Monday, December 16, 2013

Dynastic aura no longer impresses voters; and old-style netas have gone irrelevant

A week after the state elections shocked our entrenched parties, where are we? The results puzzled, frustrated and/or humiliated all netas, and scared some. They all said that they would introspect, a fashionable word among dissemblers. However, with all these days behind us, there is no sign of any introspection by anyone in any party. It is politics as before, with A blaming B blaming C blaming A. The reality of India is there for all to see: Today's politicians cannot be reformed, they can only be knocked out.

The incorrigibility of the political class is reflected in almost every pronouncement by every leader in reaction to the election results. Consider two representative examples: Sharad Pawar on one side and Digvijay Singh on the other. Pawar was accurate when he faulted the weak leadership of the Congress. But he showed how irrelevant he had become when he alluded to the victorious Aam Aadmi Party as elements with no connect with reality.

It was precisely the AAP's connect with the reality of young and modern India that helped it make history. It is the old-guard, preoccupied with fattening themselves and their families, that has lost all connect with 21st century reality. Sharad Pawar, for example. What has the country gained from his many decades in power? His Chief Ministership of Maharashtra was linked with the real estate of Maharashtra. His current stint as Agriculture Minister has seen the rise and rise of notorious US seed companies that seek monopoly control of our food supplies. He has also actively promoted the poisonous pesticide, endosulfan. A weak leadership without vision is bad. But worse is a strong leadership without patriotism.

Digvijay Singh is a different piece of cake. His Chief Ministership of Madhya Pradesh was such a flop that he has avoided facing an election in the last ten years. Yet he conducts himself like the authoritative voice of the Congress Party, a sort of Oracle of Del(p)hi. The Greek Oracle was of course the medium through which Apollo the God spoke. The Oracle of Delhi performs like the medium through which his Goddess speaks.

No sooner were the election results out than Digvijay Singh called for Rahul Gandhi to be immediately proclaimed as the official Congress Party candidate for prime ministership. In that one sentence he summed up the tragedy of the Congress and, through it, the tragedy of our country. His theory was that the uncertainty about the Congress's prime ministerial nominee was the reason for the party's electoral disaster. And so, if Rahulji were officially nominated, voters would come in hordes to the party. This is a pathetic mindset but it is what rules the Congress.

Rahul Gandhi is the problem, not the solution. The dynasty is the problem. The people, including the voters of Amethi and Rae Bareli have become disgusted with unqualified and presumptuous individuals automatically becoming high-commanders because of family lineage. Even illiterate voters know by now that this is the antithesis of democracy. Popular rejection of the Congress will continue as long as Congressmen remain prisoners to the dynastic system, subservient to their hereditary overlords.

The Congress seems vaguely aware of this. Hence the floating of alternate names for prime ministerial candidacy. But clearly the names are picked on the basis of allegiance to the dynasty. Two of them, A. K Antony and Sushilkumar Shinde, will serve as Tweedledum to Manmohan Singh's Tweedledee, minus the latter's saving grace of an international profile as an economist. P. Chidambaram, another floated name, will demolish all of Rahul Gandhi's claims of promoting the "clean" in preference to the tainted. And then there is Nandan Nilekani, an outside-the-box name no doubt, but a political babe in the woods who is likely to be devoured whole by the lords of the jungle.

The fact is that the Congress has no one to field under the non-negotiable qualification of closeness to, and trust by, the dynasty. The people of India have progressed beyond that stage. The Congress will survive only if the dynasty retires -- unequivocally and demonstrably. Otherwise, it's kaput.