Congress without the Gandhi family, the problem lies elsewhere
Indian historian Ram Guha has a new Op-Ed out today titled “Congress beyond dynasty” . It follows a trend in Indian intellectual circles to want to relegate Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to the sidelines after having delivered power into the hands of more “intellectual” leadership.
her son Rahul, has done little in his decade in politics. He has scarcely been visible in Parliament and shied away from ministerial responsibility. In his rare public speeches, he has not offered a single new idea on econo-mics, politics or governance, preferring instead to praise his father, mother, or grandmother.
Congress beyond Dynasty – Source TOI
That isn’t completely true of course, Rahul has been extensively touring the country and has clearly articulated his ‘positive rights’ based economic framework. What is being missed is – the first task of any political party is to win. PV Narasimha Rao almost ran the Congress into the ground. Look at them now under Sonia. They have now ruled in the Centre for 10 years, they rule alone in 15 states, and except TN have the whole of peninsular India under control. What does this tell you ? That only a family can control the Congress just like at the lower levels Stalin s/o Karunanidhi, Akhilesh s/o Mulayam down to the local MLA level. The larger question is why are we stuck with dynastic rule.
The reason why dynastic politics has taken hold lies elsewhere, much closer to Guha’s hero Jawaharlal Nehru. It lies with the so called “Idea of India”.
It is clear India hasnt evolved to a modern political order. It is still stuck in what Francis Fukuyama calls a society based on “kin selection and reciprocal atruism” rather than a meritocratic order. One in which strangers can enter into secure contracts with one another. An order where the security of the contract is guaranteed by Rule of Law rather than understanding and accommodation with a large number of factional leaders of groups. In India, the old rule that the ‘son shall honour the promises of his father’ is the glue that is holding things together at all levels.
What happens over time is a pyramid of kinship based trust emerges. Every families position and perks are guaranteed by another family at the next higher layer. And every large economic enterprise needs the blessing up and down this chain. Some jostling does happen due to marriage and family infighting but this is remarkably stable overall. If you inject an “intellectual” outsider to this pyramid at the very top, say Jairam Ramesh or a Tharoor. All the equations below have to be re-calibrated. This destroys the stability of the entire system and challengers start appearing.
What about BJP ?
Is the BJP sectarian ?
In an essay published on the eve of the 2009 general elections, i argued that India needed a BJP sans the RSS and a Congress without dynastic politics. A right-of-centre party devoid of religious prejudice and a left-of-centre party not beholden to a single clan are necessary for the further evolution of Indian democracy.
it remains the only all-India party and because they cannot abide the sectarianism of the BJP.
People are going to start wondering how is it that the BJP is sectarian or harbours prejudice against any religion ? It you look at the body of evidence Congress is the sectarian party as it is passing all kinds of sectarian law and religion based appropriations under the 15-point program.
Truth is the BJP, warts and all, is closer to a modern Rule of Law party than the Congress. The fewer the goodies that groups can corner for themselves, the more uniform and predictable the law, the lesser the pull of kinship based society.
On the other hand, if you had an ill defined Idea of India state where “pluralism” calls for a pro-rata distribution of goodies to groups in proportion to intensity of political participation – you will promote kinship as a stronger guarantee.
I vote for “India” without the “Idea of”. This is where the solution lies.