What a 45-year-old Congressman said about India in 2013 and about what the party needs to do if it wants to win another election in the state of Rajasthan, made much sense. All of us, who were privileged to be there, at this man’s village home in Amar Sagar on the outskirts of Jaisalmer, could not comprehend why the high command and all its political advisors and general secretaries are so far removed from the reality on the ground. Their inability to hear and listen and then devolve power to the men and women in the field, giving them the strength and responsibility to deliver a victory followed by competent governance, boggles the mind.
This man, one of many such who are what they call khaandani Congresswalas, was clear about where the party is right now, what the leaders in Delhi need to address and rectify, and what are the most critical interventions that must happen, with concrete results, that might reverse the free fall we are witnessing. These real loyalists, who continue to be motivated and inspired by the ‘idea’ of India that was the vision of M.K. Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and the founding fathers, have been ignored, neglected and demeaned by the political dalals in Delhi. It is as though the party has a death wish as it withdraws into 24, Akbar Road in a maun vrat, a vow of silence, and allows Narendra Modi — one recent example — to grab the eyeballs and the rhetoric of India via the electronic media that are dancing to his tune.
Yet again, after the speech made by Rahul Gandhi at the party shivir in Jaipur, there has been a lull, where images of old, infirm and failed Congress ‘leaders’ flanking the new vice president in his deliberations, create a sense of déjà vu, sending out a strong signal that they who failed the party are there to stay and guide the new leader. It is a frightening prospect that is devoid of excitement, vitality and the possibility of radical change — which is what India is yearning for. India in village, town and city is speaking in the same language and making the same demands. Support for change and development by the people, for the people, is the common thread that links millions of Indians.
They cannot be fooled any longer. Our experience this week was one of many similar ones from a Bharat that is feeling let down and betrayed. The grand fathers, grand uncles, and ageing aunties who crowd around the young Gandhi, currying favour, make one feel sorry for him, for having to carry this burden; disabled, because none of them is willing to give up and make way for new blood.
Greed for power and all that comes with such positions, laced with a profound lack of confidence, are delaying the reinvention of the Congress that could have enabled it to take on the new-generation leaders from the Opposition. Can they not see what Narendra Modi’s agenda has been and how he has unleashed it on this country systematically? He does not talk of faith, creed or caste. He addresses the youth and tries to ignite their imagination by promising to understand and create a friendly working environment for them. He talks of futures. He has won over the electronic media as they eagerly succumb, without question, to his call and persona. The big business community, the corporate honchos who were freed from economic bondage by the Congress have, ironically, hailed Modi, lapping up the freebies he offers, and more.
Where is the counterpoint? The Congress must stand up and be counted and then carry the flag till the nation votes in 2014. India is desperate for a liberal, federal, strong democratic party that represents the diversity of the country. That is the counterpoint to a neo-nationalist call.