Hugplomacy: Common in Politics and Sports

Rahul Modi Hug

After tearing into the BJP-led government in his speech during yesterday’s no confidence motion, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi walked across to the ruling benches and hugged Prime Minister Modi, taking everyone in the parliament by surprise.

“I don’t have an iota of hatred or hard feelings against you. You may hate me and call me Pappu. You may use a stream of expletives for me but I don’t hate you or have any anger against you. I am the Congress,” Gandhi concluded his 40-minute fiery speech with these words.

Rahul during his power-packed speech attacked Modi government on multiple issues ranging from farmer suicides to the controversial Rafale jet deal. After finishing his speech, Mr Gandhi strode across the Lok Sabha to hug a surprised PM Modi to the amazement of the House members and millions who watched the debate live on TV.

Later on, talking to the newsmen, the Shiv sena party leader Sanjay Raut said “The Congress chief has now graduated from the real school of politics”. He further added that Rahul’s hug to the prime minister at the end of his speech was actually a shock for Narendra Modi.

In the recently concluded Soccer world cup, the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic won a million hearts with her kind of hugplomacy. The game of football has always been beautiful but the World Cup final was also made beautiful by this lovely gesture by the President of Croatia, a country of only 40 lakh people.

She accepted that it wasn’t planned but came straight from the heart and the occasion melted the protocol of office. She was wearing the official jersey of the Croatian team, which made its maiden entry into the most prestigious sporting event final. She also travelled economy class because she wanted to boost the morale of her countrymen and also her team.

She continuously cheered her team from the VIP area and was gracious in defeat and hugged each player from her home team and the French. She may have encouraged a bunch of young boys to chase many rainbows in life. At the presentation ceremony, both Croatian president and her French counterpart threw protocol and caution to the winds, giving in to the abandon of the moment, not minding wee bit about getting drenched in pounding rain.

They were so engrossed in the moment that even the lack of courtesy on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin to not share his giant umbrella couldn’t diminish their enthusiasm. These two leaders held their own and showed that the human touch was always worth a legacy beyond the glory and value of the office.

President Kolinda showed how a woman public figure could demonstrate humanity and emotions over gender sensitivities and stiffness of politics and be a true ambassador of a cultural consciousness that defined her country.

The benefits of hugging and the biological releases that come with it, go beyond social bonding which can also manifest positively in our mental and physical health. It can inspire positive thinking and expand trust among people and also the leaders of opposite political parties.

Oxytocin, known as the “feel good” hormone, helps inspire positive thinking and maintaining an optimistic outlook about the world. The role of oxytocin for bonding also extends much beyond as it helps to generate a feelings of compassion during interactions which in turn can contribute to an expansion of trust among individuals during social situations.

It also reduces social anxiety and stress because the physical touch increases levels of dopamine and serotonin; two neurotransmitters that help regulate our mood as well as help our body relieve stress and anxiety. Dopamine is also known to regulate the pleasure center in our brain that is a good counter to feelings of anxiety.

There was one study made on breast cancer patients where it was found that massage therapy in the form of stroking, stretching, and squeezing helped to relax the participants and increased their dopamine and serotonin levels.

It also boosts immunity and lowers blood pressure because physical touch is known to improve the function of our immune system and it also reduces diseases such as those associated with the heart and blood. One particular study on women found that receiving more hugs from their partners led to lower heart rates and blood pressure.

All these thoughts must have been going on in Rahul Gandhi’s mind when he was taking those bold steps leading to the treasury bench to give a much needed hug to a leader who is known for this Hugplomacy among the world leaders. So, finally for a change, Narendra Modi, the serial hugger was taken for a hug!

(ChandraKant Singh is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

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