Rahul Gandhi may be forgiven for worrying about vicious attacks on the image painstakingly built over months of triumphant Bharat Jodo Yatra.But images are perhaps not the most important part of the campaign to save democracy,indeed the country.And it is just a waste of time for the entire manpower of the party to throng the streets for weeks on end just to oppose the smear-campaign while the real country-wide movement gets stalled.Cunning tacticians of the saffron camp must be snickering up their sleeves at the success of their diversionary trick.
Sharad Pawar might have stumbled while defending the indefensible,but he had rightly put his finger on the basic weakness of the campaign,the failure of joint opposition to hold up an alternative vision embodying the hopes and aspirations of the masses at this juncture.Not empty gestures but concrete steps which could improve their lives even if by a small degree.On a different platform I have heard an outspoken reporter quoting recently concluded survey by official agencies that one third of the country’s children go to bed hungry, most of whom might perhaps perish during months ahead.That is horrifying news and ordinary people might well believe that the wail about democracy in peril was just a charade between two distant entities unrelated to their lives.If Rahul Gandhi thinks that is his gain from mingling with troubled people during the Yatra he is sorely mistaken.And the canny Kejriwal has broken in through this hole in the fence and claim that he can better fix things than the saffronista by gifting people lower rates for electricity and water and building better, cheaper schools and hospitals.
But I have a notion that Gandhi knows the issues rather more sharply than he is given credit for,but he simply does not have the heart to join battle.For while the saffron party might divert energy from real issues to keep the media and some people drunk and besotted with the potent brew of Hindutva,the common people will awaken from such inebriation in no time if a solid call for action on primary life and livelihood issues is given and rally round the party that sounds sincere in issuing the call.
But that demands a more searching awareness of social reality and courage to face it for real change than we have so far seen.What is the fundamental state of things at the moment at the bottom of child mortality and malnutrition,the dwindling portions on the plate for the common people,the unaffordable costs of medicines and treatment,the searing price rise,the horrendous loss of jobs that religious spectacles and fanatical murderous processions cannot hide?Not a shadow of doubt it is the neoliberal economy,the scope it gives money-crazed corporate chiefs to amass obscene wealth looting the people in cahoots with corrupt and slimy politicians,and robbing the people of their God given right to protest,struggle and seize political power from looters.
Does the opposition have a clear perception of this reality and the will to weaken the stranglehold these evildoers have on the economy,society and the state?Are they united in this resolve?That is the burning question of the hour.Any wishy-washy compromise will inevitably fail.Lula and his supporters in Brazil have shown such resolve and that is how they have penetrated the solid-looking smokescreen of corporate capital and crony politicians.
The saffronista had come to power and won the confidence of Western patrons by showing their willingness to go the whole hog and trample down all human considerations to appease corporate(monopolistic) capital.
They have cemented their position by strengthening one particular group among the wolves but not restraining the rest.Hence the repression of popular freedoms,the ferocious pursuit of rivals,the defanging of guardian institutions,the constant degradation of democracy.If one wants to meet them head-on one has to attend to the brass-tacks,call a spade a spade and devise methods to ask common people to join this momentous battle with intelligible slogans and clearly spelt-out objectives.
The common people will surely understand as they feel the harsh reality in their bones,but leaders must have the integrity of purpose and the strength of will to side with them in their primordial and continuing struggle against rulers hard as nails for a sustained decent life.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator