Nancy Pelosi’s salon-gate has a grim message for ‘insider’ politicians even in India

It is this sense of entitlement and hypocrisy that has discredited politicians like Pelosi worldwide.

Early this week, when US Democrat leader and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walked into a San Francisco salon for a hairwash and blowout, she did not anticipate a massive, nationwide blowback. She used the salon despite a COVID-19 shutdown, without a mask, and in complete disregard to the pandemic protocol.

The owner of the salon, Erica Kious, later said Pelosi’s visit felt like a slap on her face.

There was an added angle. Hypocrisy, the hallmark of politicians worldwide punch-drunk with power. Pelosi has on several occasions attacked President Donald Trump over not using masks and being generally cavalier about Covid. Trump wasted no time in roasting her for her double standards.

“Politics is as much about perception as policy. And Pelosi handed Republicans a gift, since conservatives love to demonize her as a rich socialist who passes laws infringing the freedom of Americans that she ignores herself,” wrote CNN, arguing that she will never be able to live down ‘Salon-gate’.

It is this sense of entitlement and hypocrisy that has discredited politicians like Pelosi worldwide. And this very disenchantment with the ‘insiders’ in politics has made voters repeatedly choose ‘outsiders’ like Trump, Narendra Modi, Emmanuel Macron or Arvind Kejriwal.

India has been a pioneer nation in the rise of the outsider. Fed up of the UPA politicians’ endemic corruption and elite-club air, millions of ordinary Indians almost staged a political coup with the spontaneous India Against Corruption movement.

Meanwhile, the story of Modi was getting rapidly larger. Here was a man who had sadhu-like incorruptibility, who did not appease fake secularism, was entirely focused on his state’s development, and most importantly, was the greatest threat to the Lutyens power circles.

Modi had quite a few X-factors which even Kejriwal did not possess. But in both, Indians saw leaders who lived firmly outside a self-serving, outdated ‘system’.

That, however, could neither be said about the Congress then, nor is it true of the Congress now.

The Nehru-Gandhis, the ultimate insiders of Indian politics, continue to hold on to the party’s reins, even as they drive it to dust with electoral defeat after defeat. The party is packed with career politicians like Ahmed Patels and Digvijaya Singhs, or lawyer-netas like Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram who are also entrenched insiders of the elitist club, or politically clueless younger aides of Rahul Gandhi like Kanishka Singh and Sandeep Singh whose only aspiration is to be an insider.

The only rebel in Congress is actually Rahul, whose rebellion is strangely against the meritless, dynastic establishment of which he himself is the mascot.

To effectively challenge Trump or Modi, their Opposition will need dynamic outsiders. Leaders who don’t represent the crumbling system. And those who will not imperiously storm into parlours brushing aside the owner’s reservations and law of the land just because they can.

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