Taking a note at BJP and its leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has referred himself as “Pappu” on a few occasions  recently to drive a point stating that he has represented a polite and civilised face of politics unlike the ruling party. But the word has stuck with them for over five years.

Pappu became a mock-name for Rahul Gandhi in the run up to year 2014 Lok Sabha elections. All BJP leaders, workers and a committed band of supporters has made sure that even a Google search for “Pappu” returned with the profile of Rahul Gandhi. And, if  anyone goes by the talks in reporters corridor, the term originated in the old guard of the Congress leadership, some of whom had once welcomed Sonia Gandhi in 1998-99 as “Gudiya”.

Rahul Gandhi as Pappu

But why Pappu?

Congress showcased Rahul Gandhi as their face of future in November 2007 at its plenary session in Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium. People who were expecting from him to deliver a speech like his father Rajiv Gandhi did 22 years ago in 1985 on the centenary of the Congress returned home disappointed with sad faces. Rahul’s speech was kind of abstract devoid of politics. As a Sample, like: “What, after all, is poverty,” Rahul Gandhi asked a delegation of about 3000 Congress workers before answering this question, “A poor person is one who is denied the opportunity to become rich.”

Same year, in 2007, a Bollywood film released titled, Pappu Paas Ho Gaya following a two-year-old TV advertisement for a chocolate brand. This was done to change the meaning attached to old Indian nickname that carried the meaning of an innocent boy to a dumb person. In year 2008, another Bollywood movie had a chartbuster song, Pappu Can’t Dance Sala.

Delhi went to polls in 2008 and the Delhi Election Commission (DEC) ran an ad-campaign during election with a hash tag, Pappu Can’t Vote. The DEC decided to re-run the same ad-campaign for 2009 Lok Sabha elections. This enforced the notion that “Pappus” are only supposed to do idiotic things when important works are pending.

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Congress Shares Blame

In the parallel world of governance, the UPA had entered the phase of “policy paralysis”, and then decision making had become slow and it has blamed Rahul Gandhi’s activism. Some of the senior Congress leaders has made comments stating and indicating that Rahul Gandhi is a “part-time” politician. In July 2012, Digvijay Singh used to considered as Rahul Gandhi’s mentor – said, “He (Rahul) has been confining himself into student politics and youth politics. He must come into the mainstream of Congress party.” Comments like this has established Rahul Gandhi as an unwilling politician.

In the year 2013 saw “Pappu” permanently stuck to Rahul Gandhi. He has addressed the Confederation of Indian Industries on April 3, 2013 in New Delhi. On the same day, the top trending topic on Twitter in India was #PappuCII. The electrified IT Cell of the BJP left no stone unturned to make a “Pappu” out of Rahul Gandhi.

In October 2013, Amit Shah-best known till then as Narendra Modi’s side – also referred Rahul Gandhi as Pappu when election campaign for 2014 polls was being relaunched by the BJP. He said, “May be Congress party thinks and believes that the prime minister’s chair is Pappu’s birthright. But this is a democracy, and to become a ruler in the nation you need people’s blessings, and people’s blessings are with Narendra Modi .We have declared our PM candidate (Narendra Modi). Who will be the Congress candidate? Pappu? No, not at all they won’t make Pappu their candidate as they are afraid of losing.”

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Stamped After 2014 Loss

After the Lok Sabha elections, there was virtual revolt in the Congress party with many state leaders who were showing their lack of faith in Rahul Gandhi. Former Congress MP Late Gufran Azam from Madhya Pradesh wrote a letter to the party president Sonia Gandhi in July 2014. He wrote, “In our country almost all parents dream to see their child becoming a doctor or engineer. But some wishes can never get fulfilled because their child is unfit in the profession their child to opt for. Parents should not force them to be successful. You (Sonia Gandhi) wished to make him (Rahul) a leader and devoted 10 years for it. But you unfortunetly failed in making him a leader. You even failed to make him learn how to deliver a speech in proper way. He failed to acquire political acumen. He remains the same. We are fade up hearing people address him as ‘Pappu’ and ‘Munna’. We feel ashamed for the same.”

In June 2017, another Congress leader – Vinay Pradhan from Uttar Pradesh – referred his own party’s vice-president as Pappu, although to shower praise on him. He once wrote in party’s local WhatsApp group stating that: “Rahul Gandhi is also known as Pappu by a large section of people in this country, Pappu could have easily become the Prime Minister of this country but he failed in becoming so.” Pradhan was later removed from all party positions.

It is however, certain that people used the word Pappu first to mock Rahul Gandhi. Some have attributed this word for AAP leader Kumar Vishwas, who contested from Amethi in 2014 Lok Sabha elections against Rahul Gandhi. Some other have attributed this remark to self-styled great godman and rape accused Asaram, who reportedly mocked Rahul Gandhi once as Pappu at a public rally around 2012-13.

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