Democracy has nothing to fear from dynasty
The Congress’ Lok Sabha defeat has nothing to do with the dynasty but lies in its inability to create a vision of a ‘strong man’, writes Uddalok Bhattacharya
The opposition to the dynasty in the Congress is now beginning to look like an example of mob temperament. This is a middle-class initiative. The poor think they have little to lose from whether the dynasty rules the Congress or not since they are losers or likely losers in any case, whichever way the social balance tilts. The very rich have too much of a stake in protecting their riches and hence do not want to offend anyone who can get back at them. Who is left? The people who are just keen to preserve the gains that they have not earned over the past 65 years, under the aegis of the ‘licence-permit’ raj, under the sheltering care of our ‘socialist’ government run by a dynasty, and so on. It is often heard the Congress left the masses in poverty. It did indeed. But, just as for every buyer there is a seller, in this game of social transaction the loss to the poor has accrued to the cosseted and pampered middle classes.
Futile though it may be, but one may put a question before our anti-dynasty crusaders: How far has the dynastic trunk of the Congress been an inhibiting factor in the growth of democracy? Despite the dynasty, has the Congress not gone out of power, not once but several times? Have the people who voted against the Congress this time done so because a dynasty was there? Then the logic is inescapable that when people voted for the Congress in past elections, they did so for the dynasty.
How has the dynasty factor made the situation in the Congress different from any other party? First there was Jawaharlal Nehru, who did not put his daughter, Indira Gandhi, in any ministerial position. Then came Indira Gandhi, and along with her sons, Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi. And now it is the mother-son duo. Together what have they done? Did they prevent other leaders from growing? They may have had. Did they allow themselves to be surrounded by loyalists? It’s a reasonable surmise they did. Did they hold regular party elections? The Congress last did in 2000 and Sonia Gandhi won handsomely. (When did the BJP last have an elected president? When was its national executive or parliamentary board elected by the rank and file?) What happened in the process because of the activities of the dynasty? It was the Congress that was grievously hurt. No more, no less. Only a Congressman (or woman) can have a legitimate grouse that his ambitions are being thwarted because of the dynasty and its sidekicks being in command.
There is another aspect to this. Pray where were the people who are railing against the dynasty now in 1980, when Indira Gandhi returned to power in the way she did, with her son Sanjay lurking ominously in the background? Pray where were these people in 1981, when Rajiv Gandhi was elected for the first time from Amethi? Pray where was their anti-dynasty feeling in 1982, when Rajiv Gandhi became Congress general secretary? If the dynasty is so morally repugnant, how did the third prime minister from one family get 404 seats in 1984? Is it the dynasty people are complaining about? Or something else? The Congress’ miserable defeat this time has been because it could not create a vision of a ‘strong man’. But it had done this earlier. And hence the ‘dynasty’ did not reveal itself as that much of a sinful thing. The BJP has been able to do it and the middle classes feel they are secure in the glow of the warmth a strong man is able to provide.
It is often heard that state support for the poor and marginalised people is intended to perpetuate their dependence on the Congress and like-minded parties. These semi-articulate elements would perhaps like to hide that they themselves are the products of our welfare State, nurtured so assiduously by, in their logic, the dynasty. Are they willing the pay back anything to society now?
So we can only conclude that democracy in India has nothing to fear from the dynasty.