This column is authored by Kashyap Naik, a practising lawyer.
In a recent speech during August 2017 at Bangalore, Amit Shah, the national president of BJP, interestingly cited a few fundamentals for a political party: “The worth and credibility of a political party is mainly determined by three factors, (a) The aims and objectives with which the political party was formed, (b) How internal democracy is maintained in that party, especially because it aspires to rule a democratic country and © What are the highlights and achievements of that political party when it came to power?”
Before I continue to quote him further, it is necessary to pause and reflect on the fact that irrespective of what Amit Shah might say to denigrate the Congress or glorify the BJP, the aforementioned fundamentals are both vital and intrinsic to the effective functioning and success of a political party.
Qualifications of the Bharatiya Janata Party as a Political Party
Amit Shah claimed that the BJP, in its previous birth known as the Jana Sangh, was founded by Shyam Prasad Mukherjee. It was founded not with the motive of wielding political power or as an anti-Congress formation. Rather, it was founded with a bona fide intent of placing on record the agenda, principles and policies which ought to be followed or included by government while ruling the country.
Amit Shah claimed that the Jana Sangh was imbued much less with a politician’s attitude and more with that of a statesman. The political and economic history of mankind has proven that blind allegiance to principles and ethos takes you away from political power and monetary profit. Jana Sangh and later, the BJP paid its price by not realizing this and waited for five decades before amassing enough majority to hold the reins of a damaged chariot with wounded horses.
Amit Shah took pride in recounting statistics to show how the NDA government cured the BIMARU states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) and ushered development there, how the GDP in the country rose during NDA’s regime, etc. He also maintained that there was a great internal democracy within the party where a poor labourer, a tea-seller or a post office boy could hold high posts in his party.
The purpose of this article is not to canvass for the BJP but to use Amit Shah’s speech as a base to build upon.
The History of the Congress Party
Many of us, who have studied history in our school textbooks know that Indian National Congress was founded by Allan Octavian Hume in 1885. But many in the present generation hardly realise that the only commonality between the Congress of the 19th Century and of the 21st century is only the name.
Those who choose to ignore political history must be reminded that when some Congressmen chose to question the hereditary lineage of Jawaharlal Nehru vis a vis the leadership of Indira Gandhi, she promptly founded the Indian National Congress (R) [‘R’ stood for ‘Requisitionists’ or in ‘Rebels’ in colloquial parlance] in 1967. She then showcased ruthless political craftsmanship in wielding power through her new party.
One more round of revolt within the party in 1978, and the Congress (I) was founded [‘I’ meaning, Indira]. After bouncing back to rule with a higher majority, Indira’s Congress was upheld as the original Congress by the Election Commission of India.
Thus the tributary that had flowed through several drains amassing all kinds of political filth attained sanctity through the name of the original party. By this time several feathers like emergency, privy purse abolition, land acquisitions, attempt to alter the basic structure of the constitution, ouster of other leaders, scams, etc had adorned the cap. No matter what, the nourishment of the roots and fidelity of the founding values of an organisation becomes essential to its longevity and splendour. By splendour, I mean richness in values and political strength and certainly not the one which most politicians today possess.
The political saga of the ruling parties in the country need not be told here especially when each politician, irrespective of political allegiance, has consistently mastered the art of mudslinging. We all know the promises made, broken, remade, ignored and kept by each of the political parties, both at centre and states. A political party is not what it claims but is what it does, when in power. Leaders of the UPA or the NDA are no exception to this rule and to an educated voter who refuses to wear the colourful spectacles offered by the media, they all stand naked.
Speaking of internal democracy, it is thoughtless to even debate over the established fact that the Congress can only be headed by members of one family while all others in that party can compete for an unranked, subservient position. Politically prudent Congress leaders have happily settled to be the bosses at the state level, with occasional interference by the Central leadership — an itch which they can withstand.
While it may sound true for many Congress workers that the name ‘Gandhi’ and a relationship to Nehru alone might win them votes, recent trends are manifest that the leaders whose origin they worship have themselves become or are becoming rapidly irrelevant. The holy cow is losing its status and many books now adorn bookshops where audacious or brave authors don’t think twice in calling mule a mule: a dynast a dynast.
