In the end, it’s political stability and progress that count
Dynastic politics is a reality in the developing world and even, to some extent, in the developed world.
While political experts often opine that dynasties are not a good political culture for a country, no one can ignore the fundamental right of an individual to participate in politics and compete for the position of public offices irrespective of whether his family members are or were in politics.
Putting too much energy in public discourse just to keep out certain individuals from some families at the cost of greater stability and progress simply isn’t worth it. It’s truer for a country like India, where finding common binding threads among the population and within a big national political party aren’t too easy.
Hence, Rahul Gandhi of India’s Congress party and many others of lower tiers of Indian politics can’t be considered undesirable in politics. Political dynasties can only go after much further advancement of society. But that’s not something forthcoming in this part of the world.
Regardless of these realities and several decades of debate over these matters, part of the Indian political class, media, and intelligentsia appear obsessed with demeaning the recent generations of Gandhi-Nehru decedents who are active in politics, and who have great prospect to achieve the highest political rise.
Most vocal is the Hindu right-wing Sangh Parivar, and their political outfit the BJP, which is in power now. Ironically, the party within its own fold have several lower-tier leaders from political families, and even it has Maneka and Barun Gandhi as its leaders.
It’s obvious that there is no principle here. It’s just mean propaganda, political convenience, and opportunism.
If someone, without any prejudice, analyzes Rahul Gandhi, or for that matter the Gandhi-Nehru family, one will find them erudite, cultured people with a lot of statesmanship. Modi and cohorts keep talking about the Gandhi family without caring for any political propriety, but the Gandhis have the decency not to talk about others’ families.
Neither do the Gandhis have accumulated massive wealth, with their political sway, like many other political families of other countries.
Rahul Gandhi bears all these trademarks of the family, and this would be considered very good by any normal person. It’s the relentless Goebbelsian propaganda that creates an abnormal political climate.
However, there is this question of social mobility within the political class. But that has very much happened in India under Nehruvian liberal political order at various levels of politics.
There were occasions -- Narasimha Rao’s time or the Congress Presidency period of Sitaram Kesri, when the Gandhis took the back seat, only to see the decay of the politically precious Congress party.
The demise of the old and most established liberal all India party like Indian National Congress will simply be a disaster for the political system of the country and may even spell danger for the vast and diverse India’s integrity.
The problem with most Indian media -- they just don’t want to report and analyze, they also want to be part of making political changes in certain direction at a certain time regardless of the uncertainty of the direction they are striving for. The Gandhis and Congress party are frequently the common targets.
These, deliberate by some and inadvertent by others, acts eventually result in aiding right-wing forces which wasn’t the intention of many of these media or political players in the first place.
History repeated itself in the 90s, early years of this century, and in 2014.
In 2014, Indian media, civil society, and political class were in hysteria in blaming Rahul Gandhi initially for poor leadership and later for the worst electoral performance of the Congress party in history, conveniently forgetting the contribution of the same person for good result of Congress in 2009.
They also deliberately ignored the natural anti-incumbency factor after a decade-long rule of Congress-led UPA. A big number of people announced the permanent demise of the Gandhis and Congress party from Indian politics.
In the next three years or so, BJP won more state elections and, along with its allies, it started ruling more than 70% of India at state level alongside its overwhelming hold in the central government. Many suggested the Gandhis and especially Rahul retire from politics.
Rahul, however, had the maturity and foresight to understand the setback and see the prospect of revival. After the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh era, he has now climbed up to the helm of the Congress party following a two-decade-long political career at various tiers of the party.
In the last one year, he delivered an impressive result the in Gujarat state elections, won back Punjab from BJP with the help of fellow old guard of Congress Capt Amarinder Singh and by attracting charismatic Navjat Singh Sidhu from the BJP to the Congress.
Now, his leadership delivered three key Hindi belt states, considered the bastion of the Saffron, right before few months of the next general election in India. He has also made direct and indirect alliances with more and powerful regional parties.
Rahul gradually grasped political aggressiveness and his relentless tearing off of the Modi government on performance issues seems to be paying off.
While, just a year back, the 2019 Lok Sabha election was considered a cake walk for Modi and BJP, the situation has become more obscure now -- potentially in favour of Congress. Rahul maintained old alliances with regional parties and made new ones who abandoned BJP.
Narendra Modi still has considerable appeal among the Hindi belt and western Indian voters. But it seems, in 2019, that may not be enough to pull off 2014 like the majority in the new backdrop of a more assertive and intelligent challenge from Rahul Gandhi.
If the latter is successful in bringing down BJP and allies below a simple majority and make substantial addition in Congress tally, then he or anyone else from the secular bloc will probably address the Indians on their 73rd Independence Day from the Red Fort of Delhi.
Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury is an opinion contributor to the Dhaka Tribune.