The constant talk of dynasty with reference to the Gandhis, with all the jibes directed to that word, is beginning to pall. Wherever you look in this feudal political space, leaders across parties have their close kins positioned for a takeover after them. Sharad Pawar has sidelined loyal Praful Patel for his dearest daughter, Supriya, who will take the gaddi after him. Similarly, Mulayam Singh Yadav has made provisions for his son; M. Karunanidhi for both his son and daughter (possibly one meant for the state and the other for the Centre). The list is unending. Naveen Patnaik got there, thanks to his father, the various Scindias, thanks to their mother. Why then this constant sniping against Rahul Gandhi and no one else? Is it because the media see Rahul Gandhi as a national leader, a possible future prime minister, and the rest as a motley lot of regional satraps who may ally and serve the national, and therefore stronger, entity? What’s wrong with a feudal democracy à la India!
As television channels focus on sensational utterances by candidates as they hurl abuse at their opponents, the people are cynically silent this time around. Are they embarrassed by the crude language, gesture and behaviour of those fighting to defeat the incumbent dispensation? Are they disturbed by the ‘alternatives’ that are being presented? Have they had more than their share of being exploited, their patience stretched to breaking point? Or do they have to experience one more experiment in a coalition combination? After all, Mayavati or Nitish Kumar or Jayalalithaa or any of the others who may try to become a consensus candidate for the post of the prime minister should be put to the leadership test now rather than later. It is easy to mock, disturb and destroy, but hugely tough to deliver simultaneously on fronts ranging from foreign policy to social integration, and all that is sandwiched in between.
The politicized and failed bureaucracy that ‘administrates’ a billion-plus people would love a mishmash of diverse ideologies, all professing to be secular or anti-Congress, because the ensuing political chaos and intellectual corruption would allow the babu, and not the elected representative, to decide and rule with no accountability whatsoever. This is a terrifying thought. In all of this, there is another interesting question — who are the second-in-command characters that control parties like BSP, SP, RJD and even BJP? Who are the heirs-in-waiting? The people of India are smarter than most imagine. They give their leaders a long leash, are patient, but equally, are capable of changing the balance for the right reasons. The sense on the ground is undefinable and confusing. Psephologists bank on using their tired formulations, ladling out the predictable in the endless half-hour slots. Nothing unusual, nothing new, nothing that unveils another way of thinking.
Maybe the time is right for the anchor-persons to invite Mayavati and ask her how she would handle the havoc in Pakistan, how she plans to deal with the Taliban in the border, how she would work on the next phase of the nuclear deal with Barack Obama. India needs to know what its aspiring leaders are all about. Invite Mulayam Singh, Jayalalithaa, Nitish Kumar et al, get them out of their regional and local issues since they are desperately aspiring for the Dilli gaddi, and let us all hear their expositions on other — national and international — issues that plague the world — from global warming to terror. Parochial mindsets, limited passions, and predictable attitudes do not make national leaders. We have seen the rabblerousing skills on podiums, heard the hysterical rhetoric and hollow promises of a better life from all those who have been out of power. We must now hear them articulate their policy positions, then make our choice.