The latest theatre of the absurd that is being enacted daily in the Capital by the Congress Party and its leading lady, Ms Sonia Gandhi, reminds me of that brilliant English film of the sixties “Becket” which was based on a play by Jean Anouilh. The King, Henry II, and his bosom friend Thomas Becket have fallen out due to the latter having suddenly discovered that the Honor of God was dearer to him than the command of his King. While getting drunk with his loyal courtiers, Henry asks them if they ever “thought?” Their reply was: “Never sire; a gentleman has better things to do!” When word comes that Becket has defied the Royal edict, Henry cannot contain his anger, and in frenzy exclaims “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest? Are we all cowards…?” Four loyal barons immediately understand this as the signal from the King to eliminate the source of his torment, and proceed forthwith to Canterbury Cathedral where, after calling Becket a traitor, a Saxon, and a dog, they kill him on the spot with their drawn swords. T. S. Eliot’s play “Murder in the Cathedral” recounts this tragedy of a loyal friend who put national interest above the personal interest of his King.
Firstpost, on 22nd October, carried an article written by Raman Kirpal that hinted at the falling out of the PM and Sonia Gandhi. Apparently, the Congress is now resigned to the fact that it will not return to power in 2014, and is now concentrating on salvaging the future of the Crown Prince. The strategy involves letting the PM take all the blame for the financial scams and the consequent debacle at the polls. Clearly spelt out in the article is “The plan to choreograph Rahul Gandhi’s emergence as the big hope of the future with 2016-17 in mind, when the Congress hopes to pull the plug on the next government. A crucial part of that strategy is to show up Manmohan Singh as the man who ruined governance in UPA-2, and Rahul as the great redeemer. Singh is the fall guy – and he is reportedly not liking it one bit. Rahul wants to build his career on the ruins of Singh’s reputation.”
The baron who made the first cut with his sword is none other than the Crown Prince himself, who literally Para-dropped into a press conference meant to explain the virtues of the Ordinance to save convicted politicians from disqualification, and proceeded to trash the same in no uncertain manner. This happened when the PM was on one of his frequent trips to the US, shaking the treacherous hand of his Pakistani counterpart. The poor man was reduced to mumbling inanities like “these are all matters which are discussed before the highest body, the core group of the Congress party” and that the cabinet had “discussed this matter, twice, not once.” Trying to salvage whatever little he could, he further demeaned himself by saying “my humble feeling is that when a point of view has been expressed, we must sit together and understand what is agitating the mind of the person who has raised these issues.”
The second baron who is now inflicting deep cuts is the CBI Chief, who technically, is under the direct control of the PMO. This blatant aggression cannot be without tacit support from the powers behind the throne. The CBI’s investigating officer could not have put on record the necessity to examine the Prime Minister, if he did not have the backing of the perceived highest authority in the government.
Unlike Becket and unlike the man under whom he first cut his teeth in the political arena, Manmohan Singh has permitted himself to be used as a doormat and has stoically suffered one insult after another. Narasimha Rao was a shrewd politician who managed to complete five years in office with a wafer-thin coalition, and he could even get the opposition to go along with his thinking. There is this great story by Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express, titled “A Plane Tale from the Past” that was published on March 12, 2005 that makes for compelling reading even now. The story goes back to the time when a Sukhoi Plane deal was struck between the Govt. of India headed by Narasimha Rao and post-Gorbachev Russia headed by Boris Yeltsin. Elections had been announced in India and Narasimha Rao was heading a lame-duck Government at the centre. Yeltsin too was seeking a mandate and he was frightfully short of cash. He asked Rao for his help and Rao quickly obliged. The fact that a sum of $ 350 million was paid to the Russians as an advance amount for the purchase of Sukhoi-30 planes when even the final price had not been negotiated, was a journalistic coup which would make even the hardiest reporter drool, and it is to the credit of The Indian Express and its editorial staff not to have gone to town with this story without verifying the facts. In the event, it was discovered that the deal involved no kickbacks, but was a decision taken in the national interest by the Narasimha Rao Government. The BJP who came to power immediately thereafter for 13 days, also checked the files and found no malafide intent in the transaction. Subsequently, the deal was confirmed by the Deve Gowda Government through its Defence Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, and a formal order was placed with the Russians for the planes.
While it made for a great story outlining how the various political parties in the government, or in the opposition, sank their differences and looked at the deal purely from a national interest point-of-view, one fact was missed by the writer. That fact is that the entire cast of characters in the above drama did not include anybody by the family name of GANDHI. I am not referring to the name NEHRU because that family name disappeared with Jawaharlal. His daughter had inherited nothing of his legacy. Even the use of the Gandhi surname by her was a fraud played on the innocence of the Indian public, a fraud which continues to be perpetrated by her progeny even to this day.
The fact that Narasimha Rao could, in the national interest, execute the Sukhoi deal and the BJP and the SP, and the other political parties went along without raising a stink, is because the Congress party was not having a Gandhi at the helm. If you look at the history of India after the elevation of Indira Gandhi to the post of High Command, the Congress party abandoned all its democratic principles, and became a totalitarian dictatorship not unlike the Supreme Soviet, or the National Socialists of Germany. It systematically built the personality cult and there was no dearth of people like Debkant Borooah who equated the country with the party leader. The assassination of Indira Gandhi instantly led to the elevation of Rajiv, her son, to the highest post, and the culture of sycophancy just continued. Rajiv Gandhi’s death happened at a time when the next generation was not ready, and his widow was too terrified to take his place.
Thus Narasimha Rao, by default, came to head the party and the government. When history looks back at those five years, it will recall that the country made its real breakthrough in political and economic policies during that time. It was the time when national interest was seen as something above personal and party interest. Bold decisions were ushered in, and the first tentative steps towards liberalization, privatization, and the dismantling of the license-permit Raj, were attempted. Even though there was the JMM bribery episode which propped up the Government, yet its impact on the collective conscience of the nation was far less than the damage that had been done by Bofors , Westland, and the West German submarine deals during Rajiv Gandhi’s days.
The problem with the Congress party is that it has come to believe that it is the only party that has some kind of a Divine Right to rule this nation, and further, that the descendants of Indira Gandhi are ordained by Divine Providence to preside over its affairs. This implies a belief that as long as they are in power they do not have to do any work. The country is supposed to be blessed and the gods would shower their bounties upon the people for having chosen their favorites. The interludes when they are out of power are seen as silly aberrations for which the gods would suitably punish the electorate for this sacrilege. Its arrogance is legendary, and it does everything to invite suspicion and non-cooperation from the opposition. I am confident that if a Gandhi had been on the scene, in whatever capacity, the Sukhoi deal would either not have gone through, or it would have meant some more money in Swiss Banks and the continuing theatre of the absurd, which is once again being played in New Delhi, would have gone on without intermission. The fact that the Congress party, led by Rao, with the BJP, the SP and the other opposition parties that formed the Government after Vajpayee, buried all their differences in the national interest, was only due to the absence of a Gandhi on the scene.
Now let us look at the present times. We have a Prime Minister, who the media has never been tired of telling us, is a very decent individual, whose personal integrity and honesty is unquestionable. He was also the Finance Minister at the time of the Sukhoi deal and the $ 350 million must have been released by him. Imagine if the same situation was obtaining today? Would Manmohan Singh have been able to help Boris Yeltsin in the national interest? No, because it would have been unthinkable of him to take such a decision without incurring the wrath of 10 Janpath. Even his favorite men in the cabinet, Ashwini Kumar and Pawan Bansal were not allowed to continue because none other than the family is allowed to create a political base. The poor Doctor is generally kept “out of the loop” and is now being humored because he is needed to pick up the pieces of the crumbling edifice. To avoid further humiliation, his former press advisor Sanjay Baru, was of the opinion that he must quit after the insult by the Crown Prince.
In conclusion, when a Gandhi is on the scene, the party leaves all governance to the High Command, and is not encouraged to think and to make decisions. The deputies are all busy in spying on one another, to keep close watch on who is getting into the inner circle, and who is getting out. Their antennae are all tuned in one direction; to pick up the faintest mood-shifts of the presiding deity. All responses are knee-jerk, prompted by these mood-shifts. The only aim is to remain in the favored circle, by hook or by crook, and the country be damned!
It is the tragedy of India that the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru, the ardent democrat who refused to even talk to Mussolini, will be remembered by future historians through his daughter and her successors, who have done everything to reverse democratic processes, and destroy the independence of the once great Indian National Congress. The poor Indian electorate is too simple and naïve to understand the debilitating effect the presence of the Gandhis is having upon the party and the nation. The sooner this yoke is thrown off, the quicker this country shall progress. Jai Hind!
Read More By Vijaya Dar