Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Note: The Hindi translation of this post appears here.
There is something peculiarly symbolic about today: at the ICC World Cup 20Twenty finals at Johannesburg, India beat Pakistan by five runs with only three balls to go; some hours earlier, the executive body of India’s largest political party, AICC, announced a major organizational revamp at its headquarters at New Delhi. Both these apparently unrelated incidents, however, were united by one common feature: in ICC as well as in the AICC, the Ancien Régime is finally- and decisively- making way for a ‘Brave New World’ (to use Aldous Huxley’s phrase), in which teams comprising the Youth will determine Destiny’s trajectory.

These new teams are captained by persons who couldn’t have been more different: Mahinder Singh Dhoni, the Captain of ‘Team India’, comes from a middle-class family living in the predominantly tribal state of Jharkhand; Rahul Gandhi, the newly appointed AICC General Secretary in-charge of its two youth bodies, the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and the National Students’ Union Of India (NSUI), is the Harvard-educated heir-apparent of India’s principal political dynasty (his father, grandmother and great—grandfather have all been Prime Ministers). Mr. Dhoni’s elevation to the captaincy, therefore, marks a fundamental break with the past: the focus of national cricket has shifted from the ‘metros’ (which formerly supplied most of India’s top cricketers) to the hinterland.

In contrast, Mr. Gandhi’s appointment is at best, indicative of an ambiguous continuity with a definitive past eagerly poised to leap into- and seize- an as-yet-uncertain future, and at worst, something of an anachronism, especially when viewed from the point of view of the ‘liberal mindset’, impregnated as it is by the twin-ideas of democracy and industrialization (to adapt Professor Eric Von Hobsbawm’s analysis), which universally criticizes- if not outrightly condemns- dynastic politics of any kind as a fallback to a feudal past.In his memoirs, ‘The White House Years’, Dr. Henry Kissinger (who incidentally taught at Harvard before famously serving in the Nixon Administration) squarely blames this ‘liberal mindset’ as the single most important stumbling block in the scion of America’s richest dynasty, Nelson Rockefeller’s successive failed attempts to secure his party’s nomination for the U.S. Presidency in 1960, 1964, and 1968, thereby implying that Mr. Rockefeller was perhaps ‘the best President America never had’. [Like Rudolph Giuliani, another successful Republican from New York, Mr. Rockefeller, despite being a Republican, was perhaps a tad too liberal for his own good.]

Indeed, the persistence of dynastic politics especially in the democratic context presents a paradox that cannot be easily explained. In post-colonial, ‘underdeveloped’ societies, it is sought to be justified by taking recourse to such obfuscated concepts as the neo-psychoanalyst, Carl Gustav Jung’s postulation of the ‘hero-worship complex’ embedded deeply in the ‘collective unconscious’. Political dynasties, however, are not limited to the so-called ‘Third World’. Quite naturally then, more pragmatic reasons are put forward in the context of ‘developed’ societies. For instance, a recent biographer of ‘the Bush Dynasty’, Peter Schweizer, accounts for the prevalence of dynastic politics in the United States of America by exploring the systematic domination of family-based ‘patron-client networks’ over established party structures: apparently, Barbara Bush’s meticulously compiled Rotadex of tens of thousands of color-coded cards beats the entire Republican Party’s electoral apparatus when it comes to the two things that matter in winning elections: ‘fund raising’ and ‘campaign management’. In India, which, as a ‘developing’ nation, might well be placed somewhere between these two worlds, it is hard to deny that both the ‘hero-worship complex’ and the ‘patron-client network’ factors are at work to a certain extent. But the real reason for the continuing popularity of the young Mr. Gandhi’s family lies elsewhere.

At the risk of digressing, it becomes pertinent here to refer to Sunil Khilnani’s seminal work, ‘An Idea of India’. In this treatise, the Princeton-based Professor Khilnani makes a radical observation: a fully formed national identity did not precede Independence; indeed, that was left principally to India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to ‘discover’ (not surprisingly, his most celebrated work is entitled “The Discovery of India”, a must-read for every Indian). This he did by putting forth the notion of “Unity in Diversity”, which forms the bedrock of India’s Constitution. For Pandit Nehru, the Constitution itself was to act as the chief instrument against the only-too-real centrifugal forces of ‘casteism’, ‘communalism’, ‘regionalism’ and ‘linguistic-divide’, which though temporarily suppressed- first by the forceful politico-administrative apparatus of the British Raj and then by the subsequent euphoria of the Freedom Struggle- would surely begin to resurface, fuelled by considerations of what C.B. Macpherson labels ‘votebank politics’. As Rajni Kothari points out, he couldn’t have been more perceptive: the balance between the ‘national’ and these other centrifugal forces began to reverse after the rupture of India’s ‘monolithic polity’ (read: the rise and growth of non-Congress parties).

More recent history has borne witness to the fact that the single greatest threat to India’s national identity (or atleast the one conceived by Mr. Nehru and the Constitution) has come from ‘majority communalism’ masquerading as ‘democracy’. Unlike other centrifugal forces that merely seek to use identity as a tool for capturing greater power within the preexisting Constitutional framework, communalism, particularly majority communalism, specifically seeks to exclude other Indians (read: the minorities) from the process of governance altogether. Majority communalism, self-styled as ‘Hindutva’, is, however, based on one faulty- and ultimately self-defeating- assumption: the Unity of the Hindu Samaj (in the words of Madhavrao Golwalkar, the RSS supremo at the time of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination: “Hindu samaj mein sangathan nahi, Samaj ka sangathan hai”). As the recent election of Mayawati in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (UP), has revealed (much to the chagrin of the Hindutva bandwagon), almost every ‘Hindu’- or to use a more apt phrase from Louis Dumont, ‘Homo Hierarchichus’- sees himself or herself not in terms of their religion per se, but in respect of a far more primary identity: Caste. To situate Professor Dumont’s argument in the Khilnani Hypothesis, ‘casteism’ and ‘majority communalism’ (a.k.a. Hindutva) are, in essence, self-contradictory species of the ‘national identity’ genus. In any event, neither of these forces seem to be on their way out.

This brief background, in my opinion, is critical to understanding the role of Mr. Gandhi’s family within the broader framework of India’s national identity. Prior to his appointment as AICC General Secretary, Mr. Gandhi’s political experience comprised chiefly of being his party’s main campaigner in the UP Assembly election. The campaign line adopted by Mr. Gandhi, no different from his forbearers, attacked both caste- and religion-centric politics as divisive; in short, he spoke about “Unity in Diversity”, and his family’s role in preserving that ideal; he also appealed to the electorate to rise above these ‘other’ considerations and vote for the ‘national’ one. As it turned out, the outcome of that election revealed, above all else, his great-grandfather’s prescience: despite huge turnouts at his public meetings, Mr. Gandhi’s party finished a very distant fourth, after two caste-based parties, the BSP and SP, which were in turn followed by the Hindutva-centric BJP; this in a state that only two decades ago, constituted the principal base of the Congress.

What, then, went wrong? Or to put it differently: what went right for Ms. Mayawati’s BSP, which formed a majority government in UP after almost 18 turbulent years of minority governments? The reason is quite simple, really: the successful reinvention of the BSP as ‘the New Congress’. Ms. Mayawati’s advisors decided to extend her mentor, the late Mr. Kashiram’s ‘arithmetic logic’ (or what is more commonly called ‘the number game’) from within the confines of the Vidhan Sabha (what we know as 'horse-trading'), and applied it directly to the electorate. They realized that on its own, the BSP’s relatively committed ‘Dalit’ votebank couldn’t form a government; what was needed, therefore, was to supplement it with other votebanks, most notably, the Brahmins (who constitute 14% of UP’s electorate) and the minorities (who rightly saw Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP as playing into the hands of the BJP). Together this tripartite votebank alliance of Dalits, Brahmins and Muslims paved the way for an unprecedented BSP victory in UP (D+B+M= BSP). [Her main rival, Mr. Yadav’s SP, on the other hand, could barely retain its Yadav votebank; the Thakurs were almost uniformly split between the SP and Mr. Rajnath Singh’s BJP. Coincidentally, this same ‘DBM’ combination constituted the Congress’ votebank in the days when it ruled UP; hence the term ‘the New Congress’ for the BSP.]

