Rahul Gandhi and the new political reality
The corporate world suddenly discovered great wisdom in Rahul Gandhi when he spoke of growth and transparency while addressing the captains of Indian industry at the conference of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on December 22. But more than the corporate world Rahul apologists and admirers in and out of the Congress party are thrilled that India Incorporated clapped its hands at Rahul with as much if not more enthusiasm than they did to Narendra Modi earlier and will shortly do to Arvind Kejriwal, the prospective Delhi chief minister.
Actually Rahul has been at it ever since the latest results of four state assembly elections shocked the wits out of the Congress party. He first announced his decision to learn a few things from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). But for the stigma of communal holocaust associated with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, Rahul might have even offered to sit at Modi’s feet and learn a few lessons from him as well. Such modesty, such humility in a man who has remained inaccessible to the people and continued to be a fly by night politician all these nine years, since he became a member of Parliament, is rather touching!
Rahul is a confused man and because the Congress party has decided to put all its eggs in Rahul’s basket this time, the party and by the same extension the UPA government is equally bewildered. The four state assembly elections have shown the rich and upwardly mobile classes disdainful of the Congress and determined to replace the UPA government with a Modi led saffron raj in the country.
They have labeled the Congress corrupt, which is no big deal since in any case corruption is in built in the dynamics of the present economy. Congress is corrupt, BJP is no less corrupt, AAP whom the Youth for Equality vehemently supported was funded from by Ford Foundation. Mukesh Ambani and Adani Tatas and the rest of the corporate honchos don’t plug for Narendra Modi for free. As for the class of lawyers, private doctors, private tutors, pharmacists and such other, screaming loudest against corruption and incompetence of the UPA government, their main grouse is the fear that through reservations, others may come up and share the high table with them, as it has already happened in southern India. So the real reason for the vocal denunciation of the UPA government is not corruption.
If corruption were the reason for this disdain for the UPA government and resounding assertion for Narendra Modi’s leadership, then Shivraj Singh Chauhan government in which there are any number of corrupt ministers, would have suffered the most. If lawlessness and incompetence were the reason for voting out a government, Raman Singh should have been routed in Chhatisgarh. Ashok Gehlot came up with any number of measures to ameliorate the suffering of the people of Rajasthan and yet he was trounced. Delhi has not had a more competent and efficient chief minister/ chief executive councilor than Sheila Dikshit, since I remember and my memory surely goes back more than 40 years. There was one factor though, the spiraling prices of every day consumption specially vegetables and more specifically onions. But the day after the polling in Delhi onions dropped from Rs 80 a Kilo to Rs 20. They are now selling around Rs 12-15 a kilo. So is potato and cauliflower is dirt cheap now. That simply shows that the vegetable market was being deliberately manipulated by the wholesale traders, the traditional BJP supporters, primarily to influence the elections.
The upwardly mobile urban and semi urban population is instinctively rightist in its thinking and approach and was not quite pleased with the song “Sabko hai khushhaal banna, sabko hai yeh batlana, sabka hai yeh akash,” because for them “Yeh akash hamara hai.” Rahul Gandhi who seemed to be mighty pleased with the slogan, lacked the political wisdom to see that while the nuveau riche may mouth any number of homilies, but it certainly does not share this sentiment. The over two decades of liberalization has produced in India much more class antagonism than the preceding four decades, where the haves have reached the sky and loathe to look down. The aspirations of the have nots, were not so sharp then and therefore the fear of guarding one’s privileges with gated high security zones was not felt so acutely either. The scene has changed, you are either with us or against us. There is no middle ground. That holds good for those that have arrived and are there somewhere as well as those who are exposed to this world through the 24X7 bombardment of the idiot box. There is such impatience on either side that while on the one hand the Youth for Equality abandoned Narendra Modi to stand alongside Arvind Kejriwal and the obnoxious and vituperative Kumar Vishwas, on the other the SC, ST, OBCs the Delhi slum dwellers who had voted in good numbers Mayawati, deserted the BSP ranks and went with ‘Jhadu’ in the hope that Jhadu or the broom will dust away all their opponents at one sweep.
The Congress party has traversed the middle path for far too long. To the rural poor it was a succour which looked benignly at them, even if it failed to provide them much substance; to the urban modern men Congress party was progressive and forward looking; the right wingers preferred to reconcile to it for fear of the Communists lurking somewhere there and for exactly the opposite reason the Communists also made peace with it lest the right wing took over.
But that phase is over. Lalu Yadav became an instant hit with his mass base when he allegedly gave his now legendary slogan: “Bhoora Bal Saaf” implying get rid of Bhumihar, Brahmin and Lala (for Kaysthas in Bihar), though he later made a feeble unconvincing attempt to deny it. Mayawati was overwhelmingly supported in 2007 when she egged on her followers with the catchy slogan: “Chadh gunday ki chhati par, mohar laga de Haathi par” Modi too enthuses immensely his supporters when he mocks, ridicules and warns the Nehru-Gandhi family, never mind if he doesn’t know his history. Who in the Sangh does anyway?
To date Rahul Gandhi has failed to understand, like his late father that any amount of pleading with and appealing to the fairness of the corporate world or the Youth for Equality wont help him. They’ve gone the other side, most with Narendra Modi and the remaining with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The only constituency that is left is the one that has benefited from the numerous good schemes like NREGA, Indira Awas Yojana etc, the poor deprived sections. Indira Gandhi was the first one to militate that section and win her political battles. V P Singh, Lalu Yadav and Mayawati have almost all drawn their lessons from Indira Gandhi. Tragically while Sonia Gandhi has her heart in the right place and understands Indian politics better than her party and even her family members, she seems to feel like an outsider and is therefore all the time hesitant and reluctant. Besides she lacks oratorical skills. Rahul does not suffer from any of the disadvantages of his mother. But he has to learn appeal to the right section to militate them against those who are determined to push the wheel of time back. Sans that the battle is lost.