Back to the past

Back to the past

From Allan Octavian Hume to Sonia Maino Gandhi, the Indian National Congress has indeed come a very long way. And in a totally different and wrong direction, one may add. The spirit of freedom and service to the nation that propelled the torch-bearers of this party of yore, has now been replaced by an equal but diametrically opposite fancy of voluntary subjugation and unabashed servitude to the country’s first family that now guides the present breed of Congressmen. Time was when the merit of Congressmen was decided on the basis of his usefulness and loyalty to the nation. Time is now for them to be judged by their loyalty to a Sonia Gandhi, a naturalised citizen after becoming the bahu of the Nehru family and therefore a naturalised leader of the nation too. With such a unique yardstick for service to the nation combined with a palpable display of spinelessness, there is little surprise that the Congress party is now back in the safe custody of the premier family.

I had to go through a lot of soul searching before embarking upon this rather negative response to the advent of Sonia Gandhi. I certainly do not share the contempt entertained in certain quarters, for what they call the dynastic rule of the Nehru family. On the contrary, I am inclined to believe that the goodwill enjoyed by the family on account of its unique contribution to the nation’s history and polity is wholly justified and is certainly not a case of misplaced reverence. But it is also my conviction that the heritage and legacy of that family could be better served and preserved if they are confined to the pages of history and not extended to the present world of murky politics. Successive inheritors have only been witness to the consistent erosion of the hold of the family on the masses and any further perpetuation of the family’s role may end up in an even more regrettable dilution of the esteem of that lineage. The line should have, in fact, ended with Indira, and had it happened fate would have spared the gentle Rajiv, who was a very reluctant entrant, all the turmoil he went through which ultimately culminated in his ghastly death. The days of charisma and legacy getting the better of ideology and reason are long over and this is quite evident from the election trends of the last decade when several adored leaders and their so-called successors had bit the dust at the hustings.

But then, all this is now, useless hind-sight though Congressmen would like to call it foresight. The fact is that, after years of deliberation and dilemma, Sonia Gandhi has decided to take her ‘rightful’ place in the familiar white-mattressed room that houses the CWC meetings and has even commenced her reign in right earnest, without wasting a second. In a way, it was only a formality, as for quite some time now the strings that made the puppets dance had their other ends firmly in the grip of 10, Janpath which has been pulling them to suit its convenience all along. It is only our fond hope that we will no longer have any use for ‘sources close to 10 Janpath’ and instead get to know everything from the horse’s mouth itself.

Nehru was natural and a visionary. Indira was inimitable and authoritative. Rajiv was royal and gentle. Sonia, to this day remains an enigma and an unknown quantity. She remains so for the Congressmen too, who neither know anything about her nor do they appear keen to learn. Lost in the political wilderness, they desperately wanted her to lead them and she has obliged, though she took her own sweet time about it, until the Congressmen were literally on their knees. She is now the leader because the Congressmen begged her to take charge. That would be the record, now. That was the way she wanted it, too.

And what an impressive beginning! The way Sitaram Kesri was dumped and the bloodless putsch which saw Soniaji effortlessly taking over the mantle of Congress leadership on that eventful Saturday would ever remain an unsavoury memory. But then was all this covert machinations and skullduggery warranted, that too, just to get a meek Kesri removed? Though as there could be no mourners for the present plight of that much harried old man in a hurry, yet one certainly feels that the coronation of the queen could have been a little more graceful. After all, there was not a soul in the Congress, who was against Sonia taking over the leadership and that included Kesri too, and the same could have been achieved sans all the despicable drama that was on show yesterday. But the fact that the lady felt such a coup was necessary, as there could be no denying that it had her blessings, only offers a disconcerting insight into her style of operating and is a pointer to what lies in store.

The timing and the surprising speed with which the whole operation was carried out are also significant. Though Kesri had announced his ‘intention’ to quit, he did not do so immediately and instead kept mumbling something about rules and formalities. For the lawless Congressmen who are solely guided by whims and convenience such legal gibberish was clearly unpalatable. The sudden bottleneck in the BJP’s scheme rekindled their hopes of a stint in the corridors of power and the unexpected tete-a-tete between Kesri and the President unsettled the Kesri-baiters, while emboldening the old man to hurry up faster in the pursuit of his only ambition, making him even forget his earlier commitment to quit. Sonia was impatient and the pro-changers were belligerent. The prospect of a Kesri leading the pack in the event of a Congress bid, dawned on them and they lost no time in unceremoniously booting him out and foisting the lady on the pedestal, all in the hope that the sudden turn of events may favour their party. However, Sonia’s pre-emptive strike has now been rendered irrelevant as the BJP-AIADMK face-off came to an end and the possibilities of the President inviting Vajpayee has brightened following the presentation of the letters of support. Still Congressmen can take comfort from the fact that their prayers have been heeded with Kesri out of the way, their goddess of deliverance firmly entrenched and their future secured, all in a day.

So much for the best laid plans of mice, men and Congressmen.

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Jawahar T R