way back from Kabul he stopped by in Lahore to greet Nawaz Sharif on his birthday.
But friend Rahul Gandhi is a different matter.
All of Rahul Gandhi’s 86 days abroad were ‘private visits’, whatever that means. I never knew where Rahul was; I did not know why he had gone where he had gone; I did not know what he was doing there (if at all he did anything). And I still don’t know any of these things. That’s because Rahul’s movements have always been as hidden as the signs of his intellectual abilities, as dense as the collective wisdom of the Congress High Command. There are great tracts of time where no-one (barring, perhaps, his mother Sonia) seems to have known whether the man was in India, or abroad, or in some extra-galactic realm of self-discovery. Not even Rahul himself.
“It’s none of your business where Rahuljee is or was,” was/is the standard testy response of the First Family’s minders when asked about the whereabouts of the Great Leader.
Indeed, I grant Rahul Gandhi, as a fellow-citizen, the freedom and the right to go where he pleases to go and do what he pleases to do – as indeed I and my 1300 million fellow-Indians reserve and joyfully exercise these rights.
But Rahul is a Member of Parliament, while I am not. As an MP, Rahul is a Representative of the People of India; not just of the Congress party. Just as Narendra Modi, as MP, is Representative of the People of India and not just of the BJP.
They are answerable to us.
And therefore, I strongly object to Rahul’s disappearing from his duties to the People of India – that too for weeks or even months at a time – without notice on ‘private visits’ about which I/we know nothing.
The Congress might protest that Rahul paid for his own tickets and for whatever else he might have done during these holidays. Even granting that Rahul did so, what about the costs for his SPG cover, their tickets, their stays and so forth? As a tax-payer, I strongly object to being asked to subsidize totally unproductive ‘private visits’/holidays by my MP Rahul Gandhi.
“What about Modi!” the Congress spokespersons might shriek. “He didn’t tell anybody about his private visit to Lahore! Why don’t you object to Modi’s private visit to Nawaz, hey?”
It is a valid point.
So here’s a suggestion: when Parliament reconvenes, the House may order recovery of all expenses on private visits made by Narendra Modi (½ day) as well as Rahul Gandhi (86 days) from their respective salaries as MPs. The recovered sum may be directly and speedily credited toward a worthy cause – like providing better software for the Income Tax Department, to enable faster processing of IT Refunds due to the millions of suckers like me.