Woes Of Two Parties Congress Is Failed History!
Recently a Dynasty sycophant said that while Mr Narendra Modi was a mere state leader, Mr Rahul Gandhi was a national leader. Mr Modi responded with sharp sarcasm dubbing Mr Gandhi as an international leader with the choice to contest from either India or Italy . Mr Modi’s pique was understandable. His response was not. He attacked Mr Gandhi. He should have attacked the Congress sycophants who surround him. Mr Gandhi is a mere creature of circumstance. He was born into a culture that the Congress party, the media and even the world at large will not allow him to ignore. He is in a sense the pathetic symbol of a decadent political culture he did nothing to create. He is expected to perform a role for which rightly speaking he never volunteered. It is necessary to look beyond symptoms and symbols to the malaise and the substance.
The need to do this becomes urgent when the distorted functioning of the Congress is considered to be a permanent and irrevocable feature of Indian politics. When one talks about the Congress one includes all political parties which are heavily influenced by its culture. Recently commenting upon a book on Mr Gandhi, Decoding Rahul Gandhi, written by Mrs Aarthi Ramachandran, London’s The Economist wrote: “Just possibly, therefore, this is the moment for Congress to dare to think of something radical: of reorganising itself on the basis of policies, ideas and a vision for how India should develop, and not on a particular dynasty that seems, after various iterations, to be getting less and less useful. Mrs Ramachandran’s book does not touch on this thought, but it is high time for the powerful within Congress to think about it.”
Obviously The Economist considers the Congress as an institution which is irreplaceable in India . For a British journal that is not surprising. After all, the Brits created the Congress to serve their own ends, which admittedly were often honourable. No wonder therefore that the same journal years earlier had almost lovingly run a cover story on Indira Gandhi describing her as the ‘Empress of India’. Quite understandably therefore the weekly today seeks reform of the Congress and not its extinction. Even a distinguished Indian historian some time ago wrote in a media article that for him there could be no India without Congress. For me there can be no authentic India with Congress.
On March 26, 2006 I wrote an article in these columns suggesting that the Congress must be buried. I wrote: “Meanwhile all Indians should reflect. How much longer can they tolerate the present political culture? It has polluted all parties. But the Congress is its fountainhead. India ‘s economic and diplomatic breakthroughs have been jeopardised by mis-governance and destruction of democracy. Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh alone are not responsible. A century of Congress culture brought this about. The seeds of the decadent and dynastic Congress culture were planted a century ago. From Allen Octavian Hume to Sonia Gandhi, spanning icons like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, it has been a history of decline and abject subservience to foreigners. The Congress degenerated from a movement to a party, from a party to a dynasty. Today India stands on the threshold of a new multipolar world. To play its rightful role it will have to undo the spirit of the Partition. Can the Congress, the very instrument of imperialist Britain to partition the subcontinent, summon the mindset to undo its own work? It has outlived its role. It must be consigned to the dustbin of history. India needs a new party, a new political culture and a new freedom struggle.”
Lest I am misunderstood I respect Congress leaders. Arguably the Congress still has a larger pool of talent than other Indian political parties. By all means Congress leaders may have as much right to govern the nation as leaders of other parties. But they should do so on the platform of a different institution. The Congress as a party due to its past history and the nation’s future needs deserves burial. Its past legendary heroes revered as Gods and not as great men capable of errors need to be demystified. Otherwise India will never be freed from the shackles of the past. And the need to break free from the prison of past tradition has never been more compelling. The need for a cultural revolution in India has never been more urgent.
There are two imperatives for change that will not come about unless the Congress legacy is discarded. That legacy will never be discarded within the Congress because decisions, even wrong decisions, taken by the party’s historic icons can never be questioned by its members. That is why it is necessary to bury the Congress. It is part of history, sometimes glorious history, but it belongs irrevocably to the past. There are two wrong notions bequeathed by past Congress leaders that need to be rejected if India seeks a future. One notion affects the very identity of India . The other affects the integrity of its system.
Briefly the two false notions relate, first, to the distortion of the written Constitution which in no manner suggests that the President of India is a titular head akin to the British Sovereign. Pandit Nehru wrongly concluded this and the Supreme Court wrongly endorsed this false notion. Secondly, the Partition of the country made a mockery of all norms of nationhood. The cultural nationalism of the subcontinent needs to be reclaimed by undoing the spirit of the Partition. This can be done as often pointed out earlier by establishing a South Asian Union like EU which would not disturb existing sovereignties. To the credit of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru who cannot evade responsibility for allowing the nation to be partitioned, both leaders owned up their mistake and tried to undo it before untimely death aborted their efforts. Formulating the agenda for a genuine cultural revolution poses little challenge. It is to create an appropriate political instrument that can implement the historic transformation of the nation which presents a challenge.
