March 10, 2013 2:05:58 am
What astonishing galvanisation one speech by Narendra Modi has caused in the higher echelons of the Congress party. Nobody can remember when the Prime Minister was as animated as he was in the Lok Sabha last week. And suddenly Rahul Gandhi is deigning to talk to reporters. Was it the Gujarat Chief Ministers derisive references to the family that generated this change? Or has the Congress party noticed that a general election looms ever closer and it has nothing new to offer voters except a reluctant prince?
Politically,the leitmotif of this government has been corruption and on the economic front,the leitmotif is that from dizzyingly high growth rates the economy has plummeted to the lowest in a decade. If prices continue to rise and jobs continue to disappear,no amount of free foodgrain is going to induce people to vote back the Congress. But this week,I would like to talk about Rahul Gandhi. I have hesitated so far to seriously analyse his political role because he has so rarely said anything that can be construed as a political thought. Now that he has,it deserves some honest analysis.
A day after his unexpected press conference in which he declared that he would never be prime minister,I happened to be on an NDTV panel with a dedicated Rahul acolyte. This gentleman was so passionate that he literally spat every time he mentioned Narendra Modis name. Look at the difference between the two men,he shouted,here is man who does not want power and there is a man who has shown that he is desperate for power. I did not get a chance to take him up on this,but would like to make the point here that Rahul already has more power than almost any politician in India other than his mother. So why should he want something he already has? What is more puzzling is his reluctance to implement the ideas he would like to dedicate his future political career to.
He wants to strengthen the Congress party by abolishing the high command (Mummy and him) and give power into the hands of more than 5,000 elected representatives. He would like to create between 40 and 50 Congress leaders capable of not just becoming chief ministers but even prime minister. These are excellent ideas and would go a long way towards deepening democratic principles all the way down to the villages. So why has Rahul not done anything more than talk? Why are the Congress party ranks filled with heirs? Why is dynastic democracy now so strong that even the humblest village headman does not give up his seat except to a relation?
It is true that the dynastic disease has infected nearly every other political party,but it is also true that these other parties are not led by men who profess to want to change anything. They have a clear reason for bringing their wives,children,brothers and sisters into politics and this is that in India political power is the easiest way to make a lot of money very quickly. A clever political heir can make more money in five years than a successful businessman makes at the end of a lifetime.
Rahul Gandhi knows this as well as anyone else in politics,and if he wants to change things,then this is terrific. But why does he not get on with it? Why does he not begin by ensuring that next time the Congress party wins elections in some state,the high command is not given the task of choosing the chief minister? Why does he not ensure that next time a parliamentary constituency reports a vacancy,it does not get handed down to an heir?
These are things that,as a responsible political pundit,I have mulled over long and hard ever since Rahul made his political views public at that impromptu press conference last week. At the end of all this mulling I am unable to tell you more than that I remain puzzled and mystified,especially by his description of himself as a parachute.
It was a confusing remark and Rahul appears to be still confused about what his political role should be and why he does not want to claim his inheritance and become prime minister. If it is only to enjoy immense political power without an iota of accountability then he should quickly start thinking again. He should keep in mind that this is a game that his mother has already played and that there are many,many Indians now who have seen through it. If he has any doubts,then on his next rural sleepover he should just ask people who they believe is the most powerful leader in India.
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh