There are many well-meaninged and educated people in India who just happen to be Congress supporters by default, many of whom are even first time voters. Most of the younger voters of this country haven’t personally experienced the ills of the Congress (like say the Emergency, playing with the fire of Khalistan, the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots, etc.), and also erroneously conclude that the older voters who tell them otherwise are merely biased against the Congress. They also cannot associate themselves when “older” leaders like Advaniji talk about what happened during the Emergency, as they were not even born then! The media doesn’t really help, as the strong bias that it carries against the BJP and the “kid-glove” and “sepia-tinted” treatment given to the first family of the Congress, further perpetuates this bias. There are unconfirmed reports that the owner of a leading Indian TV news channel had assured Musharraf when he was visiting India (Agra Summit) that the media will ensure that the BJP never comes back to power!
Many voters have correctly identified that for the Lok Sabha elections, they need to vote for a national party, over the regional (one issue / one family) parties, as this splintering of the vote has weakened the central government and also taken the focus away from national issues (like security, economic slowdown, Pakistan and China) to regional and local issues, from clearing drains to the creation of new states (which are also very important, but state-level issues).
Once a decision is made that the vote must go only to a national party, and claiming that as far as economics goes, there is apparently very little difference between the Congress and the BJP (which is again erroneous as Congress is markedly left wing, and BJP ostensibly right wing, but leave that aside for now), and therefore many innocently opt to vote for the Congress over the BJP for two primary reasons (as I have heard from many friends), as follows:
- The Congress has many young political leaders (like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Priya Dutt, Milind Deora, Jitin Prasad, et al, and to top it all, Rahul Gandhi – and of course he is so good looking), they are a secular party, and Manmohan Singh is still a good and honest man (despite the CVC and 2G fiascos)
- I don’t like this “Hindu” talk that the BJP indulges in, it is anti-minority, does not have young leaders (Advani is 82) and talks about the past only (like Ayodhya, Kashmir, etc.)
Since there are many issues in this apparently simple association, I wanted to restrict this article to just the issue of “young leaders” in Congress and by extension, the dynastic politics inherent within this party.
What one notices that each of these “so-called” young leaders are from a political dynasty of the Congress, have inherited the mantle from their fathers, and most analysts have called their performance in the Lok Sabha (from a perspective of raising questions and issues, debating, and sponsoring bills), to be poor to moderately average. They have also been largely kept away from positions of power, crawl out of the woodwork during elections or for raucous TV debates (to present the young face of the Congress) and are largely considered to have been sidelined. The levers of power in Congress are still very much with the old guard and the ultimate example of this is Pranab Mukherjee, our Finance Minister, undoubtedly a “nice” person, but frankly from “three generations back”!
The ability of the Congress to throw up young leaders from the grass roots, not linked to any political dynasty has been abysmal. The good part about the next rung of BJP leaders is that none of them are related to S P Mukherjee, Deendayal Upadhyaya, A B Vajpayee or L K Advani.
The real issue with voting for the Congress is the “royal family” that runs it, and controls all the levers of power. This is despite the fact that the person who is ostensibly the PM is not a “family member”, but every political observer knows that the seat is being kept warm, till “Rahul Baba” is convinced he is ready to take over. Wags in the Congress actually market this current arrangement as “get two for the price of one”! It is also a fraud on the constitution, as our founding fathers did not visualize a PM who has the post but no power, a NAC Chairperson who has no post but all the power, and a perpetually “young” inexperienced dynast who has the post of the PM for the asking! While this arrangement is a “sweet deal” for Sonia Gandhi, and potentially Rahul Gandhi too (his choice for MMS’ role could be Digvijay Singh or P Chidanbaram), it is a fraud on the people of this country!
This Nehru-Gandhi family that has appropriated the right to the “PM-ship” of this country, for apparently “getting us independence” and making “sacrifices” for the country (reference is to the members of the family who have been assassinated, as if they offered their lives for a cause – like soldiers defending our borders). The most telling comment on this was made by Nitin Gadkari recently, that like him, any ordinary youngster who joins the BJP (unlike the Congress), can aspire for the PM’s post or the Presidentship of the Party, as these are not reserved for the family members, or its minions (like royalty appointing a regent, till the rightful owner is old enough to take over).
Rajiv Gandhi’s widow, by accident or sheer luck could rightfully claim ownership over the PM’s post, and in 2004 was just about kept away (not by sacrifice) by the fact that the then President (APJ Abdul Kalam) told her that by the law of reciprocity, since a non-natural born Italian cannot become a PM in Italy, therefore a naturalized Italian cannot become a PM in India, and she would be forced to resign as a PIL would be filed in the Supreme Court. This is why she “sacrificed” the highest position in the country and this sham is marketed by the Congress as a great selfless act of renunciation! Again, what a fraud precipitated on the people of India.
Similarly, friends of the Gandhis (Rajiv and Sonia) have talked about dinner table conversations when Priyanka and Rahul were kids, about who would make a better PM (since obviously the seat was reserved for them). Apparently Priyanka had made a statement as an 8-year old that she would like to become the PM (which 8-year old doesn’t, but this is different), obviously spurred on by doting parents (the reigning royalty at that time). Apparently, she is also very cut up with her Mom, for promoting Rahul over her, as she feels that she is not only older, but also better (and she does have a point there). This is the modern-day version of the “Mughalian sibling rivalry” for the throne of India! Wow, what a democracy we are!
The problem I have with the Gandhis, is that the Columbian / Afghan girl-friend of Rahul Gandhi (now ex-girlfriends apparently) can also rightfully claim the “privilege” to become the PM of this country, under a certain set of circumstances, and everyone in the Congress would be thrilled at this prospect.
This is what gets my goat!
Until the Congress gets over its first family fixation and really develops some spine, I cannot understand how any right thinking Indian can agree to perpetuate this monstrosity.
As far as we know till now, the only achievement of Rahul Gandhi (besides carrying the right surname) is organizing a T-20 cricket match in Amethi and spending a night in a Dalit’s hut (oh look, how gracious the Regent Prince is) along with that idiot of a British Foreign Minister (now Ex-) David Milliband. What credentials does he have that so many in the Congress are willing to propose his name as the next PM of the country? Rahul made a statement recently that he feels he is not yet ready to become the PM as of now (may one ask what does he intend to do over the next few years so that he becomes ready – like take over a ministry or a state and show his administrative acumen – like Nitish Kumar had so correctly asked during the Bihar elections). The reason why he doesn’t want to take over right now is because the Congress is not strong enough to come to power on its own, and they cannot stomach the thought that its royalty would have to be dependent on “regional parties” (like the PM so dutifully remarked recently in the Lok Sabha, the price of “coalition dharma”).
Shame on the Congress for bequeathing us this legacy, and shame on people who ignore this and vote for them in any case!
(I had written this piece a few years ago. I am posting an updated version of this as I think it is still relevant)