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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

At Last Rahul Gandhi accepts the Number 2 Position in the Congress

As the nation is getting ready to celebrate its 64th birthday as a republic, Indian electronic and print media hammered their viewers/readers with the news of Rahul Gandhi’s becoming vice-president of the Congress party, with the likes of the Scindias and the Tharoors singing paeans – “He [Rahul] represents the demographic dividend. We want him to lead in 2014”; “We would be in very capable hands if Rahul Gandhi takes over”, etc., on the chilly night of Saturday, January 19, at the coronation of the yuvraj, bluntly reminding the viewers/readers about the profusion of dynastic politics in Indian democracy. As could be anticipated, the news of the much-awaited coronation was greeted with frenzied sloganeering by the party enthusiasts amidst the sounds of firecrackers.   

Of course, the role of dynasty in Indian politics is quite apparent: right from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, everywhere everyone is dancing to the tune of dynasty. This phenomenon of dynasty taking deep roots in today's India is not just confined politicsit's bizarre presence is visible right from cinema-field to various professions. It is worth quoting here what Prof. Subrahmanyam of Stern School of Business, USA, said in an interview to Business Standard dated January 21: “India has become a dynastic society. It is more dynastic than in feudal times. Patrick French says people in Parliament who fall in the 25-35 age-group are from dynasty … The only true meritorious sector is … armed forces, and to some extent civil services.”

When asked, “Increasingly, the young are becoming cynical, does that disturb you?” Prof. Subrahmanyam was candid in his reply: “What disturbs me is the dynastic trend. What amazes me is that family businesses are stacked with executives. They would think ‘Why should I work for these idiots’. They know more than their employers. Why can’t the promoter say, ‘Look my son is an idiot. By giving business to this guy, I will surely ruin it. I am going to put smart people on the business.’ The son can get dividend and enjoy life. I am also amazed to see that with a population of 1.2 billion we can’t have young aggressive leaders who are not part of any dynasty … There are exceptions like Modi in Gujarat and Mamata in West Bengal.”  

Don’t these comments about dynasty inheriting the right to run the businesses and the likely ruining of them by the sons apply mutatis mutandis to the political parties and ultimately the country? Or, is it that leadership in politics doesn’t call for such merit?  Or, are there no followers in the political parties, who, like the employees of businesses to whom Prof. Subrahmanyam referred, could say, “Why should I work for these ...?” That aside, in politics, we are also witnessing another danger posed by the dynasty: playing havoc with the governance without being accountable to the nation.

Coming back to Rahul Gandhi, it is highly laudable that he has finally accepted the responsibility, which indeed is a great challenge, for he has inherited the No. 2 position in Congress at a very critical juncture:  on the one hand, the party is being dragged down by the never-before-seen level of corruption charges, that too, faced by the higher echelons and the social movement it has stirred up across the country led by the Annas; while on the other, the electoral returns in the states are not in any way encouraging even after Rahul’s hard-hitting campaigning. Over and above these adversities, there is that potential adversary in Narendra Modishould the BJP project him as the PM candidate. Nor does the economy offer any encouragement for the party to dole out ‘lollipops’ before the elections.

Nevertheless, Rahul did infuse cheer among the otherwise aging party cadre by drawing their attention to the angry “voices of a billion” expressing anguish at their being “alienated by the political class” and his wish for making it possible for  “aam admi to participate in the politics of the country.”

Intriguingly, he drew the attention of the audience to the plight of women in the country, saying:  "The voice of women is being trampled upon by people with arbitrary powers in their life. It does not matter how much wisdom you have, if you have no position, then you are nothing. This is the tragedy of India." In the same vein, he, taking a cue from what his mother said the previous day, posed a question, “Why are the youth angry?” And his answer to the question is: “They are angry because they are alienated from the political class. They watch from the sidelines as the powerful drive in lal battis” and asserted that “We need to meet their urgent demands of jobs.” 

He went on to tell the cheering party leaders: "Why people are angry. Because they are alienated from the system. Their voices are trampled upon. All our systems – justice, education, political, administration – are designed to keep people with knowledge out. Mediocrity dominates discussions.”

The highlight of his speech was that his mother did make him understand that “the power that so many seek is poison” and therefore he should not “be attached to it”; and he promised: “I will fight for Congress and people of India with whatever I have.”  

His 45-minute speech did give the nation a lot of hope, but there remains an obvious question: Will Rahul Gandhi walk the talk?


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