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The Rahul Gandhi Gamble

During the first general election of 1952,a candidate of the Rama Rajya Parishad who was standing against Pandit Nehru asked him....

Written by Meghnad Desai |
April 5, 2009 3:20:52 am

During the first general election of 1952,a candidate of the Rama Rajya Parishad who was standing against Pandit Nehru asked him asked him why he did not support a ban on cow slaughter. “Don’t you love cows?” he asked. Nehru replied with his British sense of humour,“I love horses too.” That was his way of putting the distance between loving an animal and deifying it.

Rama Rajya is again in the news with the BJP claiming that this is the one ideal of good governance that all Indians have always cherished. So it will be Rama Rajya,Rama Setu and Rama Mandir for the BJP? It shows how out of touch with India the party has become.

The Dalits cannot have much love for Rama Rajya after what happened to Sambuka in the Ramayana. Even the OBCs may object to the upper caste bias of the epic and modern women may not want a husband who treats them so badly as the hero of Ramayana treated his wife.

Also has the BJP learned nothing from the Rama Setu debate with DMK chief M Karunanidhi? The Ramayana is a different text in North India from what it is in the South. The anti-Brahman movement in the South was virulently against the North Indian version of Hinduism. The BJP has a long way to go before it realises that Hindu society lives on division and sub-division. It has survived for centuries without a single political authority precisely because of its ability to prevent any single group to get so large as to dominate. Hinduism is not a unifying creed.

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Now after sixty years of sovereignty,we are once again seeing the same fragmenting tendencies rule the party structure. Like some ancient dynasty,the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty ruled over all of India for 42 years till 1989 with only an occasional usurper. Since 1989,the dynasty has never been in full power. It has to adjust to the demands of many regional subahdars and local nawabs.

Luckily for India,democracy thrives without single party dominance. Indeed,one way to admire what India has achieved is its ability to stay united without a strong central authority. Any exclusive powerful authority would have to exclude many or at least treat the core elite better than the periphery. That was what Congress did for its first 42 years. It looked after the upper crust and fed crumbs to the Dalits and the OBCs. When they revolted,the Congress edifice fell apart.

Now each group has its own party and wants a piece of the cake. The old vertical hierarchical caste society is becoming horizontal,though it is still as divided as it was before. There are occasional small unifying movements as with the Yadavs and Paswan in Bihar/UP. But they are local,not national. Nor does the BSP,despite the charisma of its leader,unite all Dalits

The Third Front is an acceptance of this cellular character of Indian society. Class is not reliable as a unifying factor as the Left should know by now. So a double negative factor —anti-BJPism plus anti-Congressism—is the unifying platform. Yet this has to compete against each separate negative. Anti-BJPism is called secularism and can combine many fragments as it did under the UPA. Anti-Congressism is not as strong as it used to be in the Seventies. So the NDA is fragile.

The Congress has sensed this asymmetry. So it is going it alone and contesting as many seats as it can. It is trying to become truly national again. So,rather than accept three or four seats from Lalu Prasad whose star is sinking in any case,it will contest almost 30 seats out of 40 in Bihar and similarly in UP as well. Even randomly it may do better than what its ‘allies’ will grant.

So all the bets are off in India’s favourite sport. The Congress is casting aside old allies like the RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan who have been marginalised in Bihar by Nitish Kumar. It will abandon DMK at the first chance since AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa will do better. The NCP is on probation because it may lose to the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra with whom it has been flirting lately.

The UPA is dead; a new UPA will arise from its ashes. This is the Rahul Gandhi gamble.

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