All the prisoners

All the prisoners

Congress & democracy

This raising of the First Family to deity status has had an centripetal effect on opinion generation in the Congress.

Will the denizens of the Indian National Congress learn anything from the  debacle that the party suffered in the recent elections to the UP state legislature?

I doubt it. Why? Because, the Nehru family hegemony over the party has left Congress persons devoid of the will to do any independent analysis. They have become so accustomed to leaning on the dynasty that their minds are no longer free. This holds good even for the so-called intellectuals in the party. They are addicts of their own prison.

In Lord Byron’s  poignant poem, ‘Prisoner of Chillon,’ penned in the early 1800s, the prisoner who has spent a lifetime in the dungeon, comes to think of it as a home and is partly reluctant to leave it when freed. The following remarkable lines portray his confused  thinking :

My very chains and I grew friends,   
So much a long communion tends.   

Just consider the competitive self-abnegation that erupted from the leading Congress campaigners in order to own up the blame for the party’s abysmal performance in UP—all to shield the dynasty’s Yuvraj. The kind of knee-jerk explanations that came up made it out as if Rahul had only an incidental hand in the campaign, whereas the fact is that he had been at the centre of it for the past two years, including such crucial decisions as selecting the party’s candidates.

Most commentators have passed off  this self-demeaning attitude of Congressmen as sycophancy. The truth is, it is much worse. It is dependency, as with drugs. There is a reason for this. Three times in the last four decades, the Congress has been pulled back    from the desert of Opposition land into the oasis of government .

One can call it serendipity, but all the three times, a representative of the Nehru clan was at the helm. It was Indira Gandhi in 1980, Rajiv in 1984 and Sonia in 2004.
That these victories were virtually thrown in the Congress lap by the rank ineptitude of the then ruling coalitions of non-Congress parties is forgotten. What  has become a lasting part of the common memory of the Congress party is that it was the dynasty that delivered. This has resulted in the propagation of a myth in Congress circles that the dynasty is the life force of the party which has been further assiduously spun by a self-serving coterie around the primary family, carefully selected and favoured media persons  and a network of left-leaning ‘intellectuals’ who have benefited from government contracts.

Over the years, this raising of the First Family to near deity status has had an extreme centripetal effect on opinion generation in the Congress with the state level party apparatus conveniently choosing to pass on all decisions to the high command. The authority of the party leaders  at the periphery, that is the state level, has become so emasculated that no one pays heed to them.

Of course, this might make the high command feel all-powerful and complacent that no local satrap can become too big for his boots and disturb the discipline of the party. But, at the same time, such a situation leaves the high command  cut off from ground level  developments and relative strengths of different local personalities. It has to depend on the unreliable information provided by  toadies which renders the selection of office bearers and candidates a shot in the dark.

Honest analysis

In such an ambience, what sort of  an honest  analysis can the Congress conduct about the UP state elections? Will anyone dare criticise the selection of candidates or the strategy adopted by the Rahul coterie? Will any partyman even raise the issue of why Rae Barelly and Amethi, pocket boroughs of the First Family, rejected the Congress?  Will even a senior Congress leader hint that perhaps it was too early for Rahul to be made the general secretary of the AICC?

Will anyone suggest  that it is time Sonia emerges from her 10 Janpath purdah and interacts more often with the media and the people at large? Is there any person of courage who will stand up and tell the high command that it is high time  the PCCs were given more authority and independence and developed a voice of their own instead of parroting what they believe the First Family likes? Who will have the gumption to tell the high command that shielding deadwood and the corrupt, just because of their closeness to the First Family, will only cause more grief to the party in the future? Will Congressmen in the states have the courage to demand freely elected PCC office bearers instead of appointed ones?

It is most unfortunate that a nation that has chosen democracy as its mode of governance should have a principal political party   which pays mock obeisance to inner party democracy and actually relies, instead, on old style feudalism. Even more unfortunate is that the regional challengers to the Congress who have annexed many of the states recently are themselves steeped in dynastic rule. This does not augur well for the future of Indian democracy. 

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