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CLOTHES THIEF

The white cap was once the hallmark of the Indian National Congress. Although Gandhi ceased soon to wear it, it made his followers easily recognizable. Pictures of the Dandi March are full of white caps. They fell in popularity after Independence; in recent meetings of the Congress, it was often difficult to find one. The decline began with the arrival of woman power. Indira Gandhi did not have to wear a cap. She appropriated the Congress; it adopted her name. No further symbol was necessary. The same went for her daughter-in-law, who learnt her expertise in saris from her mother-in-law; a cap would have made their exquisite attires incongruous. And then, their principal follower brought his own turban. It went without saying that a fine brain was enclosed in it; any further adornment was superfluous. The latest generation could have gone back to the Gandhi cap, but it prefers to use a stubble as its hallmark. Although Rahul Gandhi is known to don a Gandhi cap occasionally, it is not a part of his image.

So Congressmen can hardly complain if Arvind Kejriwal has appropriated the white cap for his party. He has been careful; his cap is not quite the original Gandhi cap. For one thing, it bears the acronym for his party, which can be loosely translated as You. For another, it is nearly twice as tall as the original Gandhi cap. That is a sensible adaptation, for the old cap was too small to give much protection against the sun, and was always in danger of being swept away by a strong wind of change. The new cap is capacious enough to accommodate a generous female coiffure, and is therefore gender-neutral.

The cap is an external decoration; it could be theft of Congress identity. The really revealing piece of evidence is the manifesto of the Aam Aadmi Party. The promise to halve electricity bills is perfectly Congressist populism. Solar panels in every house sounds more German than Congress. But the Germans have found it extremely uneconomic; that would have fitted the Congress. Seven hundred litres of free water too is Congress-style buying of poor people’s votes. Two lakh toilets for Delhi’s two crore people sounds a bit modest; if implemented, it would ensure long queues, or more likely, continuation of the current habit of informal defecation. Price control on the fees of private schools and colleges sounds like the Congress lifting a page out of The Communist Manifesto. Making all teachers in private educational institutions permanent is perfectly designed to help them stop working. Introduction of naturopathy, Ayurveda, Unani medicine and homoeopathy will quadruple employment of specialists in government medical centres; if patients are given the choice of specialist, it should also see considerable medical underemployment. The AAP is a modernized version of the Congress; seeing its success, Congressmen may well flock to join it.