Most significantly, this election showed the BSP that the same formula- although not necessarily comprising the same castes/communities- can be applied to other states as well. For example, the BSP is talking to Bhajan Lal in Haryana to form an alliance between the Dalit and the non-Jat votebanks; in Jharkhand, they are talking to Sibhu Soren of the JMM to form an alliance between the Dalit and the tribal votebanks. Thus are being laid the foundations of Ms. Mayawati’s grandest ‘experiment’: the Mahajyot. To situate Mahajyot in the Khilnani Hypothesis, Ms. Mayawati hopes to once again reverse the balance of forces: her ultimate aim is not so much to reincarnate the pre-1967 Monolithic polity (in other words, become the Congress of old) but instead to endeavor systematically- bit by bit, state by state- to construct a Megalithic polity around the ‘superstructure’ of her Dalit votebank. The use of Marxist terminology here seems only too apt: for doesn’t Karl Marx postulate an alliance between the proletariat (read: Dalit) and the bourgeoisie (read: other non-communal identities) to topple the Ancien Regime? [Note that this proposed alliance didn’t quite materialize as Professor Marx had predicted; the failure of continental revolts of 1848 proved him tragically wrong.]

In my opinion, such an arithmetic approach cannot be good for the country; not in the long run, anyway. At best, it can be a necessary instrument for propelling issue-based politics. To truly progress as a democracy, we need to rise above identity-based considerations- infact, there ought only to be one identity, i.e., the national identity- and instead focus on issues that really matter; concrete things that would make a very real- tangible- difference in the lives of India’s poor, like employment, health care, education, electricity, water-supply, roads. We ought not to vote for someone just because we share the same identity- which is to say that that someone belongs to our caste or community- but because we know for certain that he or she cares for us and knows how to solve our problems, that our interests will be given primacy over his or her own; that he or she has, above all, a vision for our future, the several yet joined futures of our unborn children’s children. Indeed, it doesn’t matter how that person has come into power: what matters- and what history will ultimately judge- is what that person did to better the condition of his fellow human beings once he came to be there.

As the discussion above reveals, Mr. Gandhi has come into a Mephistophelean world: as I see it, it is a world full of promises but it is also a world bent on dismantling the very ‘national identity’ his ancestors not only helped painstakingly built, telling us, teaching us, to celebrate the Unity in our Diversity, our Oneness, but also laid down their lives fighting to protect it. If that world is to survive, as indeed it must, then India’s best hope lies in the Family. For they belong to no one caste, community, religion or region; and yet they belong to each and everyone of us irrespective of who we are, what we speak and where we come from, for the simple reason that, not unlike India’s Constitution, they are the best and only embodiment of our cherished ‘national identity’ by virtue of the unique 'burden and glory' history has charged them with. No other Family can claim to represent the whole of India. If we are to survive and prosper as a Nation, then none other than the Family can lead us: they remain our surest Defense against the forces that are tearing us apart; they are our best Hope to take India to the forefront of the family of nations. But that alone cannot- should not- suffice.

Sixty years ago, when his great-grandfather made ‘a tryst with destiny’, he identified four ‘non-negotiable’ principles that he hoped would keep India united: Sovereignty, Democracy, Secularism and Socialism. These Four Pillars have, more or less, withstood the test of time; even in the worst of times (the demolition of the Baburi Masjid and the Gujarat Genocide, to name only two), they have exhibited a remarkable resilience. Striding atop these Four Pillars, his mother went to the people and almost single handedly reversed ‘the cavalcade of history’ (to use Mr. Arjun Singh’s phrase) to achieve the unthinkable: the forces of majority communalism are today everywhere in retreat. Mr. Gandhi will have to prove himself to be a Guardian worthy of protecting the sanctity of these Four Pillars from ever-deadlier enemies, just as his forbearers have been. But even more than that, he will have to identify new issues- and strategies- that will reinforce the foundation of these Four Pillars, and upon which he- we- can together Build still Greater Monuments that will translate our Dreams into Reality.

