by Dinesh Malhotra, Bharat Times
In the book New Hopes for a Changing World, when Bertrand Russell wrote, “Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature made them,” he, in the present context most likely meant to say as below:
“Our great democracies still tend to think that an honest man is more likely to be stupid than a publicly certified dishonest clever man, and our (selfish and clever) politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid (read honest) than nature made them.”
Politics is no longer merely a career chosen to ‘serve’; it is business, and for some others, it is art. It is chosen by a majority to earn well and to safeguard their future. All societies, the world over are divided into two groups or classes – the ‘ruling’ class and the ‘ruled’ class. And the irony is – the ‘ruling’ class keeps ‘ruling’ over the ‘ruled’ class by merely making them (the ‘ruled’ class) believe, it is in fact them (again the ‘ruled’ class) who call the shots by voting on elections.
And poor ‘ruled’ class continue to believe and perpetuate the rule of being ‘ruled over’. No wonder Mark Twain famously wrote, “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”
The turbulence hits our social horizons when someone from the ‘ruled’ class attempts to and makes it into the ‘ruling’ class. The turbulence occurs when dynamics of the status quo matrix has to ‘recalibrate’ a little. Once in the ‘ruling’ class, they are all the same – equals and buddies looking after each other. The dobbing in, if any, for instance P Chidambaram being in Tihar Jail, is for the ‘ruled’ class to see and feel good about ‘their’ idea of justice being meted out. They have no idea how comfortable Chidambaram is while there.
This is the true face of politics, generally anywhere in the world but more so in India and other developing and third world countries. And when Ram Guha writes (in his piece why Gandhis cannot lead India’s Opposition, Hindustan Times, 16 November) about Gandhis not being ‘right’ for political office in Opposition, I am not sure if his thesis in the piece is complete as he offers no alternative names in the Congress party – the ‘right’ candidates to lead the party and capable of providing the Opposition India needs.
My personal take on Indian politics is not to dissimilar to the idea Ram Guha seems to propound that a healthy and strong opposition is as essential in a democracy as the good, principled and true to its word, the government or the ‘ruling’ party. Guha seems to be confused about the issues at play. While on one hand he talks about national leaders of the Congress party (the Indian National Congress), on the other he cites instances of local or state elections being lost by the party led by the Gandhis, that is nationally.
Yes, Modi’s victory in May seems to be in distant past.
Also read: Is it the end of Rahul’s dynasty appeal?
Of particular interest here is the fact that provincialism is playing a very big role in Indian politics – where in state and local elections, the ‘ruled’ class no longer looks up to the national leaders. Local leaders are able to do well be it – Capt Amrinder Singh in Punjab (while Rahul Gandhi was still at the helm), the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra or even the young Dushyant Chautala in Haryana.
The Congress did not do all that well, despite a very upbeat Rahul Gandhi campaigning for the state leaders, deriding the promises made by the Modi government. The Big Two’s (NaMO and shah) BJP has gone backwards in both Maharashtra and Haryana despite Modi’s big win only earlier this year. (The stalemate now has brought in President’s rule in the state.)
The other peculiar feature of Indian politics also seems to be the biggest problem for the Congress party. The party, ever since Mrs Indira Gandhi assumed leadership of the breakaway group Congress (R) and then (I), the party has virtually become synonymous with the “Gandhis” being at the top. The idea mooted by Guha that the Gandhis have no more role to play – would have collided with the intellect and erudition of the likes of Shashi Tharoor in the party. But what they have seen, understood and Guha has entirely missed is the fact that others – who chose to tread that path – have been relegated back to their provinces or local levels. NCP and TMC are cases in point. It is no secret Sharad Pawar’s fortunes are locked in the confines of Maharashtra and Mamta Banerjee is hardly a figure anywhere outside West Bengal. To go as far back as when Mrs Indira Gandhi was still alive, a breakaway group of the then Congress men led by the late Swarn Singh (former Foreign Affairs Minister) to form Congress S, did not manage to travel much distance on the political landscape.
What the Congress desperately needs is a person with national appeal. I agree with Guha only in part that Sonia has no future in that. But Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra can re-invent themselves. They have to work on it by thinking outside the box. And I accept they will be better served not trying that while leading. They have been doing that and miserably failing which is what has been regularly reflecting in electoral results for the party. Your imperfections and flaws, when you are imperfect and leading, come out in the open amplified.
Both Rahul and Priyanka have to find some stupid but ambitious people in their party to “burn” at the top, while they engage in the re-inventing exercise. Of course, the risk is, if someone sticks, their return to the top may be temporarily or permanently jeopardized.
But it is the risk both Rahul and Priyanka should know they have to take.