Monday, November 28, 2022

A non-Gandhi’s face for creating a credible oppositions’ force

The Indian National Congress (INC) had secured a decisive victory over its political arch-rival, BJP, in a battle of political perception following the election of Mallikarjun Kharge last October as its first non-Gandhi party president in 24 years. Although the presidency of Mallikarjun Kharge would be bound to remain ceremonial in nature, with the three Gandhis still will be calling the shots in every matter relating to the party, by conducting an open election where more than 8000 party electorates casting their votes to elect their new president the grand old party of India can now proudly proclaim to the country as the only political party in India that practices inner-party democracy where leaders within the party are directly elected by the party cadres/workers, and not by means of power lobby.
This came at the time when the ruling saffron party is increasingly concentrating its power on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his trusted aide Amit Shah, thereby converting the saffron party from once a proudly acclaimed cadre-based “party with a difference” to the party of high command. Politics is all about creating propaganda, good or bad, and how well the propaganda is disseminated to the people determines the fate of any political party. And for the last eight years it is the ruling BJP that is doing extremely well in this field.
If there is one reason why the BJP could able to capture the minds and emotions of the electorates in the country and ruling the country for the last eight years with virtually no opposition, it is the propaganda front that is serving the party perfectly. And it is the Gandhis, among others, that are fitting so well into the BJP’s propaganda machine. So long as Congress projects the Gandhis as its main face while taking on the BJP, the latter will continue to reap electoral dividends by painting many blemish spots on the entire Gandhis’ face. To the BJP, the Gandhis will remain a symbol of entitlement, corruption, an impediment to national security and indifference to politics (someone who is not particularly interested and serious in politics and just being compelled, with reference to Rahul Gandhi), and this projection is helping the ruling party to create its image as the only political party in the country who can confront this menace and provide a better alternative to the country. The saffron party will always invoke the past sins of corruption of the Congress and project themselves as an answer to this past Congress’ sins. The Gandhis at the forefront of Indian politics are also helping the BJP to create a political narrative that centred on the competition between politics of entitlement and merit, and project Gandhis to the country as an obstruction to aspirational politics: that merit would never find a place in Indian politics with the presence of Gandhis. And if the past eight years’ political scenario in the country is of any indication, then this BJP’s propaganda had played well in the minds of the people of the country and the very propaganda seems to be enough for the party to secure a decisive mandate from the people to rule the country.
For the INC to combat this BJP’s propaganda machine, as the country prepares for the next general election in 2024, the foremost requirement is to let the Gandhis step aside temporarily from the leadership role, and allow non-Gandhis to lead from the front.
And the INC had done this in a most brilliant way as the party had replaced its president Sonia Gandhi, its longest-serving president, not by means of selection in a closed-door meeting but by conducting an election and the eventual installation of a non-Gandhi congressman as its new president. It now remains to be seen how well the new INC leadership will create propaganda out of its October’s inner-party democracy exercise and “election of a new president” and take it to the people of the country. Nevertheless, the INC’s change of guard last October does not mean that Rahul Gandhi, today’s most prominent Gandhi, is already relegated to history, and it would be wrong to write an obituary on the political career of Rahul Gandhi. Assuming that the present state of affairs of the INC is in such a bad shape that the party would lose to BJP for the third successive time in 2024; it means that the next general election after 2024 will be 2029, if go according to the normal schedule, where Rahul Gandhi will be still 59 years of age at that time. A 59 years old politician is still very young in the Indian context. Remember Narendra Modi was 63 in 2014 when he then became the prime minister and in 2022 he is still going strong. No matter where Rahul Gandhi is today and how much of an amount of personal and professional flaws and failures in his political career can we attribute to him, he has age on his side and that is his biggest advantage. With Modi’s BJP bound to attain saturation point electorally sooner or later, as it is a normal phenomenon in any working democracy, it is only the INC under the Gandhis which is capable of becoming a natural replacement/alternative to the BJP at the national level.
And not to forget that Rahul Gandhi remain the most valuable vote catchers in the country after Narendra Modi, who can win support from across the length and breadth of India (Even Modi’s popularity hitherto remain confined to Northern Hindi heartland states).
And if he can still enjoy this much high popularity across India even at this time when his party is going through the worst electoral phase in its history, then any form of INC’s revival in near future can take him to a stage where he can get any position that one aspires in democracy. Rahul Gandhi stepping aside from the leadership role for at least until 2024 therefore will not create an obstruction to his future career in Indian politics. The Gandhis, including Rahul Gandhi, had done the right thing in October in stepping aside from the leadership role in the party.
This should help the INC to counter BJP’s most effective propaganda machine, create a credible oppositions’ force and put up a fighting chance against the ruling party in 2024, and which will make their return in 2029 more conducive, exciting and favorable.
Dr. Nsungbemo Ezung, Wokha Town, Nagaland

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