Of dynasties and democracy

PTI9_12_2017_000193B Rahul Gandhi addressed the crowd at University of Berkeley with a rare show of maturity | PTI

One is no fan of the Congress. It is a political party, and one has yet to come across any worth appreciating let alone admiring. However, as one who cherishes democracy, one cannot but be angry at the way the Indian National Congress has allowed it to be so threatened. By its acts of omission as an opposition party much more than its acts of commission (remember all those scams?) as a ruling party, for decades without let up.

The BJP in opposition was feisty. The spokespersons came prepared to take on the government, as a good opposition party should do, day after day, year after year. There was no self pity on account of not being in power. There was no laxity because there was no sarkari role to play. In a sense, they kept the government on its toes—it is another matter if the government refused to be on its toes!

Can the Congress claim to be doing that? Hardly. The only times the party fields senior leaders are when they have to, if they have to exist at all—either when the issue concerns the nation, like the triple talaq, or the GST or the like. Or when someone close to the top leadership falls under the investigation agencies' scanner, mostly for financial offences.

It was in such a scenario that Rahul Gandhi addressed the University of California, Berkeley. It was a rare Rahul who seemed to speak in a mature way, not running away from the realities—of India and the Congress.

The BJP, which has not shed its opposition veneer, decided to tear into what he said, para by para, point by point, and fielded none less than the Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani to do the honours. When she has to take on the Gandhi-Nehru family scion, she does not need much preparation, given the number of visits to Amethi-Raebareli, her rallies there and the speeches therein.

But when, in response to Rahul's confession that dynasty is a reality in India, and cited examples, Irani's comment that he came from a failed dynasty, sounded—well, I would say, cheap.

A dynasty that has—for good or bad—held a political party together for more than 70 years after independence, can hardly be called “failed”. A dynasty that—for good or bad—had three generations in the office of prime minister, and made three others prime minister, cannot be called “failed”.

And it can hardly be said that Rahul was telling lies. BJP only has to look inwards, and it will find that dynasty is indeed true in the Indian context.

Vasundhara Raje Scindia, the chief minister of Rajasthan, is the daughter of the late Vijaya Raje Scindia, a veteran BJP leader. The chief minister's maternal uncle was the late Congress leader, Madhavrao Scindia whose son Jyotiraditya Scindia is a Congress leader and former minister. For that matter, Vasundhara's son, Dushyant Singh is a MP, from the BJP.

After senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde was killed in an accident, the BJP lost no time in giving a political slot to his daughters, Pankaja Munde and Pritam Munde.

Jayant Sinha, the minister of state in the Modi government, is in fact the son of BJP veteran, Yashwant Sinha.

There could be more. If they are not as easily remembered, it is because “the party that was different” was not visible in government since the Vajpayee era.

Not just the BJP, other parties too have their dynasties. If the Lalu family is a bad example, however true it may be, there is the Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh and his son Akhilesh Yadav and daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav. There are the Badals of the Shiromani Akali Dal, where all the three adult members were ministers simultaneously, with in-laws adding another two.

Coming back to the Congress and democracy. The party has been made almost irrelevant. I am convinced there is scope for a spectacular revival, which makes the BJP take serious note of everything they do—which is very little—and keep the Congress-bashing on high throttle!

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