To create the political instrument for India ‘s second freedom struggle one would need uncommon vision to achieve it. Successful freedom struggles are not fought by parties but by nations. The walls of distrust and discord that divide all political parties today must be broken down. India ‘s second freedom struggle can be fought successfully only by a national government that represents the united will of the Indian people. That is achievable. How it can be created practically had best be left for consideration on another day.
BJP IS FAILED OPPOSITION!
When a government fails the situation is bad. The government needs to be replaced. When the opposition fails the situation is worse. There is no one to replace a failed government. Today the BJP as the main opposition party is displaying spectacular failure of performance. Home Minister Mr Sushilkumar Shinde said that the Coalgate issue will soon fade away like Bofors because public memory was short. The BJP spokesperson Mr Balbir Punj responded: “In 1984… Congress had won more than 400 seats. After…Bofors scandal Congress was out of power…” As a matter of fact the Home Minister was doing great service to the opposition. He made his remarks in the context of the economic reforms just unleashed by the government. He predicted that the debate about Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) would divert attention from Coalgate corruption. His remarks almost suggested sabotage of Congress interests. He was warning the opposition not to forget Coalgate. What is going on inside the Congress had best be left to conjecture. But what is happening within the opposition is crystal clear. The opposition is doing everything possible to vindicate the Home Minister’s prognosis.
Like a puppet on a string the opposition has jumped to grab the Congress bait. It has taken to the streets. It is organising nationwide public protest. It is ranting against FDI. It has walked into the trap of starting a national debate on FDI in which the BJP by no means is on a strong wicket. The FDI proposal itself has undoubted benefits and also legitimate concerns. In order to fine tune the policy an informed debate is required in parliament, not sloganeering on the street. The BJP is clearly on the wrong foot because in 2004 its government had proposed 100 per cent FDI in retail. Now in opposition it is opposing it. All the sophistry in articulation by the likes of Mr Arun Jaitley and Mr Yashwant Sinha cannot obscure the party’s brazenly opportunistic somersault. Mr Balbir Punj reminded government that the public had not forgotten Bofors. Of course it had not. That is why the public defeated the Congress. It was the opposition which forgot Bofors. Afterwards in power several times what did it accomplish in the Bofors case except promote the interests of the Congress? After Bofors the Congress lost but the opposition never won. A fractured government that lasted just ten months was all that it delivered to the nation. Bofors remains unsolved and corruption keeps mounting. Does the same fate await the nation after Coalgate? That would appear to be the case.
Consider the opposition’s dismal response to the Coalgate scandal. It refuses to pose legitimate questions to corner the government. The Mumbai Mirror owned by the Times of India group reported that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh complained to Mrs Sonia Gandhi against her Political Secretary Mr Ahmed Patel. According to the newspaper the PM alleged that his office was constrained to approve a large number of faulty coal block licenses because Mr Patel had recommended them on behalf of the party. When such an allegation is made in print is it not obligatory for the government to deny it? Is it not obligatory for the opposition to seek a clarification?
A page one photograph showing Mrs Sonia Gandhi receiving flowers from Coalgate accused Mr Manoj Jayaswal while flanked by Coalgate accused Mr Vijay Darda and Mr Ahmed Patel was published in the media. Given the involvement of the two accused in the Coalgate scam is not the opposition and public justified to enquire the circumstances which led the Congress President and UPA Chairperson to interact with them?
A letter written by Mr Manoj Jayaswal has indicated that current Coal Minister Mr Shriprakash Jaiswal was appointed arbiter to settle family differences related to the shares of a coal block license awarded to AMR Iron and Steel Company. The letter indicates that 14 per cent shares were left to the Minister’s discretion to dispose off as he thought fit. Is it not incumbent upon the opposition to demand an explanation from the Minister and enquire the ultimate beneficiary of those 14 per cent shares allotted free of cost…? There are many questions that any genuine opposition would have bombarded the government with. But the BJP is silent. It is entering a diversionary debate about FDI.
The conduct of the BJP is inexplicable. Given its present trend it is already a failed opposition. At best it can become a failed government. Regardless of whether in the future it participates in power it cannot by its present functioning deliver the desired results to the Indian nation. It will offer an administration no different or better than what is delivered by the present government. Given the apparent ability of several of its leaders it remains a puzzle why the BJP persists with failure. Does the party suffer from a crisis of intelligence or a crisis of integrity? Unless it reinvents itself the BJP has no future. At present the condition of the party is worse than pathetic. It is tragic.
By Rajinder Puri