The late Shri Morarji Desai, former Prime Minister of India had a favourite saying. It went thus: Satyam bruyat, priyam bruyat, na bruyat satyamapriyam. (Tell what is true, tell what is pleasant but never tell the unpleasant truth). Margaret Alva should have known that. Of course what she said about Congress tickets to Assembly elections being sold for a price is no great secret. Every senior political leader in Karnataka was aware of that, but this was always taken as standard practice. What mattered was money. Money not only maketh the mare run, it can also buy Assembly and Parliamentary seats.
The presumption always has been that politics and money (or corruption, if one wants to be more specific) have always gone hand-in-hand. Indeed, all these years it was literally taken for granted. Margaret'sgrouse was that while many politicians got away with payment of money to get their sons and daughters nominated to fight Assembly elections, she was discriminated against when she sought a seat for her son. Perhaps she too should have paid for the privilege to keep up to standard practice, even if she happened to be the General Secretary of the AICC. Money, after all, is money. India is not an exception in this matter. There are instances in Britain and in the United States?two standard democracies?where sons have followed in, their father'sfootsteps on the road to political glory. The most recent example is that of George Bush whose father, too, at one stage, was President of the United States. Sonia Gandhi should be the last to protest against Margaret'sclaim. Her husband, Rajiv, succeeded his mother Indira who succeeded her father Jawaharlal. And now she is preparing her son Rahul to step into her shoes.
The example can be multiplied manifold. Sons, daughters, even daughters-in-law have succeeded political leaders to positions of power. Just think of Karunanidhi'schildren, for instance, or Deve Gowda?s. It is doubtful if Margaret herself would have had easy access to politics were it not for the fact that both her parents-in-law, Joachim and Violet had been Members of Parliament. Margaret has been an M.P. for 29 years, ten of them as a Minister as well. Time was when to be chosen as a candidate for membership of either Assembly or Parliament, one had to have a record of service and sacrifice. The first three Parliaments, for example, had many Members who were truly distinguished for their invaluable services to the country.
As the years rolled by, corruption crept in. Writing in the National Herald(1975), KPS Menon, a former Indian Foreign Secretary (and the first in Independent India) was to say that the Congress had become ?an amorphous, heterogeneous body containing discordant elements ranging and veering from left to right and right to left, sometimes out of conviction and more often out of opportunism and breeding defectionism and a host of other evils?. Over the years, the situation has worsened. The party has become a party sans vision sans character. It is on its way out. There is not one ?leader? even counting Sonia Gandhi, who can be called a ?national? leader. None counts.
The Congress is on its last legs. And it is on its way to a huge collapse in the general elections due early next year. The party is mightily aware of it. And it is planning to raise money in every possible way. Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled States have been forthrightly told to raise funds, the minimum sought being in the range of Rs 195 to 220 crores, a month, according to one reliable source. Government and private institutions?the latter which have to get government grace to survive?have apparently been bluntly told to shell out money on pain of being punished, if they won?t. One may call it unprincipled, but Sonia Gandhi is no Obama for whose elections ordinary Americans willingly subscribed cash to ensure his residence in the White House for one term at least. The return of the Congress-led UPA Government presently is in great jeopardy.
In the circumstances, Margaret Alva'srevelations may turn out to be the last straw on the back of the Congress camel, a realisation of which must have come as a thunderbolt to the party. But the question is not just about sale and purchase of party tickets. One has to face the larger question of total lack of leadership in the Congress camp. There is no one to match the national stature of an L.K.Advani, let alone a Narendra Modi, in the Congress and this is a matter of deep import not just for the Congress but for the entire country. Advani and the BJP stand for certain values which have mass appeal. Congress stands for nothing. For all, one knows the year 2009 will mark the end of its love affair with the country, the end of an era, much as many who grew up with it may rue. Time was when it could cash in on its alleged championship of Secularism and Minority Rights to garner votes.
No more. For this, the party alone has to take the blame. Minorities have come to realise that they have been taken for a ride and cheated. One is reminded of what former Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer who has often found himself on the wrong side of the Establishment, wrote in his book Salvaging Democracy: Some Reflections. As he put it: ?Our public life is corrupt, our spiritual fibre is falling, our socialism is specious and our exploitative order is flourishing. The 5-star culture and ill-starred communities are a social contradiction?.? That sums up the current condition of the Congress.
It is also worth remembering what a consultation Paper prepared by the National Commission to Review the Constitution has said. To quote it: ?There has been sharp erosion in the ideological orientation of political parties. Party dynamics in India has led to the emergence of valueless politics?so untrammeled by moral values has politics become that there are instances of the importance and claim to high office of a politician being measured not in terms of what he can contribute to the state or Public Weal, but the size of the funds he can covertly raise and the necessary criminal power to win elections he can provide?.
We can end up with another very relevant quote, in the context of Margaret Alva'srevelation. The words are from none other than Vallabhbhai Patel, once the backbone of the party and what he said as early as in 1950 is even more relevant today. Said Patel: ?Our public life seems to be degenerating. With all the sincerity and earnestness at my command, I appeal to all my countrymen to reflect on what they see in and around themselves?. After Margaret Alva'sincident which has ended in her being stripped of all powers, they certainly will. What she said needed to be said and now that she has said it, the cat is out of the bag. Sonia Gandhi may not have liked what Margaret said, but Mahatma Gandhi certainly would have. He wanted the Congress to be dissolved in 1947. It is now due to be dissolved in 2009. Goodbye, congress, Long live India.