Wednesday, April 11, 2012 4:31:29 AM
Family moon, grassroots stars.
Posted: 10 Apr 2012 03:26 AM PDT
Recently, Robert Vadra – son-in-law of the daughter-in-law of the daughter
of the first prime minister of India – expressed his interest in becoming a
politician. Many expressed outrage, saying that his claim was the ‘height
of opportunism’ and dynastic politics. What is it about Robert’s desire
that bothered these people so much? Why didn’t they protest when
RahulGandhi was projected as the next leader? Given neither Rahul nor
Robert had a track record of political accomplishment, isn’t the nature of
their entitlement the same? If you support Rahul, why can’t you support
Some might say this is because Rahul is the son of the Congress’s ‘first
lady’, and in direct lineage. Well, ignore the fact that we are talking
about a democracy here and not a monarchy. If Robert is an in-law, so is
Sonia. Also, according to our great Indian culture, isn’t the ‘damaad’ more
worthy of respect than the son (Robert could use this card)? In fact,
Robert is at least approachable, compared to Rahul.
More than anything, Robert’s claim reflects the psyche of a large number of
Indians, who believe that almost anyone from the Congress first family is
entitled to rule us – brother, sister, mother and brother-in-law and, in
future, their children.
Do we Indians realise what we are doing? We are not just celebrating the
first family as ceremonial heads of state. Wearen’t just interested in them
as popular celebrities. In fact, we are saying the family will effectively
have a hold on every policy of the country for generations to come. The son
or son-in-law will decide how our steel industry is run, how shipping works
or how telecom policies will be crafted.We don’t care about expertise; we
only seem to care about their hereditary entitlement and charm. If we
citizens think like this, do we not deserve the governance mess we are in?
We have CMs in several states who have worked for decades and won people’s
trust. They are making a visible difference in their states, despite
limited powers given to them. Still, many of usfeel that only the family
deserves the top job.
While the average Gandhi clan-charmed Indian voter needs to reflect, what
is ironicis that the family is not a panacea for the Congress itself. This
over-reliance on itmay backfire on the party. Of course, most Congress
members may laugh at this assertion. The family is the core reason why
people vote Congress, they would say. Yet, the mood of the nation is set to
For, India is too diverse a place to be governed tightly at the top by
anyone, leave alone one family. Even with the best intentions, the family
cannot take every decision in the country, and there are toomany decisions
to be taken. The state of Mumbai roads, orthat of UP colleges, or Bihar’s
crime – all these are real issues that affect people who live in these
places. What people have shown they needis a good state government, and a
development-focussed CM who is a bit of a local star. Nitish Kumar,
Narendra Modi, Mamata Banerjee - their local focus and charisma have
brought them great, recurring political dividends.
However, the Congress party virtually has no local stars. Allgood work is
credited to the Gandhi family. All mistakes are promptly assigned to less
senior leaders, keeping the family blemish-free. Even in tough negotiations
such as with the Anna movement, the family kept away, while
certainministers ended up coming across as arrogant and rigid.
There is a huge political errorin this. We have seen, wherever a good local
leader emerges, the Congress is thrown out of power, perhaps for a long
time. The remaining states are simply waiting for their own Nitish, Didi
and Modi to emerge, and they will move towards them despite all the charms
of the family. The Congress performed poorly in the municipal elections in
Maharashtra, simply because other parties have local stars, and the
Members of the family personally need to go and campaign for every
election, making them spread themselves too thin. Nitish only has to care
about Bihar at election time. Rahul not onlyhas to take on Nitish in Bihar
but also other opponents in every state. How on earth is this sustainable?
‘ Hoarding power at the top is in the Congress’s DNA. Take the recent
controversy over the formation of the National Counter Terrorism Centre,
which states saw as an attempt by the Centre to gain more power over them.
Or thegovernment’s Lokpal Bill, which states found hard to support. These
are examples of the Congress government trying to pile it all at the
Centre. However, it is a terrible model to run this diverse country.
Even if the family was well-intentioned, they simply cannot run a country
as complex as India from the top. Local leader empowerment is amust, and
the Congress just doesn’t seem to believe in it.
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