Jai Hind!


19 comments (टिप्पणी):

Undertrial said...

To view comments to this post, please visit http://www.orkut.com/CommMsgs.aspx?cmm=58854&tid=2556971505824646490&na=4&nst=1&nid=58854-2556971505824646490-2557002463966413233.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

frankly speaking.......india does not need any gandhi family members........India has finally come of age........why don't these politicians promote someone with talent who does not belong to a political family........we want to see some fresh blood and fresh ideas
Ask Rahul Gandhi the Caste Statistic of his constituency........you will be suprised to see how accurate he is........

For me the bigger news was india winning the world cup than Rahul Gandhi becoming some AICC gen sec. or whatever.....

Tiger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tiger said...

People with a profile which has lesser Friends and more Communities, to my knowledge are people with a Spamming mentality..

They're not be believed.. "No Knowledge" as they say about The Divine Power.. (Rest is not to be said..)

People who have never stood for a Good Cause.. People who boast for things never done by them.. People who can only crib for things and not work against, even if its wrong.. Let them just Sulk..

A new leader in the making.. Rahul Gandhi.. Congratulations to him on being chosen as the head of the two groups.. He's a good leader..



Tiger said...

Sorry for the above deleted comment.. It was mine and i had, by mistake posted it..

Sorry again..


Sanjeet Tripathi said...

मुआफ़ी चाहूंगा पर मैं आपकी इस बात से सहमत नही हूं कि भारत को अब राहुल गांधी की ज़रुरत है। ज़रुरत के आधार पर उन्हे प्रोजेक्ट नही किया जा रहा, उन्हें एक विरासत के लिए प्रोजेक्ट किया जा रहा है। यदि राजनीति नही करेंगे तो क्या करेंगे। कौन संभालेगा "गांघी-परि्वार" की राजनीतिक विरासत। "मै सोचता हूं" ( मैं भारतीय जनता का पीआरओ नही हूं जो सीधे यह कह दूं कि भारत को राहुल गांधी की जरुरत नही।) कि वह विरासत के उत्तराधिकारी है न कि भारतीय जनता की आकांक्षा के।

स्वागत है, संसद मे अनबोले इस सांसद का सक्रिय राजनीति में, यही मौका है कि वह अपने आप को साबित कर सकते हैं।

लेख आपने ज़रुर अच्छा लिखा है। बधाई।

और हां ब्लॉग को तीन कॉलम बनाने से, बैकग्राउंड का रंग सफ़ेद कर देने से ब्लॉग पहले से और भी बेहतरीन आकर्षक हो गया है।
कृपया ब्लैक बैकग्राउंड न रखें, यही चलने दें।

Hitendra said...

1. In your first subtitle BCCI suits over ICC. It's BCCI's ODI team which has got a new and young leadership, similarly as the congress has got in Rahul Gandhi.
2. The similarity ends here. Dhoni is symbol of middle class-small town cricketer breaking the prolonged dominance of dynastic as well as regional dominance. Rahul Gandhi could have been comapred with Rohan Gavaskar, but unfortunately in cricket you can get an entry owing to your dynastic connections but can not remain there unless you perform.
Since in the cureent version of Indian politics perfomance hardly matters, Rahul Gandhi can see look forward to a secured enduring career with the Congress Party.
3. This is good for the Gandhi's, may do some good to the Congress party, and will no doubt, do no good to the Indian democracy.

amit tiwari said...

Just putting a glance over the comments made above in some Orkut community makes me feel from inside that these people are nothing but re-incarnations of god who have sworn from their birth to enact idealism & pass advice. For the majority of times, they advice what they themselves avoid doing in their own life. The blogger is solely entitled to pen down whatever he thinks & he in return is bombarded with abuses. I must say that this blogger has succeeded as he has written something very close to truth that is not being digested by these idealists who in college canteen or in the comfort of their drawing room like to comment on the Indian politics but have never personally done anything to bring this country at least an inch higher. If not, then leastwise have this much guts to accept this fact instead of acting like some one deeply suffering from inferiority complex.

