I cannot quite comprehend the invite going to Ramchandra Guha for the Kerala Literature Festival (KLF 2020) of which the declared focus theme is environment and climate change. Nevertheless, his skill of grabbing the national headlines by criticizing Rahul Gandhi’s election from Wayanad last year is an obvious and the only outcome.
Guha’style – ‘flog the defenceless dead horse’ while pretending to be just and non-partisan is axiomatic. But as a ‘historian’ – his service to the nation is completely absent. Neither does he offer any real cogent historical analysis nor do his energies focus on offering a solution.
In addition, I do not quite buy Guha’s argument that Rahul Gandhi’s absence will remove all historical references from discussion and debate on India’s politics and freedom movement which is used so lavishly by politicians of all persuasions.
Sorry Ram Guha, I disagree with you there.
Guha labels Rahul Gandhi a “fifth-generation dynast”. His usage of that expression, smacks of Guha’s personal disdain for the only qualification Rahul Gandhi has to be in politics.
Guha ar4gues Rahul Gandhi has ‘no chance in Indian politics against a “hard-working and self-made” Narendra Modi’. I am inclined to accept that. But I would not criticize an electorate for electing a particular candidate as Guha did.
Rather I would like to look closely what is wrong – as far as I can see – with the Congress party – India’s main Opposition party in politics. Guha says, a “great party”during the freedom movement, the Congress has been reduced to a “pathetic family firm” now. Guha does not explain how and why.
The reason I believe is ‘focus on populism’ in the 24hr news cycle for which he goes on to hypothesise that the decline in the Congress party’s fortunes is one of the reasons for the ascendency of Hindutva and jingoism in India.
I find it to a sad state of affairs when elite intellectuals have to focus on things which drag them away from their real work. The whole hullabaloo about CAA 2019 is being used to label anything the Modi government does – a step towards ‘Hindutva’. I am not a fan of either side and believe amending the CAA 2019 to make it workable is unavoidable. But I do not believe anything Modi government has done had some sinister motive to transform Indian nation into some completely suffronized Hindu state. I do not think Modi and Shah are oblivious to the fact that of today’s world is inhospitable to such a backward move. There is too much at stake for India as a nation and it is simply unthinkable that India will rip its constitution up which guarantees a secular state. Period.
The real focus has to be on the Congress party and its degeneration into its current form and why and how it has come about. Once a great party, the Congress party ‘back then’ – for all its members and leaders – had a unity of purpose – to attain independence from the British. That was the bond and glue which kept everyone together. One leader was good enough to provided direction and Nehru’s riches and elitist stature was sufficiently influential and the fight to throw the British out of India kept him at the helm of affairs. The overall influence of Gandhi on Indian leaders of all faiths and beliefs and the choice of Nehru to lead as the first prime minister of Independent India – gave the family a significant advantage.
Indira Gandhi’s ascendancy
After Lal Bahadur Shastri’s short stint and sudden death, Indira Gandhi’s ascendancy to power further cemented family’s position in Indian politics. The name “Gandhi” was a special advantage while she ruled and for many fans, she ruled with an iron fist and steely resolve and took India to the world stage. Her dictatorial style while worked for the nation and the party while she was alive, the induction of Sanjay Gandhi into Indian politics – perhaps ruffled more feathers than the Gandhi family would have liked. Many obediently long serving Congressmen – now did not have the unity of purpose to serve the party as India was already independent. The party work was suddenly no longer seen as nation-building ‘service’. They were no longer there to sacrifice for the nation, as they had to make their own ends meet as well. With Indira Gandhi’s death in 1984, the party lost its last ‘real leader’. All those Congressmen with long suppressed ambitions – who had served under the Gandhi family all along – were no longer ready to serve as loyally under anyone else. One finds many of them running their own – in Guha’s words – ‘pathetic family firms’. Some have come back to the fold, others work with it as a union of arrangement (Coalition) from time to time. Many of them – despite their avowed national ambitions, have chosen to remain provincial after realising they do not have “national charisma”, the Gandhis had really up until Sanjay Gandhi or extending it to Rajiv Gandhi.
India needs a strong Opposition. Indians are looking up to the Congress party to provide that and perhaps in that hope, Kerala’s Wayanad voters voted Rahul Gandhi in. There is nothing wrong in what they have done. What is wrong – is the fact that the Congress people have a lot of homework to do. They have to set their house in order. The party needs a new face – hopefully with national appeal and talent required to lead the country from Opposition benches keeping the Modi government accountable and lead the party to power at the next election 2024.
Thus, there is nothing wrong with Rahul Gandhi’s election from Wayanad and its people are not to blame for all the ills of India, far from it. It is people like Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram, Shashi Tharoor who have to brainstorm a gluing strategy and slogan – not just for their or party’s sake – but for India’s sake. Long live India!