Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Future of the Congress Party

Just finished reading “Durbar” by noted writer Tavleen Singh, which has inspired a very infrequent desire to blog.  Read the book – it’s a journalist’s critique of Indian politics under Indira Gandhi and her heirs.

“Political dynasties now flourish across the country and because of this, legislatures are increasingly becoming private clubs in which the unworthy heirs of political leaders, with little knowledge of governance and even less political acumen, have privileged access.  Like feudal potentates they surround themselves with sycophants and courtiers… All of this has happened because of the example set by the dynasty in Delhi.”

Like I said, read the book.

My conclusion is that it is time to honestly examine and reform the Congress Party.  It is by far the most important political party in modern Indian history.  Being the party that won Indian independence, it is inextricably linked to the idea of the Republic of India.  Can India survive without the Congress?

Most thinking people would hope “yes”.  And rightly so.  The sins of the “unworthy heirs” of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and their acolytes are clearly worth moving on from.  However, the other options available are underwhelming at best, terrifying at worst.

Reforming Congress is the Indian Liberal’s hope of the day – and to do that, the Congress should just look to its recent history.  The defection of Rajaji (C. Rajagopalachari) and the formation of the Swantantra Party can be read in hindsight as a desire to reform the Indian nationalist movement (ie. the Congress) just as the Janata movement of J. P. Narayan has been seen. 

Will a Liberal revolution ever occur within the Congress?

I doubt it, but I believe it’s our best bet.  The Hindutva faction considers violence a part and parcel of democratic politics and that is all that needs to be said about that.  Nor are Regional and Caste parties the answer to the crippling problems facing the country.  Only Congress is left.  Therefore, it must change.

Changing politics in a Constitutional manner is the first step in making peoples’ lives better.  Again, look to recent memory – when Narasimha Rao’s Congress-led Government enacted Liberal reforms the country undeniably improved.

It’s a futile hope though, my friends – the reform of the Congress requires the Dynasty vacating its position of privilege.  Don't hold your breath...


Abs said...

"However, the other options available are underwhelming at best, terrifying at worst."

Completely disagree with this statement. It is your private school educated - private enterprise driven - urban oriented lifestyle that has led to this conclusion. And I can't fault you for that since I too would arrive at a similar conclusion if I wasn't a bit more circumspect. If I were to compare apples to apples, I am sure we would find that the intellectual wealth across party lines is equally bleak or equally good as your filter would calibrate it as.

Do you really believe that policies would be so different if there were a right wing govt at the centre? Perhaps donations to religious trusts would go up and so would bans on cow slaughter perhaps but core areas like poor foreign policy, lack of strategic development planning, chronic corruption, etc etc etc would still be the norm. Stop being alarmist. this is India. Things take a long time to change. Read the brilliant leader in this week's Economist.
PS - remove the captcha from your account...it causes your 4 - 5 readers tremendous irritation.

anandnaib said...

A brilliant book, and an equally brilliant article. I would have liked to disagree with you but the sad truth is India does not have another viable option. As the clamour grows for narendra modi to be named candidate for the prime ministership, I shudder to think what the future would be like if he did manage to become the PM . The RSS and their yoke seem to be back in the driver's seat, return to the early 90's radical Hinduism seems the prevalent mood within the sangh parivar .An antognised and further isolated minority could be catastrophic. However, the fact that congress is absolutely rudderless with little or no hope of change, the situation is quite grim!