The ascent of Narendra Modi represents the most significant challenge to Indian pluralism since the foundation of the Indian republic. Modi is being applauded for carrying the BJP to power with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. Yet it’s important to remind ourselves that there isn’t a single Muslim among the 282 BJP MPs: India’s largest minority has no representation in the ruling party. Committed doctrinally to privileging one set of Indians at the expense of all others, the BJP invites constant invigilation in government.
The task of protecting the Indian Constitution from potential Hindutva onslaughts rests with the opposition. And for all its manifest failures in government, the Congress party remains the sole national opponent of the BJP. Its ideology, particularly on the question of identity, is antithetical to the BJP’s. Even at its weakest, the Congress remains a poster child of religious pluralism: its emaciated congregation of 44 MPs contains representatives of every major faith. But instead of recalibrating itself for the onerous new responsibility ahead, the Congress is, in the name of “accountability”, playing to the benefit of its rivals. The clamour for accountability — which is a barely disguised demand for the attenuation of the Gandhis’ prominence in the party — has come primarily from those who cheered on Modi’s rise.
More dismaying is the carping within the Congress. Each day, anonymous quotes by “senior” Congress leaders fill the newspapers, holding Rahul Gandhi and his core team of young advisors culpable for the party’s electoral defeat. Rahul, we are told, was “misled” by his team into making all the wrong choices. Some argue that access to the leadership was restricted by Rahul’s “coterie”; others claim that the counsel of senior leaders was neglected during the distribution of tickets to make way for political unknowns. But read closely, and you notice that the criticism now being directed at Rahul and his team has little to do with imposing accountability. If anything, its purpose is to forestall meaningful introspection for superficial displays of self-correction: put on a grave face, blame a handful of energetic young advisors in Delhi for a countrywide drubbing whose causes are manifold, and return to business as usual. As such, the attempt to scapegoat individuals is the work of disgruntled old Congress hands petrified by the reform of the party initiated by Rahul and overseen by his team.
After all, for all the epithets hurled at him by critics who see him as a “prince”, Rahul Gandhi’s most significant achievement within the Congress has been to place it on an irreversible path to democratisation. The irony of his leadership is that he has continued…