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Congress dynasty matrix
By Sandhya Jain
By now even the most steadfast sycophants of the Congress party's premier dynasty can deny that Mr. Rahul Gandhi's elevation as general secretary and CWC member has failed to enthuse either the rank and file or the people at large. Even friendly political analysts are unsure if the so-called 'new generation' leaders, mostly the offspring of Ministers or MPs close to the Gandhi family, can find favour with a new generation of Indian voters. Other political parties, convinced that the rising Congress leadership is no threat, are at the same time uncertain if complacency with the old is the best option with a looming midterm election.
To my mind, much of the confusion is due to the steady secularisation of our political discourse and thought process, which has made us forget that India thinks in terms of eras (yugas), rather than mere generations (peedhis). As yugas span multiple generations, only those politicians or parties can enjoy long-term success that address issues and aspirations that span multiple generations—that is, they have appeal for all genders and generations in every Indian home. Mrs Indira Gandhi's garibi hatao and the BJP's Ramjanmabhoomi movements had such cross-gender and cross-generation appeal; Mr. Rajiv Gandhi's spin doctors emphasised youth in terms of age rather than aspirations and values to gloss over the fact that inheritance was his sole USP. This is even truer of his son Rahul: his disconnect with ideology and people is too glaring to be overlooked.
Mr. Gandhi has been in politics long enough to learn the ropes and for people to judge if he has the potential to make it to the top league. His first interview as he tried to chalk out his political career early in 2004 had to be hastily denied by the Congress party. The newsmagazine that produced the scoop, famed for its uncompromising crusading zeal, saw wisdom in a tactical retreat. So though the interview-that-wasn't was not a figment of the journalists' imagination, it was a 'misunderstanding.' Shorn of journalese, this means the interview fully reflected the immaturity of Sonia's boy, but the journal in question should have known better than to publish it.
Rahul's next real stint in public eye came with the much touted captaincy of the Congress campaign in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in May 2007. Some loyal retainers ensured he did not officially take responsibility for improving the electoral output of the moribund party. And so when the party raked in an abysmal 22 seats after road-shows and other media tamashas, the young man conveniently left the state president to take the rap and went underground! He surfaced after a few days, blaming the party machinery for failing to live up to his efforts; a view echoed by his mother later in her address to the Congress Parliamentary Party. This is clearly not the stuff that leaders are made off. Fate seems to agree. That is why, just when the looming mid-term elections made the Congress president launch the party's "future" as general secretary, the event was eclipsed by India's Twenty20 World Cup victory.
More ominous is the manner in which Ms. Sonia Gandhi has converted the party into a 'club' of scions of political cronies of the late Rajiv Gandhi. This may increase Rahul Gandhi's personal comfort levels he functioned through a small coterie in the UP elections which ended in a rout. So it is questionable if the new fangled Publicity Committee and "group to look into future challenges" can deliver the goods at grassroots level.
Rahul Gandhi is a part of the committee on future challenges; its purpose is to build political strategies on key issues such as the controversy over OBC quota in education and the Ram Sethu. This 13-member body includes stalwarts like Veerappa Moily, Digvijay Singh and Dr Parmeshwar, Union Ministers Vayalar Ravi, Prithviraj Chavan, Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh (convener), and young MPs like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sandeep Dikshit and Sachin Pilot and leaders like Mukul Wasnik and Salman Khurshid.
There is a disconnect between Rahul Gandhi's sharp elevation as full-fledged CWC member and the accommodation of other youngsters as AICC secretaries: Jyotiraditya Scindia, Ajay Maken, Priya Dutt, Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasad, Sandeep Dikshit and Harender Mirdha. Even the reconstituted Publicity and Publication Committee headed by Digvijay Singh includes Rahul Gandhi.
Ms. Sonia Gandhi should have pondered the merits of promoting Rahul Gandhi so steeply above other contemporaries. When Mr Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1984, he accommodated close chums Arun Nehru and Arun Singh as Ministers of State in the ministries of Home and Defence respectively. Political observers had misgivings over how this disparity - denial of even Cabinet rank to close confidants - would play out. As is well known, both men parted ways with Mr Rajiv Gandhi, and his own fortunes saw a remarkable fall with their exit.
At a dinner hosted by Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari, Ms. Gandhi dubbed the changes "long overdue," which implies they were well thought out. Yet the reshuffle of the AICC, supposedly drawing talent from the government and parliamentary party to balance groups and regions, raises eyebrows over her perceptions and vision.
There are 11 general secretaries. These include Minister of State Prithviraj Chavan (J&K, Karnataka); Minister of State Ajay Maken (Jharkhand, Orissa); Lok Sabha MP Kishore Chandra Deo ( Bihar ). Ms. Mohsina Kidwai represents Muslims and is in-charge of Kerala and the Mahila Congress; upper castes are represented by Mr. Motilal Vora and Mr. Janardan Dwivedi; Dalits by Mr. Mukul Wasnik and Mr. K.C. Deo; OBCs by Mr. B.K. Hari Prasad and minorities by Ms. Margaret Alva (The Hindustan Times, September 25, 2007).
This is astonishing. Congress is now providing representation to Muslims as "Muslims" and to Christians as "minorities." This surely reflects a larger design to push communal quotas for Christians and Muslims separately, first at state level through its own government (Andhra Pradesh) or through friendly regimes (Tamil Nadu), and then at the Centre (through the Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Mishra Commission).
A separate representative for Christians (minorities) suggests a dangerous adherence to the church's evangelical agenda, which is being aggressively promoted by the Vatican and various Protestant denominations headquartered in America and Europe. It is surely an interesting coincidence that most P-5 countries seeking to cap India 's nuclear programme are also major sponsors of evangelism in India. Sonia Gandhi's divisive agenda has never been more obvious: it is time to tell her that she has outlived her welcome in India.