Rahul Gandhi prepares for life beyond elections and political power
“It is a habit in India that the powerful cling to power, no one sacrifices power. But we will not defeat our opponents without sacrificing the desire for power and fighting a deeper ideological battle…”
If anything, these words of Rahul Gandhi in his between-the-lines, highly perceptive and prophetic letter, reminds of what Mahatma Gandhi said after India’s independence: that all Congress leaders should go to the poorest and backward areas, work and live with the poor, and the party should be dismantled.
The Mahatma’s quotes used to be displayed in public places all over India, including in railway stations, once upon a time. Among others, two quotes remain etched in my memory.
One: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But, I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”
Second: “Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore his control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to ‘Swaraj’ for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?”
Truly reminds us of Jesus Christ. He challenged the bloated, arrogant, rich and exploitative religious establishment of his times with his band of poor followers and fishermen. In that incredible film by the great Italian filmmaker, also a communist, Pier Paolo Pasolini, ‘The Gospel according to St. Mathew,’ Jesus is like a revolutionary in one faded cloth addressing a street corner meeting. Pointing at the pompous clergy decked up in fine ornaments and fancy clothes, he says: “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
‘We fought a strong and dignified election. Our campaign was one of brotherhood, tolerance and respect for all of India’s people, religions and communities. I personally fought the prime minister, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the institutions they have captured with all my being’
Rahul Gandhi is neither Mahatma Gandhi nor Jesus Christ, but he tried his best before May 23, 2019. And, with a rudderless and weak party with no presence in most of India, no cadre or organisation worth its name, no clear ideology to stand for, and ageing, visionless, non-committal and decadent leaders, most of whom have been eternal parasites of power courtesy the hard work and charisma of the Gandhi family. It was Rahul Gandhi who revived the party and gave it a political, pan-India impetus, with a language of decency and refinement when faced with the coarse, communal and rabid rabble-rousing machismo of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, the only one-dimensional ‘raja’ and ‘wazir’ of the BJP. With him as a leader, he won the Congress Punjab, became the single largest party in Goa and Manipur, did not allow the BJP to cross 100 in Gujarat despite all the emotional hyperbole of Modi, and defeated the BJP in the three big states of the Hindi heartland: Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
Indeed, if these Lok Sabha elections had been truly free and fair, the Congress would have done much better with Rahul Gandhi at the helm, including in Gujarat and Maharashtra. And, surely, the BJP would have stared at a hung assembly, if not a big defeat, not crossing 25 in UP.
When almost the entire media had sold its conscience and media ethics down the drain as a daily ritual of fake news and loyalist propaganda, he took the RSS and an invincible Modi head on. When veteran ‘correspondents reporting on BJP’ refused to report on the inner dynamics, contradictions and machinations of the ruling party and the RSS, he spoke out against the RSS and Modi, attacking them on policies, communalism, corruption, thereby forcing the media to report on the RSS.
When editors, TV anchors and senior correspondents refused to enter even one inch of the highly prohibited territory – that of taking a critical and objective look at the BJP government’s hyperbolic policies, its routine rhetoric, grand promises, with a minimum sense of realism, even while the PM refused to meet journalists in press conferences, except his loyal stooges – it was Rahul Gandhi who rubbed in the issues which no one was speaking about. The media was thus forced to report on things which it had to completely ignore.
He unraveled the complex mysteries of the sell-off deal on Rafael and an industrial company pointing a direct finger at Modi himself with tangible evidence, day after day, with Modi and his huge PR machinery rendered virtually speechless. He dismantled the mythology about GST and demonitisation in rally after rally. He spoke about mass unemployment, how the promise of crores of jobs has turned out to be a lie and a farce, the farmers’ distress and suicides, including the failed promises of farm loan waiver and minimum support price. He announced farm loan waivers in all the states the Congress had won and saw to it that it was implemented as soon as the new government took over.
He also spoke about how universities and institutions were under siege, that the media only asks questions on mangos and sweet nothings, etc, to Modi, who never meets journalists. He himself met the media openly and frankly on multiple occasions.
