No alternative to dynastic rule
There is no surprise. It was well known that the Congress Party is hopelessly dependent on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Elevation of Rahul Gandhi to the post of Congress president was along the expected lines. But Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar has given another dimension to the happening. He has likened Rahul's succession to the Mughal dynasty. He says that the king's son would always be the king.
Whatever be the declaration of the party, it is nothing but a dynastic show. India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru groomed his daughter Indira Gandhi to the position. At the Congress Working Committee where then party president UN Dhebar proposed Indira Gandhi's name, Home Minister GB Pant said that she should not be bothered as she did not enjoy a good health. Nehru objected to his remark and said that Indira was far better in health than he and Pant were. Indira was then elected as the party president.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi did not even argue otherwise. She straightaway put her son, Rahul Gandhi, in the chair. There was a rumour that she would name her daughter, Priyanka Vadra, because Rahul Gandhi was not selling in any way. But then the Italians, like Indians, prefer son to the daughter for inheritance.
To justify Rahul Gandhi's elevation, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said that it was the beginning of a new era. Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said that the issue of Rahul's elevation had to be decided by party president Sonia Gandhi and the Congress Working Committee. Even otherwise, he said, the grassroots Congress workers wanted the elevation to happen. "Yes, this is the common feeling among grassroots workers." But one could read Digvijay Singh's disappointment.
In fact, the party would now run from 10 Janpath as it was done from the Teen Murti or Safdarjung residences of Nehru and Indira Gandhi during their tenure. Even otherwise, it was Sonia Gandhi who was reigning in when Dr Manmohan Singh was installed as prime minister. I was a witness to the drama at the central hall of parliament when members of the party wept that Sonia Gandhi should be the prime minister. But she kept quiet because Sonia had her son in mind. And if she were to become prime minister at that time, it would have looked like a stage-managed drama.
Even Dr Manmohan Singh had on occasions said that he would be too happy to vacate the chair for Rahul Gandhi as and when he was ready to take over and that he was keeping the chair warm for him. Though it was coming for quite a while, particularly with Sonia Gandhi keeping an indifferent health, Rahul's taking over the party reign was inevitable.
Rahul Gandhi has already made secularism as the plank. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may not own Hindutva in public but it is all clear that the party would fight the next election in 2019 on the slogan of Hindutva alone. Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes no secret of the fact that he visits Nagpur, the RSS headquarters, and seeks guidance from leaders like Mohan Bhagwat. His slogan of sab ka saath, sab ka vikas has proved to be a mere slogan.
One can see that Muslims do not count in his scheme of things. And it is a pity that they themselves have withdrawn. The landslide victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly pools is a proof of how the BJP captured power in the state. It was clear that the party wanted the people to know that it was not in any way dependent on the Muslim electorate.
This is bound to be underlined yet again in Gujarat, where the state is going to polls later this month. And Modi is making it clear that the one who wins Gujarat would win India in the next general election. The whirlwind campaigning by Modi is already raising the question whether he is staking too much at the Gujarat assembly polls. Maybe, it could be because of the Patidars joining hands with the Congress in the state to fight against the BJP with the youth, who want a change, supporting them.
So far the record of Rahul Gandhi has not been impressive from any point of view. He has fought many elections, including UP, where he aligned with Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party. But this did not help and the Congress lost miserably, just reduced to the fourth position. Now he has to prove his popularity in the coming Gujarat election. If he fails, it would come to be known that he cannot win on his own.
It is surprising that Rahul Gandhi is defending the dynasty factor. He says that all parties are dependent on it, citing the examples of Punjab, UP, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. But what he forgets is that in all these states the parties have been coming to power alternatively. Can he or, for that matter, the Congress win a majority to form the government at the Centre? He will have to work hard if he wants the Congress to be in power. But at present he doesn't seem to have the pulling power. But the scene can change.
We have witnessed Indira Gandhi, who was called a ghoonghi gudia (mute doll), becoming the prime minister and within a short period of time taking on the entire opposition. Even her son, Rajiv Gandhi, who was foisted upon by President Giani Zail Singh, was accepted. There is no reason why Rahul Gandhi would not come to be acknowledged.
But then it will depend on how he is able to pull along and help the party win elections. At this time it looks difficult because secularism has been pushed into the background. A soft-kind of Hindutva has spread all over the country. It is a pity that a country which fought for freedom on the plank of pluralism has not been able to follow the ethos of independence.
Kuldip Nayar is an eminent Indian columnist.