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Friday, April 11, 2014

Family for all seasons: - Congress culture is likely to stay the same whatever happens

By Swapan Dasgupta

There are occasions when a seemingly irrelevant piece of tittle-tattle assumes greater relevance than a thousand words of weighty commentary. An innocuous piece of news on the first page of last Wednesday’s Times of India on the selection of the Congress candidate to contest against Narendra Modi in Varanasi was such an occasion.

The importance lay not so much in the fact that a local MLA who had unsuccessfully tried his hand in a Lok Sabha election on a previous occasion had been given the Congress ticket—thereby ending a fortnight of purposeless speculation over who would be Modi’s principal rival in Varanasi. For the beat reporter, the significance of Ajay Rai’s nomination was that he had been personally blessed by the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka Vadra. Not only that, Priyanka had given Rai her personal mobile phone number and asked to get in touch directly with her if he needed help and facilitation. The reporter’s breathless conclusion was that Priyanka was increasingly calling the shots in the Congress.

Although purists may balk at the prominence given to this additional evidence that the brother-sister duo was now in control of the final leg of the Congress campaign, this piece of trivia was not inconsequential. Ever since opinion polls and anecdotal reports from the battleground pointed to the Congress performing far worse than even the party pessimists imagined was possible, Congress loyalists have been praying and hoping for a “secret weapon” which would improve the final tally that in turn would ensure that a future BJP-led government would be inherently fragile. In the past week, ever since Congress General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi let the media in one of the party’s greatest secrets—that in 1990 Rajiv Gandhi had detected Priyanka’s instinctive feel for politics—the demoralised party had been hoping that Rahul’s leadership would be bolstered by the involvement of his sister. Indeed, there were Congress supporters who felt that Priyanka would be declared as the challenger to Modi in Varanasi. Such a symbolic move, they felt, would electrify Uttar Pradesh and reopen what was increasingly looking like a one-sided encounter.

The value addition that Priyanka might possibly bring to the Congress table need not concern us excessively. In a star-obsessed campaign, the injection of a lady who, it is said in some quarters, has the mass touch of her illustrious grandmother, would inevitably shift some focus from an over-exposed Modi and his insolent rival Arvind Kejriwal. In terms of dividing the media space a little more equitably, Priyanka’s entry into the 2014 campaign would certainly be of short-term benefit to the Congress. In 1998, when Sonia Gandhi made her political debut, she certainly did shift the spotlight a little away from Atal Behari Vajpayee. Indeed, Congress supporters were so buoyant that when I mentioned a particular rally where Vajpayee had drawn big crowds, a Congress groupie asked me incredulously: “Is anyone even listening to him any longer?”

However, what strikes me about the excitement over Priyanka is that even as the Congress stares at the possibility of winning less than 100 Lok Sabha seats, the only magic wand the party can think of is firmly located within the dynastic mould. Yes, Congress supporters grudgingly concede, Rahul Gandhi has proved a political disappointment. He may exude sincerity and even boast of an unwillingness to be derailed by narrow, tactical considerations but there is no getting away from his inability to connect. In the past, a presidential style campaign had always suited the Congress against a fractured opposition. Indeed, even for the 2014 campaign the Congress publicity campaign had been planned to project Rahul as the great white hope. Unfortunately for the Congress, the Modi juggernaut proved too formidable for those who felt that Rahul would encapsulate the necessary measure of change to offset anti-incumbency. In the direct Modi versus Rahul battle, the man from Gujarat was miles ahead. Rahul’s famed sincerity and earnestness came to be equated with naiveté. Rahul was not disliked; he became an object of mockery, particularly after his disastrous Times Now interview. With just a month left of the campaign, the only people who think that a Rahul-led dispensation can govern India with a measure of enlightenment are the editors of The Economist.

