From economic slowdown and failed monsoon to the spread of violence and unabated communal passions (see Assam), the challenges facing India have assumed critical proportions. But all we get from the leaders of our country are personal manoeuvres for power and position. Two examples of this surfaced last week. Repeated appeals by Congress careerists finally elicited a gracious nod from Rahul Gandhi for “assuming bigger responsibilities”. Sharad Pawar threw tantrums as part of a game to stop corruption investigations against his partymen in Maharashtra. Is this what democracy is all about?
It could well be that in the entire Congress universe, Rahul Gandhi is the only one who recognises his limitations. His refusal to take up any position of power has been interpreted by admiring Congressmen as a sign of his humility. May be. But it could also be because Rahul Gandhi knows within himself that he is not cut out for the role his admirers – and his doting family – want him to play. He seems happier partying than politicking.
His intentions no doubt have been honourable as can be seen from the few cases for which he bestirred himself. But the fact remains that, eight years after he found himself in the limelight with the power to do whatever he wished, there is nothing much to show by way of targets reached. His party won no significant victories in the election campaigns he led. His laudable attempt to bring up a generation of younger leaders in the party floundered on the rocks of older foggies. Inner party democracy was another dream that evaporated under the heat of the entrenched group-politics veterans. Even Kalawati, whose misery moved him, never benefited from the outpouring of sympathy that followed. She saw more privation and more suicides in the family, while her region, Vidarbha, remained “the graveyard of farmers”.
Yet, establishmentarian crusaders like Digvijay Singh proclaim that Rahul will be an effective Prime Minister. Law Minister Salman Khurshid pleads with Rahul to end his cameo role and give an ideology to the Congress. Khurshid is an honourable man and it could not have been inadvertence on his part to acknowledge that the Congress had no ideology. But to expect Rahul Gandhi to be a Karl Marx or even a Keshav Baliram Hedgewar is a bit much. There is, however, a clearing of the ground that Rahul can do, and that is to tell his followers that dynasty is not an ideology.
Rahul Gandhi can speak to Congressmen like God spoke to Moses. And that is also how Sharad Pawar can speak to his pocket party, the NCP. (A cognitive psychology professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem once suggested that Moses was under the influence of hallucinogenic substance when he heard God. That will not apply to the Congress or NCP whose faithful need no substance to hear their Gods clearly).
The NCP's contribution to the mess that is India today is substantial. No one has been as systematic as Praful Patel in devastating Air-India. Sharad Pawar has used every bit of his prodigious experience to bend the powers of the Agriculture Ministry to the convenience of lobbies. Nothing proves this more convincingly than his identification with the pesticide lobby. Even last week the Government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in support of endosulfan, a killer compound America has stopped after several scientific studies.
What Pawar wants is untrammelled power over the sugar and other lobbies in Maharashtra and of course its priceless real estate which had always been an area of special interest for him from his days of chief ministership. The havoc this has done to the good earth of Mumbai and Pune is worthy of a play by Vijay Tendulkar.
What's going on ? It is all very well to say that karma determines the nature of human existence and that actions of lives past are visited upon the present. What sins have we as a people committed in the past to deserve this generation of politicians?