Congress party must get over the Gandhis

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Ray, Nov 13, 2013.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Congress party must get over the Gandhis


    A joke doing the rounds several months ago was that the “i” in Brics stood for Indonesia. Recent events lend credence to that witticism. Indian growth rates are closer to 6 per cent than 8 per cent. Inflation rates exceed 10 per cent.

    The rupee is at its lowest-ever level against the US dollar. Long-promised reforms such as the opening of the retail sector and the promotion of a countrywide goods and services tax have been abandoned.

    The Indian economy is slowing and spluttering, and will continue to do so for some time. Behind this economic stagnation is a deeper story of political degradation. The country’s greatest political party is in steady decline. Founded in 1885, the Indian National Congress led a successful mass movement against colonial rule.

    After independence, it gave the country a democratic and secular constitution, nurtured an industrial and technological base, and, most crucially, constructed a unified nation out of many divided parts.

    Congress is in power in New Delhi, as it has been for all but 13 years since India’s independence in 1947. Yet this government is without energy and purpose. Even the weakest of minority governments were not so hopeless and apathetic.

    The apathy is linked to the beleaguered status of the party’s main leaders. Last year, Sonia Gandhi, the Congress president, spent several weeks abroad because of an unspecified illness. Since her return, she has made few public appearances.

    Rahul Gandhi, the party’s general secretary and presumed heir-apparent, is sulking after a humiliating election defeat suffered in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, where he led the campaign.

    Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, is visibly weakened, both physically and politically. With a history of cardiac problems, and just four months shy of his 80th birthday, he faces the additional burden of presiding over a government beset by a series of corruption scandals.

    The crises of the Congress, in party and in government, are connected to the declining charisma of its first family. When Ms Gandhi entered politics in 1998, she was admired for honouring the martyrdom of her husband and mother-in-law, Rajiv and Indira Gandhi, and for seeking to serve the nation. Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, is seen by many Indians as at best well-meaning and at worst as a spoilt child of privilege. His views on economics, governance and foreign affairs are largely unrecorded.

    The urban middle class observes that in eight years in parliament he has not made a single important speech. Rural people note that Rahul Gandhi’s periodic visits to ask for their votes are interspersed with far longer stretches in New Delhi or overseas. He lacks, for the former, the intelligence and stature to be a statesman, and for the latter, the commitment and zeal to be a grassroots leader.
    That is to say, and to put it very politely, Rahul Gandhi is no Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi.

    Despite its weaknesses, the Congress remains the only national party, with a presence in all 28 states of the republic. It was the mother party of Indian freedom and it remains, in theory, above sectarian divides of caste and religion. Its cosmopolitanism should appeal to the now very large middle class, while its welfarist orientation should attract large sections of the poor. That it doesn’t appeal to either class, as recent state elections show, has much do with the quality of the party’s leadership.

    In two years the country will face a general election. The prospects for the Congress appear dismal. Presently, Indians of talent and ambition are inhibited from joining or even voting for the Congress owing to its prevailing culture of deference and sycophancy.

    A revival can come about only through a radical act, such as the replacement of the incompetent prime minister with a younger, more focused Congress leader whose surname is not Gandhi. The message this would send is that competence is valued above genes or loyalty.

    Realists or cynics will say the measure I propose is too radical for Ms Gandhi to contemplate. Yet it may be the only way to rescue India’s oldest party from irrelevance and extinction.

    The writer is the Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs at the London School of Economics

    Congress party must get over the Gandhis - FT.com

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    Indeed. the Congress Party need to come of age beyond the feudal legacy inherited after Independence and honed into a fine art by Mrs Indira Gandhi.
     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Rahul Gandhi lacks ideas as well as energy: Ramachandra Guha

    Ramachandra Guha is one of the foremost Indian historians of this era. In his latest book Gandhi Before India (Allen Lane, Rs 899) he chronicles the early life of Mahatma Gandhi. The book focusses on the years Gandhi spent in London and South Africa and how they shaped his ideology and philosophy. Indians who have grown up watching Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi are largely unaware about this part of his life. Hence, the book is a must read for every Indian who wants to know what turned a lawyer called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi into Mahatma Gandhi. Guha feels none of the political parties of today follow the principles of Gandhi, even though they claim so. “Various politicians and political parties claim to speak in the name of Gandhi: the Congress because he was in that party for a very long time, Narendra Modi because he was also a Gujarati, the Aam Admi Party(AAP) because its main leaders were, like Gandhi, professionals who became social activists. All these claims are dubious. The cronyism and corruption of the Congress is worlds removed from Gandhi or Gandhism; as is the megalomania and sectarianism of Mr Modi. As for the AAP, their claims to be Gandhian in inspiration are nullified by the negative nature of their politics, which is based so completely on carping attacks on other parties,” he told Firstpost in an interview.

    Intellectually who are the people who had the foremost impact on Gandhi in the years that he spent in South Africa?

    [​IMG]

    Gandhi’s main mentors were a Gujarati poet and thinker, Raychandbhai; the pioneering Indian nationalist and social reformer, Gopal Krishna Gokhale; and the great Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy. He had an extensive correspondence with all three. Gandhi also spent a great deal of time with Raychand in Bombay in 1891-2, and with Gokhale in Calcutta in 1902 and again in South Africa in 1912. Tolstoy he never met, but perhaps it was the Russian who had the greatest influence on his moral and social philosophy. The idea of religious pluralism was common to all three of Gandhi’s mentors; the idea of ending caste and gender discrimination he got from Gokhale; the practice of abstinence and a simple life from Raychand and Tolstoy. Non-violence was in part an adaptation and refinement of Tolstoy’s pacifist ideals.

    You also point out that Rabindranath Tagore was not the first man to call Gandhi a Mahatma. It was his doctor turned jeweller friend Pranjivan Mehta. Can you tell us a little bit about that as well as the kind of relationship Gandhi shared with Mehta?

    This remarkable associate of Gandhi has been treated most casually in earlier biographies. But, as I show, their relationship was absolutely fundamental to the making of the Mahatma. Gandhi and Mehta spent time together in London, Rangoon, Durban; and wrote to one another at least once a week all through the period he was in South Africa. Mehta was the Engels to Gandhi’s Marx: that is to say, his closest friend, his most steadfast and consistent patron, and the first man to recognize and proclaim his greatness.

    One of the most moving parts of the book is the relationship that Gandhi shared with his sons particularly Harilal, his eldest son . Do you think he failed as a father?

    Gandhi had excessively high expectations of both Harilal and his second son Manilal. He wanted them to be perfect satyagrahis, perfect brahmacharis. He can certainly be said to have failed as a father. This is not uncommon—writers, artists, activists obsessed with their calling often their spouses and children very badly indeed.

    You write in great detail about the family of Gandhi being a very close part of his struggle in South Africa. Even his wife went to jail for the cause. What intrigues me is that none of his sons or nephews played an active part in Indian politics once Gandhi returned to India. Why did that happen?

    Yes, in the context of Indian politics today, Gandhi’s refusal to promote his family to positions of power and authority is remarkable. He even willed all his writings to a Trust of which none of his sons were members, thereby denying them any financial benefits from what he knew could be a very profitable legacy.

    Would it be fair to say that Gandhi wasn’t born great, but became great through a series of events and experiences?

    Gandhi certainly had great physical and moral courage. He had a tremendous capacity for hard work. He had an unusual ability to cultivate friendships across social boundaries. He was curious about other ways of living and thinking. Even so, had he succeeded as a lawyer in Bombay he would never have become a major political figure. Had he not lived in the diaspora he would not have appreciated the religious and linguistic heterogeneity of India. So, in this sense, it was a series of accidental encounters that helped grow Gandhi as a leader, thinker, and social activist.

