Dear Shashi Tharoor, your defence of the indefensible political dynasties is disappointing

In all good conscience one can't defend the present state of utter internal undemocracy in Congress.

Written by Ujjal Dosanjh | Updated: March 27, 2017 10:54 am
Shashi Tharoor, Shashi Tharoor Congress, Shashi Tharoor Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor dynasty politics, Shashi Tharoor speech, Shashi tharoor news, kerala news, latest news, india news, indian express news, latest news indian express, top news, shashi tharoor blog, shashi tharoor congress speech Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi with Shashi Taroor at Parliament House. Express Photo/Prem Nath Pandey

My Dear Friend Shashi,

I know you to be a scholar, a writer of books, a connoisseur of words, a master of turn of phrase and above all a good human being. That is why I was surprised at your seemingly nonchalant and lazy defence of dynasties in Indian politics. It all struck me as less than serious. It seemed an easy escape from having to explain why dynasties flourish in the Indian democracy. Above all it read like an apology for the almost listless dynasty that currently sits unchallenged atop the once glorious Congress.

You argued that “our society is characterised by transmission of talent through the gene pool. If one wants to be a Bollywood star, it helps if your father is a Bollywood star.” You went on the say there is dynastic thread in the Indian scientific and business world; the businesses are inherited. Since our society functions on dynastic basis, one mustn’t expect politics to be an exception, you opined.

In fact there are lots of reasons in the world for us to expect politics to be different. Why should the opportunity to lead in politics depend on being “transmitted through the gene pool?” I would have thought you would have argued in favour of all being equally free to pursue politics in any political party. A true equality of opportunity is the cornerstone of democratic politics. The thought implicit and explicit in your remarks is so undemocratic. When I first read your words, they haunted me. It frightened me to think that you might believe what you had offered as a justification of the dynastic politics in India.

As I pondered a bit on our Indian experience, it became clear that in India across the ages the only ironclad transmission of “talent through the gene pool” has been through the caste system; and it was a system, still is, that transmitted caste slavery “through the gene pool.” Yet the slavery had nothing to with the genes of the slaves. Slavery wasn’t and isn’t a skill or talent. It was a condition of the survival of the caste slave. One was born a slave. Nay, one was consigned to slavery, even before germinating in the male genitals, before exiting a mother’s womb, even way before that–when one’s ancestors weren’t yet conceived or even planned. Centuries before their birth, men and women to be conceived in the future were preselected to be slaves.

Professions and occupations were ‘preordained’ as was their social and economic servitude. With or without inheriting the “talent gene”, one certainly ‘inherited’ one’s ‘place gene’ in society as the oppressed and the persecuted; the vicious cycle has gone on for centuries–“transmitted” through the social system the–talent genes or skills genes be damned. It is this terrible political and socio-economic albatross around our civilisation’s neck that continues to impede India’s progress. For those of us–at least many of us, not born to caste slavery, it has become second nature, spoken or silent cardinal sin, to believe this is how things have always worked; therefore it must be thus forever and in every walk of life–“transmission of talent through genes”.

To prove your assertion that dynastic rule over political parties can be democratic, you cited the example of Kumar Gaurav, a child of Bollywood, who didn’t make it, his initial movies flopping at the box office. Your logic in this argument implied that dynastic ascendance to the top of the political ladder was justified and democratic since there was the possibility of failure. But you forget that in dynasties, there are lot of blood relatives, distant or near, standing ready to take the throne, pre-empting any democratic takeover of the political enterprise. That is the real nub of the problem.

And then you defended Rahul Gandhi’s unopposed elevation to the near top of the Congress party and declared him a democratically successful dynast. Using your box office analogy, how do you deem Rahul, a success? Hasn’t he already appeared as the lead campaigner, as would a lead actor in Bollywood, in 2014 and 2017 elections; both times with terribly humiliating results at the ballot box?

Your oversight in not considering Rahul’s total record in declaring him a success, when the rest of the world beyond the ever diminishing Congress coterie considers him an utter failure, made me believe that by defending the dynasty politics in India as a natural outgrowth of the Indian experience and society, you were essentially, though inadvertently, making an apology for the failure of the Congress party to democratise itself.

It once used to be a party with a great deal of inner democracy. At the moment of this writing it has absolutely none. The party itself has been reduced to a shrivelled shell of its admirable previous incarnation as the liberator of India from British imperialism.

