One of the most abiding imageries registered on my mind is a scene from V. Shantaram’s Do aankhen baarah haath. The protagonist, an idealistic jailor, wants to reform six inmates, convicted of violent crimes. They are taken to a farm; a sort of commune is set up. But, unfortunately, they are unable to sleep on the first night. The reason? They were not manacled! Living in prison for a long time, they had become accustomed to sleeping in bondage. They find a solution: they chain themselves and sleep soundly! This is the plight of Congress leaders.
It is as if they entered into some sort of covenant with the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty, accepting the Family members as their lords and masters, if not deities. The Gandhis chain the functionaries of the grand old party, and the functionaries love not only their masters and mistresses but also the chains. Even when they have every reason and every pretext to get rid of the slavers. With the charges of venality reaching the Family head, Sonia Gandhi, and the incompetence of her son, Rahul, becoming evident by the day, somebody not familiar with the dynamics of Indian politics would have expected Congress leaders to remove the top brass and elect a new leadership, thus smashing the shackles that yoked them. But, instead of feeling jubilant, GOP leaders have become depressed at the thought of freedom. Man, said Sartre, is condemned to be free; Congressmen are condemned to be enslaved.
So, senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh also tweeted after the results of Assembly polls in five states were announced, “Today’s results disappointing but not unexpected. We have done enough Introspection shouldn’t we go for a Major Surgery?” And what kind of surgery he had in mind? “Priyanka should decide now and come into active politics,” he had said a day before the election results.
Another Congress leader and former Union minister R.P.N. Singh also expressed similar views. Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad told the media, “Many Congressmen want her to join active politics but the decision is hers.” Tweedledum to replace Tweedledee. So much for major surgery.
The Dynasty has responded to the defeat with characteristic banality. “We will introspect into reasons for our loss and will rededicate ourselves to the service of people with greater vigor,” Sonia Gandhi said. “We accept the verdict of the people of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Kerala with utmost humility.” Rahul also said, “We accept the verdict of people with humility.”
What else you could have done? Staged a coup?
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has been a little more candid: “The time for introspection is now past. Time for action has come… It is time to move and it is time to make some visible changes that the world and the country can see because for a couple of years after 2014, the process for consideration, reflection, introspection, and so on has been taking place. It is now time for the leadership to draw on the conclusion from their introspection and take necessary action,”
But will it happen? I wish it did, but it is unlikely to happen. For the Nehru-Gandhis have almost extirpated everything and everybody within the party that could have posed a threat to the Dynasty. Come to think of it, this was the party in which leaders fearlessly expressed their views against each other; there were socialists and anti-socialists, Hindu nationalists and Nehruvians, Gandhians and pro-industry politicians. For instance, Congress leaders themselves had indicted V.K. Krishna Menon, a scoundrel who was Nehru’s favorite, for his role in the jeep scandal in the late 1940s. Nehru’s pro-China stand and stupid policies, which occasioned the 1962 humiliation, were lambasted and lampooned by his own party members. Even Indira Gandhi’s pro-Left tilt, the most disastrous consequence of which was bank nationalization, was resisted within the party. The GOP has indeed undergone a metamorphosis since those days; there has been malign mutation; freemen and freewomen have not only been mentally enslaved but have also been conditioned to cherish that slavery.
This is a party which had a leader, known for his famous statement, “Self-rule is my birthright and I will have it.” Now, the party motto is: give me slavery, or give me death.
There will be banality and some rhetoric from more articulate GOP leaders like Tharoor, but not much is going to change in the Congress. For its leaders have fallen in love with their chains.