Millennium Post

From troubadour to game changer

I do not know whether the Congressmen believe in Shamanism, a magico-religious practice originally found in North Asia and amongst the Inuit tribes of Siberia. But for Rahul Gandhi ready to take on a 'larger role in the party and/or in the government', becoming a Shaman may be a genuine necessity.
For, the condition and shape the Congress Party is in, along with the country, he may often have to commune (in an altered state of consciousness) with the spirits for guidance in running the former and keeping it on the saddle of the UPA II government. For example, he may have to invoke the spirits of Annie Besant, WC Bonnerjee and even Gopal Krishna Gokhale to know what they had in mind really in founding the party out of their respective living rooms.
The living room politics of the Congress Party as we have witnessed since Indira Gandhi took over the reins of governance of the country and (once she gained control of the party fully after the split in 1970) is thus a time tested tradition. The culmination of that was seen with the Narasimha Rao government.
The decade-long hiatus between the Congressmen and political power at the Centre after Rao fell in 1996 made them marginally to change their styles and meet the real people who were their voters once brought the party to power in 2004.
The Sonia Gandhi principle that was propounded the same year was interesting as an experiment. With the National Advisory Council (NAC), she opened a window to the people who have been for ages kept out of the Congress leaders’ living rooms after they had done their bit by voting. By the NAC, she also outsourced a crucial function of the Party, that of providing feedback about the socioeconomic churning within the country, to a few experts who worked at the grassroots levels.
But the problem of the government acting on the feedback system of the NAC was only marginally successful, because apparently, there weren’t any one amongst the ruling classes who could unsettle a ‘a settled fact’ i.e. the economic liberalisation programme of Manmohan Singh. In fact, by choosing him as the prime minister, Gandhi had signaled she too was a true believer.
Rahul, on his own tried to practice another time-tested formula of the Congressmen of yesteryears, those who came into the party of one Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Though like him, Rahul did not take to the bare bodied, loin clothed man who once said that policy-makers should keep in their imagination the image of the ‘last man’ of the country, Rahul still sought to imbibe the lessons in his Kalawati line.
Gandhiji took to that lifestyle to lead a country-in-self-denial to enlightenment, Rahul was quickly found out to be the man who was seeking a political agenda that could tie a caste/class alliance of between the Dalits, Muslims and the Brahmins. Plus, he was kind of touristy, as a troubadour representative of the top 20 per cent (in terms of economic standings) of the country’s population to the 80 per cent who he thought, could only look up.  
However, as Rahul’s Bharat, Ek Khoj moments were continuing, the partymen were getting impatient, because they knew that while Manmohan Singh could fulfill an agenda, the people who voted did not necessarily have to vote for it.
On the other hand, there were careers the Gandhi was boosting, interests getting vested on him. Digvijay Singh could mouth ad nauseum that the decision to take a higher role should be Rahul’s and Rahul’s only. But the angst of the likes of Salman Khurshid were also rising, they still had something to look forward to from the picture windows of their living rooms. So they made plaintive calls for Rahul to plunge in.
Rahul had to heed them this time. Otherwise, the problems within the party would have increased manifold. The authority of the Congress high command (Sonia Gandhi) would have got challenged. The controls on the ground level partymen would have been even more severely eroded.
Rahul must have finally felt that instead of telling television cameras that his ideas were game changers, he would truly have to become one. But the problem of the Congress Party and, similarly of the Bharatiya Janata Party was that their change agents get changed in the blink of an eye. The country only does a double-take, and life goes on.
If you are a punter, like so many political punters in New Delhi, start counting the odds. In the history of contemporary India, meanwhile, someone could write 'this too will pass'. As Kalawati knew well before the district administration had informed her that Rahul Gandhi will break bread in her abode.

Pinaki Bhattacharya is a senior journalist, and editorial consultant, Millennium Post.
Next Story
Share it