Congress leader Margaret Alva’s son-tanned visage on television screens the other day was a veritable giveaway. Her sensational charge that tickets were sold in the recent Karnataka assembly polls wasn’t out of concern as much for the party. What drove her rage was her motherly instincts for son Nivedith, maker of television blockbuster Indian Idol, for whom she had failed to fetch a Congress nomination.
Partisan observers and beat reporters have tended to give their own spin to the Alva opera. Some view it as evidence of an intra-party power play and some as a solo act of indiscipline that has — regardless of whom the distraught leader was aiming at — caused deep embarrassment to the top Congress leadership.
As AICC general secretary, Alva was a Sonia Gandhi-appointee. In going public with her allegations, she has inflicted as much harm on the Congress leadership as Natwar Singh, who had let love for his family have the better of his loyalty to the party in the face of the oil-for-food scandal.
Filthy lucre indeed cuts across parties when it comes to selecting candidates. The Congress’s Palm has its share of grease, the BJP’s Lotus its share of slush. But what matters eventually is the aspirants’ ability to win. Lineage or ability to line pockets aren’t the only determining attributes.
Sons, spouses, betis and bahus haven’t merely become MPs and MLAs. In Harayna, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, to name a few states, they’ve occupied chief ministerial offices: Rabri Devi, O.P. Chautala, Shyamacharan Shukla.
“People associate with faces and family names. We are a country of mega and mini-dynasties,” said former Union minister Bhishma Narain Singh who served on Indira Gandhi’s parliamentary board. “There are aberrations often in the selection process that have to be discussed within the party, not before television cameras. Alva isn’t a political novice not to have known that,” he averred.
Rather than take the moral high ground by holding brief for an ordinary party worker, she went public with a personal grievance. By citing the case of another senior leader, Jaffer Sharief’s grandson, who too was denied a party ticket, she appeared choreographing a wider dissent. Bad politics, bad priority at a time her party is gearing up for polls in five assemblies.
On the flipside, Alva has placed in public domain an issue discussed in hushed tones in political circles. It remains to be seen whether her ostensibly self-serving act will stem the rot!