I just read a few days back one Bertrand Russell's essay on politics in which he states that politics is the barometer of any society. If you agree that Indian politics is in gutter, it comes back like a snap that Indian society is also in gutter. Now can you please quench the thirst of my knowledge by enlightening me by remedies to cure this diseased state & pull our society out of gutter. Moreover, I must remind you that Nehru-Gandhi family have been voted to power again & again by the people of this country. I hope you are not suggesting that by doing so they have betrayed the democratic laws & done no good to the democracy.

I must say that this is a brilliant piece of writing.
Keep writing.


Undertrial said...

The above two anonymous comments have been removed by this blogger after repeated urgings from other regular commentators and visitors to this blog. However they continue to appear at the link given above in my first comment: http://www.orkut.com/CommMsgs.aspx?cmm=58854&tid=2556971505824646490&na=4&nst=1&nid=58854-2556971505824646490-2557002463966413233.


Anoop Saha said...

Rudolph Giuliani, too good a liberal???
Please explain in a separate post.

About Rahul Gandhi, wish his and your party all the best. I wish his path to the top becomes as hard as possible. (healthy) Competition produces best results for the consumer.

Anoop Saha said...

Two minor factual inaccuracies
1. Rudy was the mayor of New york. He was never appointed as governor.
2. Golwalkar was never alleged to be the mastermind of Mahatma Gandhi's assasination. It was Savarkar

And please do have someone more knowlegable to edit Mr. Gandhi's speeches.

Anonymous said...

Hello Amitji,

Great write up....hope to c u soon in the Rahulji's Cabinet.I m so glad to find a Congress comrade like u for the emerging India of ours n the world.

With trust n regards,

Ningombam Bupenda poetbupenda@yahoo.co.in

Anonymous said...

Its great future of india with our beloved young leader Sh.Rahul  Bhai. hope that india will touch the another vision for 2020 new era.im heartythankfull to you sir evonthouw yre busy shedule or work informing time to time, will get always wind of energy.
thanking you sir

Anonymous said...

@amit bhai

as being a congress worker my opinion about rahul gandhi is very straight-- and that is

we need a big change in our party...

and that change must give a new way to our party(hopefully) and we must follow our principle but not as traditionally.


Undertrial said...

@ Anoop
1. Thank you for pointing out the errors. They have been corrected (although a cursory reading of Mr. Tushar Gandhi's recent study of the archival material on the investigation- and trial- of the Mahatma's assassination does little to absolve the RSS, and its then supremo, the Nazi-admirer Guru, whose 'invisible hand' isn't quite unseen).

2. Mr. Guiliani, when compared with Mr. Bush or Mr. Reagan or even (his current rival) Mr. McCain, is considered by many Republican-conservatives to be a liberal. (He is divorced, for one thing.) The same was held true for Mr. Nelson Rockefeller, who continually lost out to the conservative-archetype, Mr. Barry Goldwater in his bid for his party's presidential nomination. (Personally, I believe that that's what living in the Big Apple is bound to do to even the most die-hard Conservatives!)


Anonymous said...

The truth is that we still are not completely confident, we have our own doubts about Mr.Rahul Gandhi.
I know and you know too, being from the political backgrounds we may never admit it in public (even if it were on the net) or for that matter even in front of each other.
Although I hope you do believe in what you have written.

I think you should probably change the heading “under trial”. It is demeaning, Amit, you do have a different identity than that.

Ami Soni

Lokesh Sharma said...

Congress party Ghandhi yug se loktantra ko kinare rakhakar vyakti vishesh ko mahatav deti aayi hai. Chahe waha Pt. J. L. Nehru ka Congress President bana ya phir Rahul Gandhi ka Congress me mahatava dena. 60 Varsh ki sawantra ke baad bhi Bharat varsh samantvadi vichardhara ko App jaise Congress ke karya karta aapni swarth shidhi ke liye gungan karte aaye ho...

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