By M.V. Kamath
Dynastic rule, longest in India was that of the Mughals starting with Babur (1483-1530) and ending with Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775-1862) though Bahadur Shah occupied the throne in Delhi from 1837 to 1858 but in name alone, his domain extending not further than his palaces.
Now a new dynasty seems to be in the offing which symbolically began with Motilal Nehru (1861-1931) and promising to continue with Rahul Gandhi, his great great grandson. Like Babur, Motilal merely started the dynasty but with a great deal of aplomb.
It was at Motilal'spressure that Gandhi agreed to have Jawaharlal, then just turned 40, to become president of the Indian National Congress at its Lahore session in 1929. Most delegates would have preferred to have Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as president, he having just attained the status of ?hero of Bardoli?. But such was the growing pressure on him, that the Mahatma chose Jawaharlal.
Anyone who wished to be Congress president had necessarily to take orders from Jawaharlal. Inevitably, his daughter first became a member of the Congress Working Committee in 1955 inevitably to become Congress president in 1959.
?My beloved Jawahar? Congress leader Sarojini Naidu wrote to him, ?I wonder if in the whole of India there was yesterday a prouder heart than your father?s…? Till Independence dawned, it was largely Gandhi'sCongress. Following Independence, the Mahatma wanted the Congress to be dissolved; it wasn?t. Vallabhbhai Patel managed it, controlling the party machine better than anyone else before or after him. But Vallabhbhai died in 1950 and after that the Congress largely became a party led by the Nehru family. Whoever became Congress president, it was because of Nehru'sapproval.
J.B.Kripalani who briefly presided over the Congress destiny had to resign in 1947 because of dis-agreement with Jawaharlal on the respective roles of the organisational and Parliamentary wings of the party. After 1947, it was Jawaharlal who decided who the party leader should be. There was no one to challenge him. Anyone who wished to be Congress president had necessarily to take orders from Jawaharlal. Inevitably, his daughter first became a member of the Congress Working Committee in 1955 inevitably to become Congress president in 1959.
It is said that her name was recommended by an earlier Congress President U.N.Dhebar; sycophancy is nothing new in India. Had Sanjay Gandhi lived, he would probably have also become not only Congress President but Prime Minister of India as well, but the role was to fall on his elder brother Rajiv following Indira Gandhi'sassassination. One wonders how long he would have stayed in power had he lived to a respectable age but his assassination was to lead to his wife Sonia taking over the Congress reins. Now, it seems, the time has come for Rajiv'sson Rahul to don the Congress presidential mantle. Sycophants are now wanting to press his case. First, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh invites Rahul to accompany him to Kabul and even to be a silent witness to talks between Dr Singh and Afghan leaders. That is very unusual.
The Prime Minister'sexcuse is that Rahul is interested in Afghanistan (who isn?t?), besides being a Member of Parliament anyway. Now, Mumbai Regional Congress Committee Chairman Gurudas Kamat has set the tone for a campaign to get Rahul appointed as General Secretary of the AICC. Rahul'sformal election to the Working Committee will be in the three-day Hyderabad plenary being held from October 20. That would be the first step in Rahul'sclimb up the power ladder. He is now 35. In another couple of years he could well be chosen as party president. After all, wasn'this great grandfather, Jawaharlal, became party president at the age 40? What would be wrong were Rahul to become party president at, say, age 38?
After all, wasn'tWilliam Pitt Jr (1759-1806) Prime Minister of England from 1783 to 1801, starting at the young age of 24? Pitt Jr.'sfather, too, was Prime Minister. Rahul can always argue that there are precedences in dynastic succession. Unlike his father Rajiv, Rahul has an M.Phil in Development Economics from Trinty College, Cambridge. At the very least he can say he is more educated than his grandmother Indira, who started her long career in government as Information Minister under Lal Bahadur Shastri, even though she had excellent, but quiet training as her father'sconfidante during his long and charismatic career as Prime Minister. So is India on its way to have another Nehru-Gandhi as Prime Minister? Rahul has quietly left his mother'shome at 10, Janpath, to start his own home at 12 Tughlak Lane, no doubt to show not only his maturity but his independence. His last visit to the Planning Commission was to attend an exclusive brain-storming session on the UPA government'snational rural project, Bharat Nirman. One hears that this is merely a step forward towards his induction into the Council of Ministers. India, it seems, has no other young leader. Congress has to look to the dynasty to provide one. It is, to say the least, a crying shame.
There have been great leaders in India in the past and their name is legion. But whether it was a Lala Lajpat Rai, a C.R.Das, a B.G.Tilak, a C.Rajagopalachari or anyone else, if they had children, they stayed away from politics. The parents did not push their sons to the fore. But those early leaders were of pre-Independence time. To be in politics was to make sacrifices. Even Jawaharlal was in jail for over a dozen years, for the sake of his country. Today, politics has apparently no attraction for the young. The bright among them, it would seem, would rather be Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of large industrial firms, jobs which are less risky and more paying. It is a pity that Rahul cannot find a job in that category. Either he doesn'thave the capacity to manage or he is heir to a nice fortune that gives him freedom to make a career out of politics. Whatever the reason, he seems destined to continue the Nehru-Gandhi line as Congress party leaders and less, hopefully, as Prime Minister as well. Whether he deserves the job is another matter. In a party with supine followers, it is the leader who lays down who should become the successor. It is a poor tribute to Congress which once was a peoples? party but has now all but become Congress (Sonia) as before it was Congress (Indira). It had ceased to become a peoples? party in 1950.
What is sickening is that it has still not woken up to that fact. Democracy is for the birds. If Rahul has any rival, it is his own sister Priyanka but instead of pushing her, mother has indulged in gender discrimination to promote her son. And that is very much in Indian cultural tradition. But why blame Sonia when we are letting an entire generation grow that has no vision, much less a desire for serving the nation? So we get what we deserve: dynasticism. No wonder the Manmohan Singhs and Gurudas Kamats are trying to please Sonia. In the Indian political firmament, there are no stars. Poor India.