Cong considers surname as a 'political brand': Jaitley

Cong considers surname as a 'political brand': Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI Photo 

Wading into the controversy kicked in by the controversial remarks of a senior Congress leader regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi's lineage, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday cornered Congress over "dynastic" politics and insisted real strength of democracy would be "when the charisma of some families is completely shattered".

The target was on Nehru-Gandhi family that had given three Prime Ministers from Congress Party and five Congress Presidents from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rahul Gandhi after independence.

In a blog, Jaitley called it a "self-goal" of Congress have ignited the debate about whether India should be a dynastic democracy.

"If the Congress Party wants the 2019 elections to be between Prime Minister Modi, who is the son of lesser-known parents and someone who is known only for his parentage rather than capacity, merit and competence, the BJP would gladly accept the challenge. Let this be the agenda for 2019," Jaitley said seeking to dismiss the leadership abilities of Rahul Gandhi.

He said that this was more than adequately proved in 2014 where most dynastic parties lost miserably and insisted that India of 2019 is different from India of 1971.

The row coming in the midst of on-going election assembly election campaign in five states kicked off after a video of former Union Minister Vilas Muttemwar went viral in which he said during an internal party meeting in Rajasthan that who knew Modi before be he became the Prime Minister and who even knows even now the name of his father, which is so well-known in case of Rahul Gandhi. Besides Congress leader Raj Babbar dragged Modi's mother's name, likening the falling rupee value to her age.

PM Modi made a big issue of it while addressing rallies in the poll-bound states telling the electorates that Congress has "stooped" to the level of dragging in elections the name of his father and mother, who had nothing to do with polls.

Jaitley ruled that the Prime Minister’s mother’s age was made a subject matter of the electoral debate and his father’s anonymity was commented upon as an inadequate credential of the Prime Minister. 

He said the argument given by the Congress is that if one represents the legacy of a well-known family, it is a political point in one's favour. Jaitely said that some of his well-informed friends could not tell the same of the father of even Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel when asked.

Jaitley said millions of talented political workers who come from modest family backgrounds would fail by the Congress test of leadership and "merit, talent, ability to inspire and lead would not be a virtue" as Congress considers only a great surname as a political brand.

The Finance Minister held that that the real strength of Indian democracy would be when the charisma of some families is completely shattered and parties, through a democratic process, throw up leaders of merit and competence.

He said that on hearing this rationale, he asked a few well-informed friends of his the name of the father of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel but none of them had had a definitive answer. Explaining the reason for this he said that during the decades of Congress rule, naming colonies, localities, cities, bridges, airports, railway stations, schools, colleges, universities, stadiums after one family and they were ‘officially glamorised’ as the blue-blooded family of India.

Bringing the Patel and others versus Nehru narrative yet again, Jaitely said flagged the dangers of officially glamorising one family at the cost of those who made a far greater contribution and said when Nehru "promoted" his daughter as his successor, he laid the foundation of India as a dynastic democracy. 

"The country pays a price for dynastic policies as we have witnessed in several regions. Three families – two of them in Srinagar and one in New Delhi in the last 71 years, have played with the destiny of Jammu and Kashmir. The consequences are obvious.

"Following the dynastic pattern of leadership within the Congress, several other parties have followed the same principle. In such organisations there is no inner party democracy, there are no ideological principles," Jaitley said.