On 14 November on the eve of 125th anniversary of Pt. Nehru at Congress party conference, Sonia Gandhi launched a scathing attack on Modi calling the present government a sole destroyer of India’s first prime minister’s legacy. At the same conference, Rahul did the same but rather in less skilled manner which he often does. His speech writer appeared to have made mistake in drafting an apt discourse for such occasion which should have been argumentatively well balanced and satirically rich.
Instead of casting a critical look on Rahul’s substandard style of oration, let’s focus on a much poignant point: as such occasions of commemorating the anniversaries of national heroes are served to give a larger message of integration to people; so, what was the need to use the Nehru birth anniversary as launching pad for attacking the present government?
Politics is a great levelling field. Probably no other terrain of human action can be compared with that except the life itself. As life shows dawn and dusk, puts you on top, kicks you to bottom; similarly, politics brings the day of ultimately glory of power, and shows the day of defeat and powerlessness that might appear sometime even worse than death. Who can understand this bitter fact of politics better than Sonia Gandhi!
One can still remember the day when ten years ago in central hall of parliament, Sonia famously declared the renunciation of power following her ‘inner voice’. The tactics provided her sacrosanct image with safe but unusual passage (especially in a democracy) to power without being in office. But now in 2014, after the ascendance of a man (Modi) to power whom they disliked the most brought a moment of quasi Greek tragedy for the family and obviously for the party as well. Probably, Sonia and her children could have been more comfortable with Swaraj, Jaitley or anyone else as prime minister than Modi. Because the elation of Modi as prime minister raises more insecurity for the family than for the party.
The man of the moment, Modi, represents exactly everything in contrast to all that which the family personified. Modi comes from a tea vendor background; he sidelined every possible senior leader to reach the top post; above all, he represents an unapologetic, right wing face of Hindu nationalism coupled with western style of market economics. On the other hand, the family characterizes elitismrooted in privileged class; they never had to sideline anyone for power (except once when Sonia pushed Keshri to occupy the party president post in 1997-98), because the reason to that does not need any explanation; they stood for ‘secular’ values and the former USSR style centralized planned economy.
So, how to kill a man politically who has got everything which the family has not got or rather he’s got nothing which the family has got?
In search of a tool to deal with the fiercest opponent!
Sonia today stands at the most difficult cross road of her political journey where the challenges are quite evident but the means to fight them hardly seem to be visible. Today her condition probably does not look as dark as when Indira lost elections measurably at the hand of Janata party in 1977, but structurally the task of mother-in-law was rather easier in compared to the daughter-in-law. Because, the Janata party government in 1977 was a coalition one headed by a loudmouthed Gujrati fellow,Morarji Bhayee. His subordinate colleagues like Charan Singh, Raj Narayan and others were ready to topple the political house of their master if given an opportunity. This is what worked in Indira’s favour where her Machiavellian son, Sajnay played a crucial role.
Today, again another Gujarati is in charge but of a majority government; this captain has full command over his ship. So, there’s no chance of resurrection of any Charan Singh or Raj Narayan. And, by no mean Rahul and Priyanka can meet Sanjay’s skills when it comes to political astuteness. In a nutshell, Sonia is fighting the most difficult battle of her political life.
The magnitude of her task becomes harder in nature because things are hardly in her favour. The UPA II proved to be a classic infrastructure of corruption and incompetent administration that the country had ever seen. Now, her usual pitch of being a widow who’s being attacked by fascist Hindu would not earn her back the same faith that people of India reposed in her in 2004. Now, no option is left but to further deepen the bifurcation between secular and non-secular politics. Because this’s the only pivotal force around what the Indian politics can be twisted. The narrative of secularism is the most marketable idea that can be sold to a larger mass because of certain historical reason aligned with the creation of Indiaitself. Nehru being the longest serving prime minister of the oldest, largest national party becomes the natural custodian of Indian secularism. This unique icon has been kept alive and relevant in the public consciousness by the Delhi based Oxbridge intellectuals (who grew under the reign of Nehru and Indira).
The world changed; the cold war ended; India cuddled liberalization in 1991. It hardly made any difference to the family or to Delhi intellectuals. Both remained constantly in bed with ‘secularism’. Through various government welfare projects, the family made sure that Nehru should always remain alive in public thoughtfulness.
First, who’s forgotten Nehru?
We hardly come across an American asking if Roosevelt’s ideology is still relevant in United States; if Churchill’s political philosophy is still workable in modern Britain; if General de Gaulle’s republican Gaullism is still true for today’s French society. The answer is ‘no’. But this does not mean that the Americans and British do not remember the extra-ordinary contribution of Roosevelt and Churchill to their respective national societies. French citizens have not forgotten the heroic acts of General De Gaulle during the time of Resistance (1940-1944). All these great heroes were product of their own disenchanted time. As the time goes by, the practicality of their political idea becomes obsolete.
Today, the fact remains that Nehru’s ‘Fabian’ economics and ‘moralist’ foreign policy have hardly any taker in their own party itself. Their own minister, Shashi Tharoor, questioned his too much moralist vision of foreign relations. Nehru’s guru for economic thoughts, Fabian and Laski, have long been forgotten in their own land of birth, United Kingdom. When the time itself has accorded the status of redundancy to Nehruvian foreign and economic policy; so, why does the Congress president still want his legacy to remain relevant for today’s India?
Nehru’s commitment towards consolidating the roots of democracy remains an unparalleled contribution to the nation which we all Indians are proud of. It’s his daughter, Indira, who killed Nehru first before anyone else. In Ramchnadra Guha’s words, Nehru had hardly any idea that reticent Indira would rise up to occupy his chair. Being a democrat, he would have never allowed the dynastic politics to flourish so deeper that it’s deeply damaged the notion of democracy today. So, by thrusting the dynastic politics, Sonia has done a great disservice to the Nehruvian value system.
The son has lost the game and plot both; so now, the entire hope lies with the daughter. The congress loyalists and a section of media consider her contemporary Cassandra who can save the ailing party as her mother once did. If she fails which many believe that won’t happen, but if it happens then it’ll put a stop to the family’s generational fate to taste power. It depends partly on the fact how Modi governs (or rather how he’s left to govern by the RSS); and party on whether today’s Indians allow themselves to shrink further under an artifact of political morality glued with a luring notion of secularism and semi-Fabian economics.
This era is very crucial for Indian democracy because that’ll decide as to how long November is going to remain relevant in the calendar of Congress.
By: Ajitabh Das