Subject: Congress without the Gandhis
Date: 10 September 2014 20:14:34 GMT+01:00
Congress without the Gandhis
By Pritish Nandy, Mumbai Mirror, Sep 3, 2014,
Manmohan Singh lost because of the Gandhis. Narendra Modi won because of the Gandhis. Can we finally move on to politics without the Gandhis, please?
One of the first things everyone agrees upon in private and denies in public is that the Congress party has reached such a sorry state because of the Gandhis who currently run it. Even Congressmen now admit to it. But as they fear the wrath of the dynasty, they avoid saying it in the open. It remains but an unspoken verity.
Very early in her life, Indira Gandhi learnt how to grab power and consolidate it. She did it with amazing dexterity and ease to begin with but then, as the years went by, her insecurities made her more and more ruthless. The Emergency brought it all out finally. In her son Sanjay she got the perfect fall guy though. He was seen as the architect of her fall. But anyone who knew her will tell you that the Emergency was a natural outcome of her own true instincts.
Her son Rajiv and his wife were both schooled in politics under her tutelage. So it's not exactly surprising that they share the same insecurities. Rajiv concealed it with his charm and wit but it sometimes came out in the open. From the way he berated an incumbent chief minister who had come all the way to the airport receive him, then just a party general secretary, to being churlish when crossed by Prabhakaran, Rajiv was exactly the kind of prime minister India so wanted and yet was so disappointed with. You have to read Natwar Singh's autobiography to figure how Rajiv single-handedly got India into such an awful mess in Sri Lanka, and Natwar (you must remember) was as ardent a Rajiv fan as you will get. Till of course Sonia managed to rile him.
Natwar's book tells you as much about the Camelot years as it does about Sonia and the fall of the Congress. It is the first stone. More will be cast I am sure. By others.
Till now all the fault lines in the party were blamed on others. Manmohan Singh got the brunt of it. He was for Sonia what Sanjay was to Indira. The perfect fall guy, the man everyone came to hate. It was a deliberate strategy to show him up as a wimp who ran away from the battlefield. As the man who let the party down. Short of calling him corrupt, a charge that few would buy into, every other insult was directed at him through a pliant party apparatus and a submissive media looking for someone to target in a season of endless scams where billions were purloined. It was legerdemain of the highest order and poor Manmohan never looked as if he could preside over such an enormous heist.
Since the media was too scared to take on the Gandhis, they chose the safer option. They targeted Manmohan and, like a fool, he allowed himself to be led to slaughter. From there began the rise of Narendra Modi, the man the nation chose to throw the Gandhis out. Modi was charismatic. He was seen as powerful, decisive. So the electorate decided he could do the job the media and the Congress party had failed to. From that choice came Modi's real power. Not from the BJP or the RSS. Not from Hindutva. Modi was the man, India decided, who could rescue our politics from the grip of the Gandhis. He had an equal reputation for ruthlessness. It was steel for steel. Modi versus the Gandhis. The BJP and Congress were only observers.
Now that the battle's over, and a hundred days too, the nation waits with bated breath to see how Modi will take on the Gandhis. Neither side is showing its hand. Both are playing blind. Manmohan has retreated into oblivion. The Congress is rudderless. The Gandhis only take credit for victory. Not responsibility for defeat, whatever the cliches they may resort to.
But this time there's opportunity. A real opportunity for change. Narendra Modi may be the pretext. But the opportunity lies in taking the party that once fought for India's freedom and give it a spine to fight for its own freedom. Freedom from the Gandhis.
Of course there will be chaos. Blood will be shed. Change, real change, does not come easily and those in power never give it up easily. And the Gandhis, you must remember, have enormous power, influence, resources at their command. Modi has only 31% of the vote. That is, 31% of the 66% who came out to vote. This means barely a fifth of the nation behind him. So the battle will not be easy. He's smart enough to know that.
That's why he is so cautious. He's taking one step at a time. And he has left the Gandhis alone for now. But he knows that sooner or later he has to deal with them if he wants to consolidate his power. They can't be ignored. Or maybe he's hoping that they will follow a scorched earth policy and destroy the Congress before riding into the sunset. That could also suit him.
But that will mean the end of a great party and the death of a real Opposition. It will be a tragedy for Indian politics and hurt Modi as well. For who will then deal with the lunatic fringe in his own party? India needs the Congress. But it needs it without the Gandhis. Can that happen?