He said that minorities and Dalits were under siege, that the opposition has to get together to defeat the monster of fascism and communalism, that Indian democracy was at stake, and that the RSS apparatus has merged with the BJP and the Indian state, and the Indian Constitution must be protected. The alliances did not work in Delhi, Bengal and UP, but there were alliances in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu etc.
He had the guts to take on Modi and his massive, multi-crore PR and media/corporate establishment worth billions in muscle and money, day after day, along with just a handful of opposition leaders like MK Stalin, Pinarayi Vijayan, Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerji, who had the guts to wage a public fight.
‘Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him’
His narrative was correct, based on economic deprivations, the promise of creating alternative employment, and deposits in the banks of the poorest in the name of ‘Nyaya’, and, most crucially, that India needs a language of love and harmony, not that of hatred and violence. If this was not a correct narrative, in a country where the a failed BJP regime only wanted communal polarisation and war-mongering as its only trump cards, what was?
So what was the politically correct narrative in a totally unequal election with the election commission openly pitched in with the BJP? So, the losing narrative is always wrong it is? In that case, Donald Trump is truly making America great again, and Modi is the savior of Indian secular democracy – is it?
Truly, what is a correct narrative where all institutional odds are pitched in support of the ruling regime which has failed in all fronts? Pakistan bashing? Shamshanghat-Kabristan? Crush the ‘termites’ and NRC for all of India? Wayanad as Pakistan? War-mongering on false claims on Balakot after the complete intelligence failure in Pulwama? Daily violations of election commission codes, and regular clean chits by Mr Sunil Arora in the face of a shocked country at the brazenness of it all?
That is why Rahul Gandhi is right when he says: “A free and fair election requires the neutrality of a country’s institutions; an election cannot be fair without arbiters — a free press, an independent judiciary, and a transparent election commission that is objective and neutral. Nor can an election be free if one party has a complete monopoly on financial resources… We didn’t fight a political party in the 2019 election. Rather, we fought the entire machinery of the Indian State, every institution of which was marshalled against the opposition. It is now crystal clear that our once cherished institutional neutrality no longer exists in India.”
In these circumstances. worryingly, he highlighted the futility of democracy and holding elections in India. Is it the end of hope and electoral democracy as it used to be under the Indian Constitution? No. Rahul pins hope on the struggle of a renewed Congress to fight the challenge of religious fascism, money and muscle power, and the complete take-over of the nation’s institutions by the RSS.
He spoke about mass unemployment, how the promise of crores of jobs has turned out to be a a farce, the farmers’ distress, including the failed promises of farm loan waiver and minimum support price. So was this a wrong narrative?
He also said in his quit letter, and truthfully: “We fought a strong and dignified election. Our campaign was one of brotherhood, tolerance and respect for all of India’s people, religions and communities. I personally fought the prime minister, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the institutions they have captured with all my being…”
Perhaps the ‘manthan’ in the Congress will trigger a ‘manthan’ across the entire country, especially in the Hindi heartland. The Congress party, a status-quoist party, forever trapped in the trappings of power, uninterested in the grassroots structures of its own party or that of India, bereft of the values of the freedom movement, has really not shown stirrings of its desire to lead an authentic mass movement. Will the letter shake them up? Very few hope so.
Many of those who want to fight to preserve our democracy should take heart from the fact that nothing is permanent – not even fascism, fake victories, or false propaganda. No machismo or muscle power is absolute, neither is absolute, totalitarian dictatorship. Check out Hongkong and Turkey, for instance.
India is a democracy, it has tasted multi-culturalism, pluralism, secularism and rainbow twilights since Independence. It lies inside its soul like good faith, even in times of bad faith. India is not a theocracy, nor a ‘Hindu rashtra’. India is what the Mahatma said it should be: a house with open windows for all cultures and beliefs, and with compassion for the poor and weakest invisibilised in the margins. Surely, one culture, one nation, one religion – that is not the dream which India dreamt when Bhagat Singh was hanged, and so were others, during the freedom movement.