The widespread acknowledgment of Rahul’s inadequacies by the Congress hasn’t, however, triggered preparations for an upheaval in the party in the event of grim news on May 16. Past experience, especially of the years the party wasn’t in power at the Centre, has convinced the average Congress supporter that the leadership of the Gandhi family is a precondition for both survival and growth. There was a time, particularly after P.V. Narasimha Rao’s term as Prime Minister, when it seemed that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty had run out of steam. Sonia Gandhi’s decision to plunge into politics in 1998 was, for example, greeted with some scepticism and led to Sharad Pawar’s revolt. But the unexpectedly good performance in 2004 and the victory in 2009 established Sonia as a leader in her own right and set her up as the glue that binds the disparate Congress family.

A Congress failure in 2014 isn’t likely to shake that fundamental assumption and faith in the leadership of the dynasty is likely to persist. The belief that Rahul isn’t a natural politician isn’t going to disappear abruptly and neither will the culture of sycophancy. The indifferent 2014 results are certain to be blamed on the “non-communicative” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—Jairam Ramesh has already given an early indication of the post-mortem findings. On his part, Rahul will be applauded for selflessly leading a losing battle and persisting with management systems that should, hopefully, re-energise the party once the country’s honeymoon with Modi ends. Most important, the addition of Priyanka into the dynastic pantheon will definitely placate those Congress leaders who have doubts over Rahul’s ability to engage in combative politics. Far from breeding a sense of disgust with the party’s inability to look and think beyond the dynasty, the helping hand Priyanka is likely to give Rahul seems calculated to retain the family’s stranglehold over the Congress after the likely defeat in 2014.

There are definite indications that the Gandhi family isn’t working towards a new political culture that will guarantee there are no glass ceilings in the path of ability and mass appeal. Reports emanating from the wider durbar of the first family seem to suggest that there is a fear in 10 Janpath that a Modi-led government will engage in recriminations in pursuit of its dream of a Congress-free India. Certainly, the businesses of Robert Vadra are certainly going to be the subject of some investigations. Whether these fears are real or contrived is not known. What is important is that the Gandhi court is readying itself for difficult times in the event of a Modi victory next month. Between 2000 and 2004, the top BJP leadership had negotiated a non-aggression pact with Sonia. More than an act of magnanimity, it was based on the belief that Sonia’s leadership would ensure that the Congress would remain in the Opposition. It was a horrible misreading of her potential and it is unlikely this error will be repeated by a new BJP dispensation.

The Congress top rung, it would seem, has psyched itself into believing that Modi will repay the viciousness that was directed at him from 2002. This fear may well explain why the Gandhi family will ensure that its proprietorship of the Congress will not be modified after the election. 


Anonymous said...

Vadra's land scams have destroyed whatever respect and image poor Priyanka had among people.

Anonymous said...

The issue is lot more profound & far reaching for us HINDUS the indigenous people of Bharath.

In 1947 itself Kaanchi Paramacharya stated categorically:-

" This is NO svatanthram (freedom) but paratanthram (bondage / slavery to british & evangelicals' remote control).

Every other country enjoys the luxury of governing & policies forming based on their respective religious & cultural ethos.

It is ONLY HINDUS of Bharath that have been consistently DENIED that legitimate RIGHT.

HINDUS are invariably coerced into donning 'secular' hat by the supercilious britain with a penchant for talking through their hats.

Secularism in HINDUS ' Bharath means riding rough shod over Hindus rights & sentiments. Distorted history has achieved in considerably turning us mentally servile. Bharath is OUR country & HINDUS shall claim their RIGHTS hitherto denied.

Congress dynasty has been FOISTED upon us by british. priyanka's speeches were always written by mani shankar aiyar it was stated once.

I am sure UK would be more than willing to take back entire congress dynasty into their country. OUR Kohinoor Diamond & various such precious LOOT in britain's custody can take care of all such toxic treasonous parasites of India.

It would only then be WIN WIN for us HINDUS.

Even the few conceited british who come to Thiruvannamalai and those who have cleverly "incultured" in Ramanashramam grudgingly praise Tamilians' indigenous cuisine.
I have personally heard them confessing so.

