Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took everyone by surprise when he jumped into the Arabian Sea with the fishermen at the Thangassery beach during his visit to Kollam on Wednesday. According to reports, Rahul did not inform party officials that he was taking a dip in the sea.
The Wayanad MP, along with party officials, joined the fisherfolk at the sea to observe their work, situation, and join them in their venture. Adding a little excitement to their venture, Rahul Gandhi followed a few fishermen as they jumped into the sea after casting their net. Observers commented that it was reminiscent of Vladimir Putin jumping into the icy cold waters.
According to a party official, Rahul’s move stunned everyone present on the boat. “He jumped into the sea without informing us, and while we were stunned he was very cool about it. He spent around 10 minutes swimming in the cold water. He is an expert swimmer,” the party functionary said, adding that Rahul jumped after finding out that the fishermen were adjusting their nets underwater.
What Rahul did was quite risky but courageous, since the sea doesn’t follow the same rules as a lake or still water and the place where he jumped was 2 km deep. Though many would criticise Rahul for putting his life in danger, some pointed out that this is what leaders should do. According to some, he wasn’t a “casual observer” standing over the workers and making demands. “He dived with the fisherfolk, joined them, and was a part of their work. That is what a leader should be doing. Leading, not commanding,” they added. At the same time, he also showed compassion, care and empathy to others. Rahul enquired about the fishermen's families, their hardships and got a first-hand experience of their lives.
Some have compared Rahul with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who swam in the icy Siberian Lake. During a vacation trip in 2018, Putin showed his bravado by swimming bare-chested in the cold Siberian Lake. After pictures of Putin’s vacation pictures released, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the water in the lake does not get warmer than 17 degrees, but that did not stop the Russian President from going for a swim.
While the comparison may be far-fetched, there are some similarities. Both are not afraid of complex situations, and they are willing to put their life on the line if need be. Rahul and his sister Priyanka Gandhi had marched to Hathras to meet with the family of the Dalit girl who was raped and killed by a few upper caste men. The Congress leaders were met with lathi charge and physical force from the UP police, who had tried to stop them from getting in. They weren’t hiding in the backdrop when it happened.
This shows courage and quality of character. This is different from leaders who make tall claims about being strong and yet jail comedians who criticise them. Despite being trolled for years, Rahul has stood strong and has not let anything deter him. When several leaders have bowed before the present government, Rahul showed courage in criticising the BJP Centre for their policies.
Rahul has never been afraid to speak what is on his mind. Since 2014, he has taken on the ruling party and slammed them for their policies and actions from demonetization to wrongful implementation of GST, from ruining the economy to bringing in the CAA- NRC, from bringing in farm laws to the arrest of activists such as Disha Ravi. Despite what the ruling party as said about Rahul, he has always shown class and respect.
The dive might seem a simple activity, but it requires courage and determination to plunge into the icy cold sea. It requires more than tall claims and it needs confidence in one’s skills. With assembly elections approaching in various states, Rahul has been touring the country. Unlike some leaders, Rahul is not giving his ‘Mann ki Baat’ or what he feels the people need. He is interacting with the common man and is patiently hearing their problems and challenges. That is what a true leader does — listens to problems of the common man and addresses them.