Intro: At a time when cash and caste-based politics is prevailing, Narendra Modi captured the hearts of people with stress on progress and economic planning.
It doesn’t need to be told. It is there for all to see. Congress is in a grave trouble. And most naturally and inevitably. The defeat in the general elections wasn’t just a defeat. It was a disaster and a catastrophe and it may take a long, long time for the party to recover from it. And for all we know, by the time it recovers, the Gandhi family may be quietly but determinedly sidelined. Already party leaders in at least five states have raised a banner of revolt.
In Maharashtra, Narayan Rane has resigned. In Assam, Himenta Biswa Sarma has quit. Trouble is brewing, but the lid is still on, and one has only to wait to see the inevitable happening in course of time. Only two factors are in favour of the Gandhi clan. One is that there isn’t anybody of any national standing to challenge Rahul. Poor Digvijay Singh subconsciously made the point that Rahul is not temperamentally suited for power and he had to eat his words. The seniors in the party are now quietly going their separate ways. P Chidambaram has set up his office in Delhi to resume his legal practice. So has Kapil Sibal. Veerappa Moiley has set up his own office in the capital and opened a branch of ‘Moiley & Associates as part of expanding his legal work in the Supreme Court. Jairam Ramesh has stopped going to the Congress ‘War Room’, Salman Khurshid, like others, is busy in the Court and is giving his time to his clients and defeated at Latur, Sushil Kumar Shinde is back in Maharashtra with time hanging on his hands. There is none to actively challenge Rahul.
With no one to stand up and speak up for the party, it can only look towards the Gandhi clan. There are muffled voices that say Rahul should be sidelined and sister Priyanka be given the job of party leader and named putative candidate for future Prime Ministership. She is aggressive and a fighter reminding one of her grandmother who was lucky: she had no brothers. But that is not to be: there is such a thing as gender preference. And in India, whether one likes it or not, dynasticism has its own place in societal ethics. Rahul may have failed to deliver the goods but sycophancy is what often determines leadership.
At age 40 plus Rahul continues to behave like a teenager. One day he grows a beard. Next time one sees him he has shaved. He seldom attends Lok Sabha, but when he does, he openly takes a nap. Time and again he is noticed going abroad for reasons unspecified. As one commentator put it, Rahul seems psychologically absent even when he stays in his home country. His remarks during the Vaidik-Saeed episode betrayed a total failure to understand the issues involved as his attack on the RSS which, to say the least, was childish and betrayed a lack of political sophistication. When he should be going round the country and meeting people and talking to partymen, he is neither seen nor heard.
When a former Kerala Minister T H Mustafa called Rahul ‘a joker,’ the man was telling the truth but was suspended from the party for breaching organisational discipline and decorum. The problem is that Congress leadership has now become status quoists.
In the early years, Congress was literally besieged by tall men of great standing. They had a record of service and self-sacrifice which endeared them to the people. Indira Gandhi had to reckon with some of them, men and women of unimpeachable character. But what do we have today?
Today, political parties have to hire public relations experts to guide politicians on what to say and when. In actuality, Rahul just doesn’t have the qualities that make for a leader. He lives in his own world and word is going round that his advisers are youngsters who are even less well-informed of the reality of politics. The point is today’s politics is not character-based. It is caste-based and cash-based.
Principles do not come in the picture nor does character. It is sophisticated management technology that is supposed to work. What is the percentage of different castes in a constituency and what should be the tactics to win them over? Thank God at the elections just over, Narendra Modi captured the hearts of people with stress on progress and economic planning.
(The writer is a senior journalist and former editor of Illustrated Weekly)