On the last day of July, the newspapers had quite a lot to tell us about the Gandhis. The ubiquitous Priyanka Gandhi Vadra provided a photo-opportunity to camerapersons as she got evicted out of her official Lodhi Estate bungalow. That ouster painfully brought home to every Congress member the fact that a regime change has finally been felt by the party’s First Family.
Then, from newspapers we also learn that the senior most family member, Sonia Gandhi, was admitted to a hospital for a routine check-up, providing an occasion to all Congressmen to pray for her speedy recovery. As the presiding deity of a disintegrating political dynasty, she seems to have finally come to evoke a kind of genuine affection from the party cadre.
Third, newspapers also inform us of the dust-up between Congress “seniors” and “Rahul loyalists” in the visual presence of Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. According to news reports, the seniors who stressed the need for sustained and disciplined attention to the nitty-gritty of organisational vibrancy were ticked off by the “Rahul loyalists”, whose holy terror left the old guard gasping for breath as they were told that the roots of the party’s current troubles had to be traced back to the UPA-II government.
This kind of gibberish must be music to Narendra Modi’s ears. So far, in these past seven years, it was only Modi who was going around the country arguing that the UPA-II was a rotten business, and that it was during this time that Mother India was deprived of coherence and direction. Now, Modi stands validated and confirmed in his indictment by the words of the Rahul Loyalists.
The Rahul faction seems to be suggesting that somehow the policies, preferences and priorities of UPA-II were corrosive to the organisational and ideological needs of the Congress. This cannot be laughed off as self-serving because it is too delusional and dangerous. It totally ignores the unpleasant fact that the 2009 vote went to the Gandhis’ head, and that the brother-and-sister duo made many, many unwholesome claims and demands on the functioning of the UPA government. If the Gandhis were not shown their place, it was only because of the sobering impulses that “seniors” like Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Ghulam Nabi Azad, etc. brought into place. The Gandhis were always sought to be appeased, at enormous cost to the government’s prestige and prowess. The country did not appreciate the fact that the Gandhis cast a long – and, at times, malevolent – shadow over the government. Between them, the brother and sister managed to sabotage the concord between government and party.
Instead of making a sincere effort to understand and diagnose why Modi continues to amuse and distract the country with his tricks, the Rahul cabal is busy instigating an entirely bogus and totally unnecessary civil war within the Congress. The fracas on Thursday was instigated deliberately by the Rahul coterie because the glorious desertion of two young “Rahul loyalists” – Jyotiratiya Scindia in Madhya Pradesh and Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan— had torn to pieces the old claim that the Gandhis were the only guarantors of unity and coherence in the Congress. A new fire had to be lit.
While for very many Congressmen it is a comforting mantra that “the Gandhis” are the sole and lone custodians of the Congress ideology, especially of its secular ethos, it is not clear who among the so-called “senior” leaders is less than enthusiastic about any ideological vigour. If anything, it is the old loyalist, A.K. Antony, who is credited with the blasphemous – and, entirely erroneous – thesis that the Congress lost the 2014 Lok Sabha election because it was perceived as a party too solicitous of the minorities, that too at the expense of Hindu sentiments and sensibilities.
The goings-on in the Congress are truly tragic because it is a ‘fight’ without antagonists and adversaries. None of the so-called “seniors” is opposed to Rahul Gandhi’s leadership as party president; all they are asking of him is that he should grow up, become serious, and extend to the office of the Congress president the institutional respect it deserves. The “seniors” are painfully aware that at least since 2004, the Congress leadership – read, the Gandhis – has neglected the organisational health of the party. No doubt, some ‘seniors’ may have contributed in the past to this neglect, but they are experienced and wise enough to know that Rahul Gandhi remains arrogantly impervious to the demands and imperatives of an all-India political organisation. These seniors note ruefully that over all these years the AICC has been reduced to an outhouse of the Gandhi household. That has to change if the Congress is serious about rescuing the country from a marauding Narendra Modi.
Yet, rather petulantly, the Gandhi cabal keeps on reinforcing his bizarre self-perception that he alone remains unyielding in opposition to Modi. Rahul Gandhi certainly continues to make it personal between him and the prime minister. Who can forget that extraordinary hugging performance in the last Lok Sabha! All that the “seniors” are telling Gandhi is that his DNA alone is not sufficient to roll back Modi’s personality cult. And, surely the democratic answer to a prime ministerial personality overload cannot be a Rahul Gandhi persona.
It is an old but relevant cliché that the health of a democracy is as much defined by the aberrations and absurdities of the rulers as by the stupidities and follies of those who oppose the regime. For all his failures and fool-hardiness, Modi has demonstrated a capacity to continuously reinvent himself, even if fraudulently. On the other hand, neither the ‘seniors’ nor the scheming and ambitious ‘youngsters’ know how to let Rahul Gandhi break out of his own rigid trap. The resulting logjam leaves Modi as the only winner, while the democratic causes and ideas lose force.