Saturday, August 11, 2007


The victory of Mayawati in the UP elections of 2007 is historical because it heralds the transfer of real political power to Dalits from patronising politicians who have pretended for decades to be their benefactors and friends, without ever giving them an equal seat at their table of power and social dominance. More significantly, the results signal the accelerating and almost complete marginalisation of the Congress the state

The decline of the Congress actually started three decades back, when Mrs Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency, preceded by the hollow 'Garibi Hatao' slogan which enriched corrupt bureaucrats and politicians through the all pervasive licence-permit raj and enraged the common man, whose life became worse. After her rout in 1977, Indira Gandhi would never have come back to power had the ill-conceived Shah Commission not allowed her to project herself as a wronged angel. Again, after another four almost disastrous years in power, culminating in Operation Blue Star, she was on her way to another electoral defeat when she was shot by her bodyguards, leading to an extremely emotional electorate, forgiving everything and voting her innocent looking son into power with an overwhelming majority. Bofors and increasing arrogance cost him power soon, with a little nudge from V P Singh. Again, when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated right in the middle of the general elections, there was an almost ten percent swing in favour of the Congress in the remaining phases, turning a certain defeat into a minority Congress govt. Rajiv and Narasimha Rao, thus, came to power not because of any TINA factor, but in the immediate aftermath of assassinations which clouded the real feelings and intentions of voters.These results conveniently concealed the changes that were unfolding in the political landscape of India. Tragically for the Congress, this gave even greater credence to the Nehru-Gandhi myth and converted more otherwise intelligent individuals into whimpering sycophants, to survive and build their political fortunes on that determining basis. As a result, the Congress has been reduced to nothing more than a family fiefdom.

Is the Nehru-Gandhi family the glue that holds together assorted parts of the Congress ship, or is it the lead which is actually sinking it? Within the Congress party and even without, in the numerous power centres that have flourished for decades solely because of the benign glance of the Family, there is an 'omerta' about any negative utterance, out of fear of swift banishment into nowhere. Due to this obsequiousness, an honest analysis and answer is impossible from them.That is the tragedy of the Congress, a tragedy which has been imperceptibly unfolding over the years and whose final chapter is now visible after the UP elections.

A number of writers and analysts have been comparing Rahul to Prince Harry and calling him our own Crown Prince, some even drawing parallels between his campaigning in UP to Harry's impending deployment in Iraq. See the seduction by the Family of some of our best political analysts? Harry is not going to Iraq as the Commander-in-Chief of Brirsh troops there, but as a junior military officer who will follow the combat commands of his military superiors . Prior to going there as a soldier, the Prince had undergone rigorous and regular Army training as a cadet and was commissioned into the Army as a subaltern. Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, descended briefly upon UP straight as the Boss, the Lexus Commander of the UP Congress Infantry. The only person entitled to command our Prince, or any other member of the Family, is Mother alone. Congressmen are meant to only prostrate and praise. It was painful watching Congress luminaries on TV claim UP results as the 'victory' of the Congress led by Rahul, because they defeated Mulayam and prevented the BJP from coming to power! Can it get any more demeaning?

A drop in the percentage share of the Congress despite the Rahul blitzkrieg is ominous. First, it is clear that today's Indians, except a few belonging to the 'superior' English speaking universe, are averse to remote patronising by the Family which is just not connected to the people. Some even consider it an affront that Rahul, after spending years frolicking abroad, when he should have been working for the party in India, should expect them to accept him as their ruler by right. He does not even think he is one of them, much less know what they want. Second, the eight odd percent people who voted for the Congress are only the old and dying, who continue to vote for the Congress, as they have done for decades, out of nostalgia and blind loyalty which is beyond reason. The young Indian just does not care about the Family, cannot relate to Rahul at all and has decisively moved away from the Congress which has no other credible party leader who can keep him interested.

The systematic destruction of leaders of stature in the Congress was started by Indira Gandhi, who was paranoid about losing power. Over the years, all other leaders have either moved away to different parties or have swallowed humiliation by Family loyalists thriving without any political constituency. The paranoia, in the meanwhile, has got worse. Manmohan Singh was anointed PM primarily because he posed zero threat, having absolutely no political following. Still, the 'party' did not take the risk of creating a danger, howsoever miniscule, to Family supremacy by permitting him to enter the Parliament through the Lok Sabha! The so-called illiterate voter understands all that; he is not fooled.

The core of the young Congress of the future is now nothing more than a closed club of English speaking, American educated, polished urban sophisticates who find it hard to travel even briefly to the heat and dust of India during elections in their latest SUVs, much like the Maharajas of yore They talk of economic growth in percentages rather than people, of CEOs and Expressways, rather than Panchayats and roads, hotels rather than houses, New Jersey rather than New Jalpaiguri, and the Family rather than the families who vote for them, hoping their lot will improve. On their own, these politicians will sink without a ripple; with the family, at least they will be afloat for as long and far as they can see, which is often to the tip of their own nose, and they don't give a damn to anything beyond that.

Dalits, the staple electoral fodder of the Congress for decades, have begun to find their own voice and empowerment like never before. Upper castes, who had been successfully poached by the BJP and have always had to fend for themselves, may now gravitate to the Dalit platform that Mayawati is trying to forge beyond UP and will probably succeed in doing because she will at least be perceived as being connected and responsive to the people even if she fails to fully live up to expectations. Better than puppets in power who cannot even sneeze without asking the Family in Delhi. Muslims will also be split between various parties on similar considerations, with an increasing number dumping the disconnected and dying Congress, which is again deluding itself into believing that the one time measure of giving reservations to Muslims will ensure Muslim votes in perpetuity..

The death of the Congress is near. Its resurrection is possible only if, somehow, it can loosen and get rid of the hangman's noose held tightly by the Family. Unfortunately, the present set of midgets who masquerade as leaders live on the oxygen being supplied by the Family. For the Congress to live, they have to 'die' and be replaced by real leaders who have their feet firmly planted among the people and their heads tuned to the aspirations and needs of the real India they want to rule. Will that happen? Can that happen?