On sleeping in villages at night

After having patented the Rahul Gandhi method of grassroots reform (going to villages and spending nights in poor people’s homes) the Congress is now all set to propagate the exercise by open sourcing it. Home Minister P Chidambaram recently suggested that chief ministers of naxal-hit states should go spend a night in Naxal-affected villages:
Terming Naxal menace and not terrorism as the most violent movement in the country, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday suggested Chief Ministers Of the Left Wing Extremism affected states to first take villagers into confidence. “The battle is to restore hearts and minds. Not many Chief Ministers and Ministers have visited the affected areas. They should spend a night there,” Chidambaram said.
In response, a somewhat bewildered Naveen Patnaik, chief minister of Odisha, wondered (as many others have before) what good it will do.
Questioning Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s suggestion that chief ministers of Maoist-affected states should spend a night in the affected districts, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday said he had no problem spending nights there, but did not know if it would help … Asked if chief ministers spending nights in Maoist-hit areas, as suggested by Chidambaram, would help in bringing a change, Patnaik retorted, “Go and ask him.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for building trust and winning the hearts and minds of villagers, but it can’t be done with empty gestures. When Rahul Baba sleeps at a villager’s house for a night, all he achieves is an ill-deserved headline in the next day’s newspaper. There is no thought behind it, no plan of action, no strategy, and therefore, unsurprisingly, no visible outcome. Sleeping in villages at night makes the Baba look cute to his all-forgiving fan base in the cities, but it doesn’t change his hosts’ condition one bit. Tavleen Singh put this across eloquently in a column she wrote in December, 2010.
You cannot be a political columnist in India today and ignore the man who could be our prime minister tomorrow if he wants. But, for those of us obliged to pay careful attention to Rahul Gandhi’s political career, one big problem is that he seems never to have any views on anything. He spends long nights in remote villages but returns with no insights on improving rural living conditions. He befriends farmers’ widows in Vidarbha but has no views on what can be done to stop farmers’ suicides. He tells the adivasis in Niyamgiri that he will be their ‘sipahi’ in Delhi but does not tell us if by this he means he would like them to continue being primitive, marginal communities.
A more recent example of the Baba’s brainless approach to solving problems is the speech he read out in parliament on the 11th day of Anna Hazare’s fast. Typically, it is full of high-sounding keywords, empty rhetoric, and pretty much no workable strategy apart from what is obvious to the entire nation. The Baba excels at stating the obvious… in style!