Rahul Gandhi as a person, does not command the attention of a prudent and conscious citizen even in matters concerning current affairs and politics of India. It is immaterial whether circumstances conspired to cast him into politics. But the president or a president elect of a national political party which has ruled the country for over five decades certainly needs urgent, all-round attention. History tells us that even the best of the empires, which once witnessed the glory of great men, conquerors, the wise and the wealthy, eventually fell on its knees bringing tears to some and joy to many. The manner in which a few good kings make an empire is the same manner in which it brings its own destruction upon itself.
The Indian National Congress is no exception to that rule.
Future of the Congress Party
And now, it’s the need of the hour for a non–Nehru central leadership of the Congress to shun its Nehruvian baggage and focus on the party by handing over the reins to a leader outside the family. Four generations of dynasty leadership have run its course.
After all, what has become of the Congress today? A self-mocking, utterly stupid, and ignorant man heading the helm of affairs with the sole qualification of hierarchy-by-blood. A person who is unable to win a by-election or a state election is expected to work miracles and appear like a phoenix to rise from the ashes. The sheer impossibility of this prospect is evident even to the so-called unlettered masses.
And so, the strength and the glory of the history of Congress Party, however fascinating it may sound, cannot alter the present reality. I am reminded of a verse from the work ‘Raghuvamsha’ of Kalidasa, when the poet chooses to describe the last and irresponsible king of the dynasty, Agnivarna:
व्योम पश्चिमकलास्थितेन्दु वा
पङ्कशेषमिव घर्मपल्वलम् |
वामनार्चिरिव दीपभाजनम् ||
Like the sky a day before the new moon day, like a lake reduced to marsh during summer and like the dying flame of a lamp grazing the lamp itself, the solar race had come to the brink of extinction when Agnivarṇa fell ill.
This perfectly applies to the present-day Congress, which is sinking into abysmal depths under the ably destructive hands of Rahul Gandhi. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the crowning of Rahul Gandhi as the president of the Indian National Congress may well mark the ultimate beginning of the final annihilation.
Lessons for the BJP
As for the leaders of the BJP, howsoever popular they may be, the truth is that the Congress party has provided them great assistance by electing Rahul Gandhi to fight Narendra Modi in the 2019 general elections. Despite this, the BJP’s think tank shouldn’t forget the fact that irrespective of what the outcome of the next general elections may be, they need to be cautious in ensuring that their party doesn’t face the scenario that the Congress today faces. Hubris and seeming invincibility are unfortunate handmaids of immense power, clouding judgment and wisdom.
Jawaharlal Nehru, who had the privilege of working and transacting with some of the best of men our country produced in the 19th and 20th century, maintained a sense of honour and dignity towards many of them. Differences of opinions, refusal of a request or command, a sound advice — both political and apolitical by persons even not so friendly with him found some space in his ambitious brain.
Come next generation, we see an adamant attitude with an even stronger will to strain all nerves to suit her political ambitions. When the schemes for the country’s progress and prosperity aligned to the master’s prosperity, they endured. Else, they perished.
In the next dynastic succession, the king found a sadistic balance to manage the nation’s economics while building his own wealth, even if that cost the national treasury a few hundred crores in loans.
And during the last twin-regime of UPA, all literary devices and embellishments fail in describing the lecherous act of its politicians who went on a usurping rampage and scorched India in a million ways: by ruining its moral and ethical fibre and razing its economy.
When the stories of and the values which our forefathers abided by are framed and locked up in a public museum as relics of a bygone era, what sense of duty, responsibility, morality and inheritance could we possibly expect to uphold?
The last five decades are a living lesson for all of us, more so for the BJP: if only to realise that this sense of honesty, duty, morality and responsibility is not a drug that can be injected whenever we fall sick. It is a thought-process that has to be nurtured, grown, protected and strengthened with each generation contributing effectively and cautiously. Some of the present heads, who are at the helm of the BJP, at least grew with the nourishment of moral education, patriotism, etc. The lust for power has already corrupted this party so much so that the line of difference between many of the politicians in either party has obscured.
Unless an honest attempt is made to re-lay the foundational ethos, morality, public responsibility, etc (what is called “लोक ऋण” or in the words of Maharshi Veda Vyasa “मनुष्य ऋण”) while grooming younger political leaders of any party, at least to an extent of what they learn from their elders, the BJP too, won’t take much longer to reach the nadir that the Congress has today reached.