There it is and it cannot be wished away.The Congress has come a cropper for the THIRD time,and someone must take responsibility for it. We have heard for the third time the tired plea that the people’s verdict had been accepted with humility. Some noted commentators have said that Rahul Gandhi et al must now leave politics and retire to some worthy pursuits like ice-skating and home-keeping and so on.This is unfortunately wishful thinking.People who have been in the limelight for decades cannot just sneak away.Even defeated champions in sports always dream of a come-back.And with some victories under their belt the Gandhis cannot be expected to abandon all hope and retire into anonymity.
Of course it is a body blow,and the defeated have to spend some time licking their wounds before they can think of any plans for the future.Besides,the important thing is that they hold the purse-strings,and it is unlikely they will generously bestow the funds on any rival. It is vital that the Congress really understand and learn from the experience. For some aspirants may suffer from the same lapses and weaknesses as the Gandhis. Hankering for power is no uncommon phenomenon and nobody in his senses can claim that Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi do not share it. And once someone is catapulted into power and has a taste of it he cannot suddenly renounce it and go into self-exile.
But yes,it is most unlikely Congress workers will repose their faith in the Gandhis again this time and roll out the red carpet once more.If that happens it will be bad for the Gandhis too.For they will not be able to learn anything as ring-side observers of others’ mistakes and successful skills.They perhaps need this scope most now in a changed scenario.
I am not prepared to dismiss Rahul Gandhi as a pampered duffer.Rama Chandra Guha conceded his last speech in parliament had been commendable.He is indeed coming out as a good parliamentarian and probably can deliver as a leader of the party in parliament.His jousts with Modi about the economy,the pandemic,and the misgovernance were to the point,forceful and persuasive. But in this country political debate cuts no ice with the media and crowds of political fans,and what is preferred and drummed up are snide personal remarks and outlandish and fantastic waspish remarks like bicycles being associated with bombs.
Such assaults pandering to the lowest common denominator in intelligence might perhaps be lauded as some kind of ‘political intelligence’.But there is more to it than dullness plain and simple.It is the time when the typical fascist lower-middle class craving for revenge on frustrations elsewhere,and viperous hatred again a particular community for supposedly intriguing for an illegal seizure of power(“Mirror,mirror on the wall…”),and call to take up arms and slaughter it to the last man do not seem to ruffle a feather. When Rahul Gandhi invokes Nehru and Indira Gandhi he is not actually flaunting entitlement but actually refuting the charges of him being ‘an Italian’ and not true son of the soil etc etc.
Then where lies the failure?The failure lies in putting oneself outside society and hoping to engineer it to a desired end without realising the actual conditions of society.Unfortunately his upbringing and privileged position have primed him for a CEO’s role in running his party like a firm and raising the value of the shares.This is of course a quite inappropriate view of the rough and tumble of mass politics, esp.today. Which might require wall street like sniper attacks and ambushes but not idealised methods of fair business.
Guha’s admiration for lower-middle-class aspirants like Modi and new generation ‘aspiring classes’ represented by Kejriwal blinks at the dangerous machination of fascists to undermine ALL institutions,conventions and rules,and free and fair rules of life.He sees the threats in an abstract way and hopes that someone like Kejriwal will rise from Congress ranks and steer the party to revival and resistance to murderous mobs .But as mentioned earlier his failure to identify the class element in this politics and the neglect of the common people in the outlook of so-called ‘aspiring classes’ might not throw a beacon of light on the way forward.Rather the blinkered view might make it easy for fascists to romp home.
Pray what did the farmer aspire for in the massive movement that rocked Delhi? It was no personal gain but a collective demand.What do the distraught urban workers hanker after?Not so much fulfillment of personal dreams as fair wages,lower prices and better welfare measures. Kejriwal has partly seized on this and the flagship schemes that get him votes had been suggested by someone from a left background.
Rahul has not tapped into this enormous source of energy.He has tried to reassure them of his intention to give relief,but as generous concessions and not as rightful dues.He does not identify with them as Chavez in Latin America did or Lula Da Silva does.The people solidly stood by him as they empathized with them and voiced their aspirations and demands.This is a lesson he was never allowed to learn and perhaps it is rather late in the day now. But make no mistake,this is the only force that can overwhelm fascists and stand up to them.Along with regional democratic groups and the left(with whom Congress leaders,whoever they are,must sit down for a common front and common strategy)this force has the potential to raise real democracy on the shoulders of a willing and dedicated people ready for sacrifice and hardship.It does not abandon liberal democracy but sincerely holds up social democracy.If not perceived with clear eyes street goons will eventually invade citadels of culture and learning and kick at relics of democracy with the contempt once shown by Nazis.
The most egregious example of ‘lack of political sense’ was arguably the inept and rough treatment of an old war horse, Capt. Amarinder Singh.Singh probably did not go all the way with the Gandhis on some matters,and it became the acid test of his loyalty and suitability.If so personal sentiments overrode politics.This is a rash decision on the eve of election.And unleashing Sidhu’s bickerings first on Amarinder Singh and then on the new incumbent CM Channi hardly reflects political wisdom.The voters were disgusted and showed both of them the door.Amarinder lost because he teamed up with discredited Akalis.Here the itch to manipulate politics at a distance trumped good sense. Had AAP even won without this advantage, it would have been with a reduced majority.A bad case of totally misreading the mind of the masses.A CEO juggling shares on the share market and suddenly faces unforeseen losses.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator