Saturday, November 22, 2008


'Rahul Gandhi has accepted Prime Minister elect Manoj Kamble's offer to join his cabinet as India's new Foreign Minister.'

Will the largest democracy in the world ever see a headline like that? Any one who knows India knows that if 'impossible is something' it is the possibility of that happening ever. Rahul Gandhi a minister in the cabinet of a younger, dalit Congress leader from Pune? Even the thought is 'blasphemous' for Congressmen who for long have been little more than worker bees in the Nehru-Gandhi beehive.

A lot of otherwise well educated, modern and westernised Indian analysts and political commentators, culturally comfortable only with the top leadership of the the Congress party, have been justifying the slide of the party into an extension of India's First Family. Never tiring of otherwise shouting about the virtues of democracy, they have remained culpably silent about the complete absence of any democracy within the Congress party. Not once have they allowed their collective conscience to question the manifestly sole objective of the party which is simply to ensure the ascendancy of Rahul Gandhi to the post of India's Prime Minister, and if that is not possible, to ensure that the primacy of the Family is retained under all circumstances.

A few months back, the Union cabinet was reshuffled. There was wide expectation then that the younger lot of Congress leaders led by Rahul Gandhi would finally find be give an opportunity to show their abilities as ministers in the government. What happened actually? Jyotiraditya Scindia, son of Madhavrao Scindia and Jitin Prasad, son of Jitendra Prasad, were the only two young faces who found a place.

Rahul Gandhi's name was conspicuous by its absence.

There are those who believe that the 'Prince of Wales', as Rajdeep Sardesai fondly calls Rahul Gandhi, found it below his dignity to serve under the PM to get some badly needed executive experience. He wants to lead the cabinet as PM, not join it as junior minister; that was the refrain of those who believe that the Family is above and greater than the party. Of course the usual suspects leapt to defend dynastic democracy again. The most demeaning and hilarious justification for Rahul's staying out of the ministry was given by an irritating and irritable editor of a magazine who does not even attempt to appear to be anything more than a paid flunky of the Family. He actually said on national television that had Rahul become a minister, he would have lost touch with the people because he would have then got hidden behind the files on his table!

This same lot of people have been quoting, most disingenuously and completely illogically, a few examples from the United States of America to justify dynastic succession. The rise of the Kennedy brothers, the Bush father and son duo, and the Clinton husband and wife team has been flogged to death to fool Indians into believing that dynasties in democracies are not only natural and widespread but even desirable! Some time back, when it seemed that Hillary Clinton would most likely be the next US President, a few even foresaw the rise of Chelsea Clinton, Indian style!

The whole world saw what America's democracy did this year. A little known African-American with a 'Hussein' in his name not only defeated Hillary Clinton to win the nomination as the Presidential candidate of the Democrats, but went on to win the Presidential election, and will take over as the 44th President on January 20, 2009. This historical development should have opened many falsely shut eyes and led to a call for real change in India too. But, none, repeat none, of India's best known minds have raised as much as a whisper for dismantling the dynastic structure of the Congress party, not to mention the many tiny parties which have taken the same family only path.

As per The New York Times of November 21, 2008, Hillary Clinton, a former First Lady who lost a hard and bitter fight for nomination to Barack Obama, has accepted his offer to join his government as the next Secretary of State (Foreign Minister). Obama has shown great courage and statesmanship in choosing her, on sheer merit and competence, and deserves full credit for it. But Hillary Clinton, whose home The White House was for eight years, has also covered herself with glory by accepting a subordinate position under the new occupant of that house. Together they have shown to the whole world what real democracy is and should be. Something truly remarkable has happened.

If this is what dynastic democracy is, then India needs many such dynasties.

In India, unfortunately, dynastic rule means exactly that. Started perhaps unwittingly by Nehru, the infection of creating and propagating dynastic rule has spread from the Congress to many other regional political parties. Karunanidhi, Mulayam Yadav, Prakash Singh Badal, Deve Gowda, Laloo Yadav, the Abdullahs, and many others have found their own ways to ensure the birth of their own little dynasties in their states. In addition, there are many others who have turned politics into profitable family corporations at all other levels in the pecking order.

Carl von Clausewitz, the great Prussian soldier and thinker, had once famously said that "war is a continuation of politics through other means." Had he lived to see the India of today, he may well have been also compelled to admit that in India, "democracy is a continuation of dynasties by other means'.

India may never witness the liberating and truly democratic sight of a Rahul Gandhi accepting a subordinate ministerial position under a younger and politically junior PM like Manoj Kamble. Not till those whose survival and prosperity depend solely on their proximity to him continue to ensure that any one who gives even a whiff of upsetting the dynastic order is summarily thrown out of the party, before he grows even a small root of his own. In fact even when Rahul Gandhi himself talks of creating, through the NSUI and the Youth Congress, thousands of 'Obamas' running around in this country, there are very few who believe that he actually wants even one of them to rise enough to do an 'Obama' on him and beat him to the top job.

That is why, no matter what all these learned luminaries may have been saying to keep Indians shrouded in darkness about India's experiment with democracy, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have rudely jerked that shroud off. What these two American leaders have done will touch the hearts and minds of right minded Indians like nothing has till now, and show their leaders in even poorer light.

Let us hope this illumination sets in motion the changes that are absolutely essential for India to become the great democracy that its founding fathers had dreamed it would be. If that happens, the impossible will truly become nothing, just as the Adidas ad says.