You see Bollywood is a private business of art and entertainment. India doesn’t, mustn’t and can’t elect its Bollywood performers. Some get in through nepotism, via genes, in other words; others through talent; eventually the box office rules. The business of governing or wanting to govern India isn’t and can’t be private business. It has to be a completely transparent public undertaking. There is no such transparency or democracy for the public to see in the Congress party; in it complete and utter sycophancy rules. The modern Congresswallahs have always argued dynasties are not undemocratic because in the end the ballot box rules; but they forget that sycophancy in the party, not democracy, thrusts the dynast on to the ballot in the first place; only then can the dynast prove his/her ability to sink or swim at the ballot box; and that opportunity to reach the top, to sink and swim, is undemocratically denied to others who are not dynasts. It is this denial that makes dynasty the death of democracy.

The argument made to support the Congress’ blind obeisance to the Nehru Gandhis is absurd. At the core of this argument is a fallacy that has taken Congress to its death bed. You and I both know that the internal democracy of political parties is vital for a healthy democracy. The Congress has been without too much internal democracy for too long and lately it has had none in the way it chooses its national leaders, state leaders or its candidates in the elections. And unfortunately we recently witnessed the beginnings of the deadly virus of dynastic behaviour in the way the established BJP politicians fought for and succeeded in having their children and relatives selected as candidates in the state elections. And true internal democracy was also banished in the election of the chief minister of UP; his/her selection should legitimately been done by the MLAs. They were not allowed to select unencumbered their legislative leader, the CM of UP. The strong man Narendra Modi dictated from Delhi and imposed Yogi Aditiyanth.

With the Congress already too enfeebled and decaying by the day with sycophancy and internal dynastic dictatorship, the recent and clear beginning of the sycophantic and authoritarian rot in the BJP, the new governing party of India, portends even a greater danger for democracy in India.

My friend a thriving democracy in India needs all the major political parties to practice, encourage and respect internal party democracy. Of internal democracy, the current Congress has next to none. In all good conscience one can’t defend the present state of utter internal undemocracy in Congress; and your argument disappointed me because it seemed to be defending internal party undemocracy. In friendship, may I beg forgiveness, if I am wrong in my reading of your remarks.

Your friend

Ujjal Dosanjh

The views expressed by the author are personal. Dosanjh is former Premier of British Columbia, and former Canadian Minister of Health. He tweets @ujjaldosanjh

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  1. S
    Srividya Jayaraman
    Mar 27, 2017 at 9:30 am
    And you hate Modi. Typical Vatican mentality
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      PPrasad78
      Mar 27, 2017 at 9:47 am
      It not just dynasty politics , I mean there is nothing in Rahul G that enles him to such an important position in the Congress Party !lt;br/gt;He will not even be able to hold a mid tier managerial job in the private Industry and he wants to be the PM of India and decide the fate of 1.2 billion people !lt;br/gt;The guy is delusional !
      Reply
      1. V
        Venkat
        Mar 27, 2017 at 10:00 am
        On the other side, if there is any role as opposition. If there is democracy there should be opposition that can stop anything. Past 70 years was there any opposition party in goverment. In the current senario if any government in power in central or any states don't perform they are tend to loose soon.
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          Ali Raza
          Mar 27, 2017 at 10:16 am
          Although I detest the Congress, this crook is an AAPtard - no better, probably worse than a corrupt Congressi.
          Reply
          1. A
            Anil
            Mar 27, 2017 at 8:18 am
            Makes no difference to our current PM, frustrated people can hurl whatever filth at him. He's a winner, big time. And Amit Shah and the others you talk about, all said and done, have made it through years of hard work and merit. And they show results, Not because of mummy or papa, like the clueless and good-for-nothings Rahul and Priyanka have done.
            Reply
            1. V
              vijay
              Mar 27, 2017 at 7:01 am
              You have just piped mani shankar Iyer in the psychophant contest
              Reply
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                ashok manambrakaatt
                Mar 27, 2017 at 2:03 pm
                Friends, Tharoor has to earn his livelihood. He is just a courtier in the Sonia Durbar!! His MP dom is a Gift from Sonia. At not too distant intervals he has to keep writing encomiums about the greatness of the Dynasty and Rahul "Pappu" hi as the greatest leader of India ever!!! That is all. lt;br/gt;Please do not waste your time analyzing his article any further!!!
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                  carl
                  Mar 27, 2017 at 6:36 am
                  Each one of us belong to a dynasty. A collection of "INDIVIDUALS" make a dynasty. What is wrong if a person belongs to a particular dynasty and is interested in taking up a certain profession that he or she is more familiar about ?? Take the case of Rahul hi; he is interested in politics and would like to lead a certain section of people - what is wrong in it ?? You and I are individuals and if you do not like a person, just don't support that person !! In this case Rahul is not forcing anyone to love him - if his ideology suits you, support him......it is that simple !!.
                  Reply
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