    Has Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha been abused in independent India (particularly politicians deciding to go on a fast for anything and everything)? How relevant is the philosophy of Gandhi in India of today?

    Yes, of course, politicians have made a mockery of Gandhian techniques of protest by their one-day fasts and their dharnas and rasta rokos. However, Gandhi’s ideas do in many ways remain relevant to India and the world. His principled opposition to violence, his promotion of inter-faith harmony, his precocious environmentalism, and his practice of an open and transparent politics are all worth studying, and perhaps emulating in some part, today.

    Do you see any political party in India being close to the principles that Gandhi had espoused?

    Various politicians and political parties claim to speak in the name of Gandhi: the Congress because he was in that party for a very long time, Narendra Modi because he was also a Gujarati, the Aam Admi Party because its main leaders were, like Gandhi, professionals who became social activists. All these claims are dubious. The cronyism and corruption of the Congress is worlds removed from Gandhi or Gandhism; as is the megalomania and sectarianism of Mr Modi. As for the AAP, their claims to be Gandhian in inspiration are nullified by the negative nature of their politics, which is based so completely on carping attacks on other parties.

    But there must be some people who still follow Gandhian principles?

    The spirit of Gandhi animates many non-party social movements and groups. Remarkable Indians such as Chandi Prasad Bhatt, founder of the Chipko movement, and Ela Bhatt, founder of SEWA, are outstanding exemplars of Gandhian practice. Other activists working away from the media gaze in the spheres of rural health, primary education and similar spheres are also deeply inspired by Gandhi. A flavour of how Gandhi lives on in civil society movements in India is captured in Rajni Bakshi’s excellent book Bapu Kuti.

    In a recent interview you said “My fantasy is BJP without the RSS and the Congress without the Gandhis.” Do you see the country getting anywhere close to that fantasy?

    Not immediately, but there are some slight signs and indications that my fantasy is perhaps a few small steps closer to being realized. The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is clearly on its last legs. The charisma of the family is fading: fewer and fewer voters remember Indira or even Rajiv. Rahul Gandhi lacks ideas as well as energy. Many people in the Congress are exasperated with his lack of initiative and his penchant for making howlers. If the Congress does very badly in the next elections, then it will be hard for the family to assert its leadership in the manner it has been accustomed to in the past.

    What about the BJP?

    In organizational and ideological terms, the BJP remains closely tied to the RSS. But again, young voters have no time for the medievalist mind set of the RSS. Many of them are flocking to the BJP because of their disgust at the corruption of the Congress, not because of any attraction for the idea of a Hindu Rashtra. In my lifetime (I am now 55) I may not see my fantasy being fulfilled. But I hope the Indian experiment with democracy and pluralism extends into the lifetimes of my children, grandchildren, and beyond. So I am not so despairing!

    In the first chapter of your book you write that “of all modern politicians and statesmen, only Gandhi is an authentically global figure.” Could you please elaborate on that?

    Gandhi’s name is still invoked, often positively and sometimes negatively, all across the world, sixty-five years after his death. His ideas on non-violence, religious harmony, and environmental prudence are actively debated in countries he never even visited. No other 20th century leader, not Churchill, not Roosevelt, not Stalin or Lenin, has had anywhere this kind of salience or influence. That is why I maintain that Gandhi is the most interesting and important political figure of the modern world. Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek

    Rahul Gandhi lacks ideas as well as energy: Ramachandra Guha | Firstpost
     
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  4. Vishwarupa

    Vishwarupa Senior Member Senior Member

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    I will think about voting Congress if it is without Sonia Gandhi, Robert Vadra & Raul Gandhi( sounds like foreigners & catholic church ruling the country).

    Second important change required is to change their version of secularism (ie minority appeasement) & bring uniform civil code.
    Thirdly there stance on Kashmir, coco island & Aksai chin must change & should work towards annexing it to India.
    Fourthly but not the least they should bring back all the black monies stationed in Swiss banks outside India.
     
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