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. Rahul 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 reorganizing 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 jeopardized 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.