Thursday, April 17, 2008

On The Gen-X Candidate for PM

The Hindu editorial 'Rhetoric and reality' today aims at the make-Rahul-PM episode triggered by Arjun Singh's recent comment. Why the paper attaches so much significance to this incident is unclear to me. Whether this is Arjun Singh trying to win brownie points with the Congress' first family or a polite way of hinting that the PM is not a charismatic personality who can win elections, the matter, in my view, merits little more attention than a brief mention of the item and the official party reaction to the proposal. The paper however uses the occasion to remind the party of some truths and give it some advice.Some truths such as the state of the party are there for all to see. Others are debatable. Here is an extract from para 2:

Who the Congress fields as its prime ministerial candidate is its own business. Outsiders cannot expect to have any say in this. It is also nobody’s case that Mr. Gandhi must be denied the democratic right to pursue politics as a career. But when a party that claims to be democratic and inclusive practises unashamed dynastic politics, it must expect to get flak from all directions.

Has the Congress claimed in recent times to be democratic? It certainly was at one time but has it said so at any point after Indira Gandhi took over? I am not sure. But is it any less democratic than other parties? I do not believe so. In most parties in India nowadays, major decisions are made based on the collective opinion of central leaders. If the matter pertains to a state, state leaders are consulted a priori before the deliberations are held. And the same system seems to prevail in most parties though minor details may vary. To that extent, all parties are democratic. But do any of them hold genuinely free elections like the American party primaries? No. So the argument made by the Hindu is questionable especially given that it makes no similar criticism as regards the CPM. Furthermore is the Congress not sufficiently inclusive? It has people from all communities under its banner and I see no ground for this charge.

Consider the state of his party in Uttar Pradesh, which he desperately wants to win back. During the run-up to the 2007 Assembly election, the Congress, with Mr. Gandhi in the lead, worked for the unconstitutional dismissal of the Mulayam Singh government. On the campaign trail, he boasted that his family had divided Pakistan.

Many a prominent leader has committed a faux pas at some point or another. Does that exclude all of them from becoming PM? Leaders from the left parties too worked for the unconstitutional dismissal of the Gujarat government during and after the riots. They worked to deliberately undermine the constitutional machinery during the Nandigram incidents in order to buy time for their cadres to reestablish their supremacy in the area illegally through brute force. Will the Hindu make the same argument that all the current CPM leaders are precluded from standing for the PM's post if the Third Front wins enough seats in the next election because of their tainted association with these incidents?

Right now, he is leading a vicious charge against U.P. Chief Minister Mayawati in a misconceived bid to wean away her Dalit base. Ms Mayawati has worked diligently and broad based her approach to get where she is. The latest evidence of her political success is the Bahujan Samaj Party’s sweep of by-elections in two Lok Sabha and three Assembly constituencies. Rather than target a charismatic mass leader, the Congress general secretary should work at nurturing genuine talent from Dalit and other oppressed and non-privileged sections so that the Congress ceases to be a party of patronage offering lip sympathy to the downtrodden.

Again, what exactly is vicious about leading a charge against Mayawati? Leading a charge is something that politicians regularly indulge in; again, it is she who has made the vile comments about him. So the advice is that he should not target a charismatic mass leader. Is the paper willing to give that advice to all other political leaders as well? Is it willing to tell the left leaders to back off from attacking Sonia Gandhi, a mass leader? Is it willing to tell the Congress not to go after L.K.Advani or Narendra Modi who are both recognized mass leaders? Instead, the paper has often berated the Congress for not going after the BJP leadership most recently during the Gujarat elections. The last sentence that it should work at nurturing genuine talent is true as much of the upper castes/OBCs as of Dalits but what is the basis for saying that the Congress only offers lip sympathy to the downtrodden whereas Mayawati has somehow done something much more substantive? For all I have seen, the only thing she has been doing is renaming everything after Dalit leaders and building more statues of Ambedkar and more recently, of herself. For the Hindu to sing her praises in the absence of any signal achievement worth mention is bewildering and typical of a strange liberal tendency in India to simply celebrate the rise of a Dalit overlooking even fundamental flaws in the individual's leadership - this is true of Mayawati now as much as it was of Jagjivan Ram three decades ago.

I am not for or against Rahul Gandhi. It is a fact that his family is very popular with the rank and file of his party and will readily accept him as PM - in that sense, he has a better claim to the post than the incumbent. But the point of this post is not that. It is to showcase the patently false assertions of this newspaper made on the basis of jaundiced views about the family and the Congress party. The party would do well to set its house in order but the gratuitous advice on political ethics rendered by the paper would hold more water if only it were to apply those principles equally to its favored groups in the political spectrum as well.


Anonymous said...

Any Dalit in this list?? When will Naxal write about this lip sympathy?

CPI(M) Polit Bureau

Prakash Karat

V.S. Achuthanandan

S. Ramachandran Pillai

Sitaram Yechury

M.K. Pandhe

Biman Basu

Manik Sarkar

Pinarayi Vijayan

Buddhadeb Bhattacharya

K. Varadarajan

B. V. Raghavulu

Brinda Karat

Mohd. Amin

Nirupam Sen

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan

Dirt Digger said...

Great point,the CPM should realise that,its easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one.
Though Achuthanandan is the only person, I can identify, from the backward communities.
Have you heard of any democratic party which makes such a statement?

"..the clear directive of the Polit Bureau and the Central Committee that the State party leadership should not air their differences publicly."