Tony Blair & his wife were lisping vata , pitta , kapha & swallowing Ayurvedic preparations. British are the most SHAMELESS unscrupulous CHEATS.

Anonymous said...

Congress dynasty & party are not invincible. That is a fallacy.

We HINDUS have been TOLERATING them ALLOWING them to remain seemingly invincible. The very mindset of BJP has to change radically. Why foolishly follow UK system of "parliamentary democracy"??

We do not OWE our existence to britain. Let us never forget OUR OWN Veer Savarkar , Bhagat Singh ,
Va.Vu. Chidambaranar were all TORTURED most bestially by holier than thou british.

People seldom change. No wonder history repeats itself.

" FACE THE brutes" says Swami Vivekananda.

Whatever be the teething troubles let us become totally self reliant.
I am reminded of A.C.Benson's opening lines in his "Art of The Essayist". Wherein an amateur sign board painter is mighty pleased with his not so perfect attempt as it was done by "his OWN hands".

Anonymous said...

Tamilians' protracted torture & suffering in Ceylon (which became Sri Lanka later) is all wrought overwhelmingly by the british & various other European colonizing powers. Their evangelical MAFIA is synonymous with their respective governments.

Look who is pontificating to HINDUS on secularism:-((

Anonymous said...

History of britain would make any SANE HINDU vomit. Period.

Assuming the HINDUS are well aware of their own Noble Kings & various Sthala Puranams of Hindus' Temples.

Jitendra Desai said...

You need this power and authority even more when you are voted out.With its money and muscles, the family will try to survive with the hope to resurrect by 2019.But then don't know Modi.Reason why they keep trying to trip him by just any means.If no judge is ready to probe snoop gate, it will be Jasodaben.Everything is fair in elections.Will BJP stoop this low? it should has everything going.

bindu said...

Sonia Gandhi should have let the Congress self destruct and resurrect.
She can stay or ride off into the sunset.
My worry is twofold: BJP supporters should stay rational & not get pumped up. I know they have taken a beating from ladida liberals.
2. NDA ministers should not join the loot. They will get caught out and there sins will be multiplied.
We hope Modi's claims of being a desh bhakt are not derailed by the glamour, glory and greed tht Lutyen'sDelhi can inspire.
Maya nagri can bring on hubris.
Who will protect this country then?

Anonymous said...

Hello Sir

I read your recent piece "Anticipating Modi`s victory are 2 distinct groups". I believe that the Indian media is jumping the gun and usurping the electoral verdict even before the results have been announced.Thanks to the Indian media, a massive bubble is being created.

Please read my perspective

Unknown said...

ABV's blunder of not investigating Bofors, OQ, etc is something that will haunt the BJP.. forever

Prasanna S said...

Being a die-hard NaMo fan, I feel elated, at the same time cautioned by the Italian mafia's relative decline. We need to remember that the mafia is presumably well connected across the globe and might not die easily. We need to keep in mind that raulbaba is about 20 years younger than NaMo and time is on the former's side. NaMo should consciously build up the an inescapable legal trap. This is not really difficult given the reports of wealth amassed by sonia's sisters in Italy. Only this will ensure dynasty-free India.


The congress of today rides on the back of the erstwhile congress which was in the forefront of the independence struggle. Since then Pandit Nehru and his family with their charisma took a stranglehold on the party, in the absence of a leader of any significant repute. So intoxicated by power were the gandhis,they thought it was their moral right to rule over India. Thus was born the Congress not of India but of Indira. They still have the audacity to stake a claim as the heir to the throne of Prime ministership. If there was a chance to break the shackles it was when PV Narasimha Rao was sworn in the Prime Minister. But the congressmen were so spineless they failed to see anybody emerging from the long shadow of the Gandhi Family and that is because of a lack in any credible ideology or a farsighted vision as possessed by the leaders in the BJP. If this is not so, then how else can we explain our ignominy of having to live in the country, of a Yes Prime Minister in Manmohan Singh, who was
by every means Sonia's Yes man at Delhi.