Sunday, January 4, 2009

DEMOCRACY DIVERTED: WILL SONIA DO A FAROOQ?

"Obama steps aside for Michelle". Is it even conceivable that Barak Obama will suddenly step aside in favour of his wife as the next President on the ground that he believes that people actually want a woman to be their President and that the time for that change has come? Should it be possible for him to do that, will such a decision on his part not amount to a subversion of democracy?

Something quite similar has just happened in J&K but India's English media is going more than gaga over it. In the recently held elections in the state, the National Conference party went to the people projecting Dr Farooq Abdullah as the Chief Ministerial candidate. The party emerged as the single largest party in a hung assembly and the mathematics was such that no other party could cobble up an alliance to stake claim to power.

The moment it was clear that his position was unassailable, Dr Farooq Abdullah stunned everyone by relinquishing his claim to the top chair in favour of his son, 38 year old Omar Abdullah. So, within a day of getting the people's mandate, he diverted it without batting an eyelid, saying that the time had come for a younger leader to head the government in these difficult times! If it indeed had, why did he not ask the voters that question before the elections? Because he was sure that they would not put their trust in a young man who was perceived as an outsider. But after they had spoken, he lost time no time in disregarding their verdict to give shape to his dynastic dreams without even the formality of consulting his party.

The English media have got over-excited over Omar Abdullah's elevation only because he is from the same age group as their leading stars and, most importantly, is part of the same social circuit. In his elevation, some have already started seeing the generational shift in India's politics that they have been promoting for long. Omar Abdullah and Rahul Gandhi are good friends and their parties are now allies. That is just the type of dispensation they want to see at the centre and in other states, and are already disconnectedly talking of the development in J&K as an indicator of things to come after the general elections in May 2009.

What Dr Farooq Abdullah has done is going to set one more precedent that will quietly make a mockery of the people's will. There are many dynastic heirs being groomed in many states. He has made it easy for their parents to push them into the top job at the right time without bothering about asking the question from the people. This is not democracy at all. But no one is talking and everyone knows why.

Forget the states. What has happened in J&K is a clear indication of what just might happen in the Centre later this year. Rahul Gandhi will for sure not be projected as the Congress party's Prime Ministerial candidate thanks to the disastrous performance of the party in state after state, despite his over-hyped campaigning in a large number of constituencies designed to build him up as India's next PM. So far, he has singularly failed to enthuse people anywhere in the country and does not appear to have the aura or magnetism of a real leader. Therefore, to project him as the party's Prime Ministerial candidate is an option even his most sycophantic followers will not want the party to exercise.

The Congress will, therefore, go in for elections with Dr Manmohan Singh as the PM candidate. Dr Manmohan Singh, has done well as the Prime Minister despite all the constraints that have tied him down and is the most popular and respected leader in the Congress party, if the latest Indian of the Year poll is taken as a rough yardstick. Only one of two politicians to make it to the top 10 in the poll, he was narrowly beaten by Narendra Modi. So he remains the best and most acceptable bet for the Congress to go into elections.

If the Congress loses the elections, then of course there will be nothing to quarrel about except to find scapegoats outside the Family for the disaster. If it emerges in roughly the same shape that it is in now and is in a position to lead the government, then again Dr Manmohan Singh will get another term without difficulty.

But, if the party does substantially better and is not as critically vulnerable to the communists or Mulayam Yadav or someone else as it is now, then be sure that Sonia will do a Farooq, but much more 'democratically' and dramatically.

Suddenly, Congressmen will gather in their lakhs from Congress-ruled Haryana and Rajasthan to demand that Rahul baba be made PM. Congress leaders will spend days and nights in TV studios to tell the nation again and again how the vote for the Congress was not for Dr Manmohan Singh but for Rahul Gandhi. Prannoy Roy, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Arnab Goswami and others will look and sound happier than they have ever been, in their round-the-clock build up to the Moment. Sound bites of young boys and girls will be shown 24/7 asking that the leadership of the country be handed over to the youth led by Rahul. Editorials and columns in all almost English news papers will inundate readers with the historic significance of the victory of the Congress and the real message that the very wise people of India have conveyed silently.

After three days of non-stop entertainment and soaring TRPs, Dr Manmohan Singh will emerge from hiding quoting a verse from Shri Guru Granth Sahib to explain why it was time for him to pass the baton to Rahul Gandhi as the country had actually voted for him! With that announcement, the excitement outside 10 Janpath will reach a crescendo. Sonia Gandhi will, finally, bow to the people's real verdict post-poll, thank the outgoing fall guy and welcome the crown back to where it belongs.

In J&K, Farooq Abdullah may have surprised everyone by his sudden decision to place the crown on the head of his son, after winning the elections for himself. But what he has done should leave no Indian in any doubt that in the coming general election, a vote for the Congress will not be a vote for the guy being projected as the leader. So, when you vote Congress, know that you are voting Rahul.
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Readers may also read:
1. Can Rahul do a Gandhi?
2. 'Change' is coming to the sub-continent too!