Millennium Post

Rahul’s overhasty formulations

Rahul Gandhi’s occasional ruminations on life (marriage, children) and politics (the quest for power and position) show him as someone who is not chary of sharing his private thoughts with even strangers. It is an uncommon characteristic for a person in public life, most of whom are extremely cagey and diplomatic.

However, it is evident from some of his observations that he doesn’t always think his ideas through to what some may consider their logical end. For instance, during his recent interaction with members of his own party and a few journalists in the central hall of parliament, he said that his aim was ‘to break the cartel which controls all powers’. Leaving aside the incongruity of someone belonging to such a cartel calling for its demolition, what is odd is that Rahul does not seem to have considered the fallout of giving ‘voice to the middle tier’ which is made up, in his view, of the 700-odd MPs of all parties.

While advancing the theoretically admirable idea, he evidently did not take into account the fact that an estimated 25-30 per cent of the Lok Sabha MPs have a criminal background. Will it not be better if the empowerment of this section is preceded by a cleansing of the body politic? Since the criminalisation of politics has been a longstanding concern of not only the general public, but even of the government considering that the N N  Vohra committee was set up in the early 1990s to look into the problem, it is this highly disturbing aspect of politics which calls for remedial action and not the supposed absence of clout among MPs. As is obvious, few are better placed than Rahul to initiate the cleansing process since his forays into philosophy give the impression that he is not averse to rising above the fray and looking down on the political scene.The reason for his detachment is that he is much more secure within his own party than anyone else in the Congress (apart from his mother) or in other party.

As long as the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty can deliver for the party at the hustings, all the others in the organisation will only bow and scrape before it. This subservience, or loyalty, gives the family the licence to wield the broom in the party and even in matters in the political field. Of these, the first people who should be swept out are those with a criminal past whose entry into politics eats into the vitals of the system since they draw the police and the bureaucracy into a self-serving conspiracy to suborn the system. But, there is no indication that Rahul has any such intention in mind. If Rahul has been rather hasty in formulating his views on this subject, his belief that the concept of the Congress high command developed in the 1970s when his great grandmother, Indira Gandhi, was under ‘severe’ pressure from ‘destabilising forces’ within the party points to an inadequate understanding of recent history. What is worse, Rahul believes he would have acted in the same manner if he had been in Indira Gandhi’s place.

If his earlier comments showed a tendency for rash, impulsive generalisations, his appreciation of Indira’s authoritarianism – like Sonia Gandhi’s praise of Indira’s bank nationalisation – underlines a perspective which is flawed by family loyalty and a distorted interpretation of what transpired at a critical moment in India’s history when democracy was under threat for the one and only time.

It wasn’t the ‘destabilising forces’ within or outside the Congress which made Indira authoritarian, but a court case which found her on the wrong side of the law, even if on a minor point. It was the threat to her political position, including the possibility of having to step down from the prime minister’s post, which she saw as a threat to the nation and, therefore, imposed the Emergency at dead of night without consulting the cabinet.

The emasculation of the party started from that day when few dared to oppose her for fear of being incarcerated like the opposition leaders and even a few courageous Congressmen. If Rahul is serious about eradicating the prevailing sycophancy and giving ‘voice to the middle tier’, then he will first have to diagnose the basic cause, which turned ‘a mass movement into a feudal oligarchy’, as his father, Rajiv Gandhi, said.

A biased, ill-informed outlook will lead him into a blind alley where he will be chasing shadows instead of being able to focus on the primary reason for the party’s decline. The need to be clear-sighted is all the greater because he will first have to recognise the follies of his own family before trying to rejuvenate the party. His claim to be able to take a holistic view because ‘I am a parachute’ should help him in this respect.

The family’s, and especially Jawaharlal Nehru’s, enormous contribution in establishing democracy and nurturing secularism is undeniable. But, it also tried to throttle democracy in a moment of hubris.

Therein lies the root of what Rahul calls the cartel, whose mantra at one time was ‘Indira is India’. (IPA)
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