Democracy over dynasty
Congress is unable to combat BJP in electoral battles, thus, resorts to petty politics
The Congress, which till the other day, had repeatedly and raucously cast aspersions on the bona fide nature of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice of India, has taken a U-turn and welcomed the Apex Court's observation that the BJP government in Karnataka take the floor test on Saturday itself. The Congress has, ironically, called it the triumph of democracy. In the last fifteen days, from denigrating the office of the Chief Justice by moving to impeach him to welcoming the SC observations on the Karnataka results, the Congress has shown its true colours, which is that it has always had contempt for our Constitutional institutions and has conveniently couched that perennial contempt with the cloak of opportunism.
The floor test in the Karnataka Assembly is due on Saturday, but whatever its results, it will be one more opportunity to expose the Congress's and especially its first "family's" duplicitous approach to the democratic framework of India. The Congress's first 'family', as I have always argued, take defeat personally. Its members never accept electoral defeat with grace and have repeatedly exuded the most undemocratic tendencies while conveniently lecturing others on the need for upholding the Constitution.
Ironically for us, but unfortunately for the country and the electoral process as a whole, the Congress's 'first family' interprets resounding defeat as a signal for grabbing power through the back door. They have always seen being in power as their dynastic right and therefore, the defeat in Karnataka Assembly elections has not humbled them, it has not set the first 'family' thinking into how under, its latest and most abusive scion and president, Rahul Gandhi – out on a bail in a mega cheating case – the Congress has lost election after election, with its base shrinking, its rank and file in disarray and with some of its best and thinking leaders deserting the party.
Meanwhile, the Congress system continues to be held hostage to a motley group which does not bat an eyelid when it comes to trying to destroy India's democratic set up and institutions. A section of its cold-storage leaders some of whom are beholden to the 'first family' for the political crumbs that they were occasionally given and had applauded and sided with Rahul Gandhi's grandmother when she tried to smother democracy in 1975 by turning the entire country into a mega-prison, habitually keep aside their collective wisdom to indulge in petty and mindless politicking rather than in trying to proffer some decent advice to Rahul. In fact, some of these opportunistic 'durbaris' had sided with Indira during Emergency, only to dump her later once elections were declared in 1977. Their recent letter – signed by the likes of Manmohan Singh, Ahmed Patel, Motilal Vora and Karan Singh among others – addressed to the President of India asking him to 'caution' Narendra Modi on his use of language during the Karnataka Assembly election campaign is a manifestation of that 'durbari' mindset, a mindset which has lost all creativity and energy and solely perpetuates itself on the 'first family's' munificence. In fact, even the right to use expletives and to get away with it is the prerogative of the 'Congress's first family' as per some of these superannuated 'durbaris.'
The Congress's 'first family's belief that it exists to lord over India, that being in power is its right, that the democratic framework of India must design, bend and shape itself so as to ensure that the 'dynasty' can perpetuate itself in power, received the first severe jolt in May 2014, with Narendra Modi's victory and BJP's decisive win in the 16th general elections. The dynastic had juggernaut suffered a setback.
The next severe jolt that the self-abrogating rights of the dynasty suffered was when the BJP elected Amit Shah, who had started his political life as a booth worker, as its president. With Shah's elevation and the direction that he began imparting to the party, the manner in which he fanned out across the country, pushing the limit in terms of widening the party's base, in expanding it through a mega membership campaign, through a meticulous booth outreach, through a systematic cycle of samvad and pravaas and through a reiteration of the ideological roots of the party, saw a fresh wave of enthusiasm among workers.
Shah hit the ground running, his conviction that the BJP could, on its own, come to power across India, his inexhaustible energy in expanding the party's footprints in areas which were once considered impossible electoral terrain for it, his efforts at diversifying the nature of the party's activities, his insistence that the party act as a bridge between the people and the government, his framing programmes and initiatives along those lines and his overall success in making the ordinary worker of the party realise that the BJP was a party of the future and that in its triumph lay the possibilities of turning India into a great power and more importantly his call to eradicate the Congress as a thought and political system galvanised the rank and file.
The BJP's resounding victory in the Karnataka elections, its crossing the hundred seat mark on its own, is the most recent effect of that multi-dimensional restructuring. It is this energy and conviction of Shah that is unnerving for the Congress and its 'durbaris' and its 'first family'. It is because Shah strives to strengthen the foundations of the BJP that members of the shrinking Congress display an acute aversion for him. The party's electoral success under Shah pushes the Congress towards greater irrelevance and eventual political extinction.
When he had taken over as president of the party in 2014, Shah had asserted that the party needed to expand itself in the east and the south, both areas which had great potential for it but in which it had not been able to register a major presence. The Karnataka election result has shown that the BJP has firmly positioned and placed itself in the south, and has crossed the Vindhyas as it were. But this time, unlike its earlier attempts, the crossing of the Vindhyas is permanent and decisive and signifies another major step towards actualising Shah's battle cry of a 'Congress Mukt Bharat.'
Such a decisive electoral performance and presence has obviously unsettled the 'family' led Congress, which is itself faced with a huge existential question. It stares at a political dead-end and is therefore increasingly resorting to subterfuge and subversion of electoral mandates. But, then the BJP today is no pushover, its reserves of energy, decisiveness, its tenacity and stamina, its determination and focus are much more than the Congress and its 'first family' can ever hope to match.
(Dr. Anirban Ganguly is Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)