The dynasty: a move for the future?

April 25, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

I have a strong premonition for last 3-4 days; precisely speaking, since Priyanka Gandhi has started defending her husband. Since the day one I wanted to commit my thoughts to writing, but work took precedence, so ignored the premonition. During these elections I have develop another bad habit: checking news several times a day. This afternoon when I saw Priyanka Gandhi’s picture and statements again, my premonition became even stronger and led me to decide to waste some time on writing this down. Now, I am not a political analyst, so what I write below might be just imagination of an Indian citizen who intensely dislikes dynasties, and may be totally worthless as far as understanding politics goes. Still, here it is.

Let me explain what I mean. Shree Robert Vadra has been in news for quite some time due to his phenomenal success in business and land deals with the governments of Haryana and Rajasthan. The congress party did make some noises initially to defend him; but then settled on routinely parroting: he is a private individual nothing to do with Congress, he has done nothing wrong, and the like. What this parroting meant in addition to usual tactics of Congress was drawing a boundary of the family and putting poor Vadra on the periphery of that boundary. He clearly was not in the core, he was not the family-family, somewhat of a second rate member only.

We need to note that the most trenchant attacks on Vadra and his business acumen are actually in the past, now when Modi and Kejriwal mention his achievements it sounds more like an echo of first announcement of blatant abuse to the nation, it is memory; no more immediate biting sting. So why did Priyanka Gandhi open her salvos on Modi with this issue now?

It seems to me the answer does not lie in the content of what she said in defence of her dear husband or in her trenchant attack on Modi. The clue may be found in the form of her defence and attack, and not in the content.

To understand this clearly we should pay attention to the fact that as soon as Priyanka started defending her husband the Congress machinery immediately took the cue and started considering him as a member of the family, and not as a private individual. That brings Vadra into the core and squarely as a part of the Rajparivaar. Second, in defending Vadra Priyanka referred to inner strength and resolve like her grandmother. So the source from which she draws energy and courage is Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Ordinary mortals like you and me when face adversity and injustice express faith in the moral goodness of the world or judiciary, or some such thing. That is because we don’t have illustrious ancestors who can pass on their courage to us. Priyaka’s reference to Indira Gandhi is not so subtle an attempt to evoke in public mind what Congress machinery has been occasionally, just enough to keep the imagery from fading, saying: she looks like Indira Gandhi; walks, speaks, behaves, and wears her saari like her. A reincarnation. Reference to Indira Gandhi is simultaneously evoking the family’s past, reminding us mortals yet again of her illustrious lineage, and declaring in herself the qualities that are bestowed by that lineage. Third, she does not stop there, she brings her children in; depicts them as asking questions regarding allegations on their father. This communicates to the adoring public future of the family, and the royal environment in which they will be brought up as honest and persevering leaders for the future. So this seems to be a symbolic act designed to bring Vadra in the centre, depicting herself as Indira II and hinting at continuation of fine lineage of future leaders.

The question is: why now? Why Priyanka Gandhi has suddenly decided to send these signals? Of course allegations in Indian elections fly thick and fast; true and false both. The public is so terribly confused that it can hardy make its mind up on the veracity or otherwise of these allegations. Lies are also common. What is new in this election season is that the dynasty has found its match in telling lies with equal ease and brazenness as they have been doing since Indira Gandhi. Modi perhaps is the only Indian politician who can match Gandhis in telling lies knowingly and also being aware that the public also see them as lies. This brazenness is not found in anyone else, other politicians’ attempts at it are just pathetic acts against these élan masters of the art can exhibit. Kejriwal has promise, but needs a lot of practice yet. He has no compunctions, like Mod and Gandhis, in telling lies; the problem is that when he tells lies he looks like a joker; while Modi looks an evil power (power, even when evil, is mesmerising) and Gandhis still manage to look aristocratic. Poor Kejriwal in spite of his best efforts is no match to them.
So what has happened that prompted Priyanka to take this symbol thick course of action? It seems it is prompted by something ‘internal’ to the family, and not by outside compulsions.

My guess is that the dynasty has realised that Rahul Gandhi as the next ruler has failed. This election is his third chance, and his performance in this one is going to be worst then the earlier two chances. The way he speaks and indications of his muddled thought process escape from him does not cut much ice with people. Even the combined might of the dynasty and its loyal subjects cannot make him look like anybody with some spark. He is simply empty. And this election is gone in trying to make a ruler out of that empty man.

Defeat in one election, however, should not be seen as uprooting of the dynasty. They have their financial resources, enough to fight several such elections. Have their network of loyal subjects, have an army of power brokers. And as a last resource have the feudal mind-set of Indian public who are used to looking towards established families. But even these resources in the hands of someone as dud as Rahul Gandhi do not always work. Therefore, looking at the future, they are bringing Priyanka, a reserve force, out. I suspect that right after the elections there shall be newspaper articles comparing Priyanka with Indira, hailing her as Indira II. There shall be a clamour from the loyal courtiers appealing Priyanka to take bigger role in the party, and slowly she will be built as the next Congress leader and natural—by divine right—candidate for Prime Ministership in 2019.

Now even if this highly speculative—bordering on nightmare—imagination of mine happens to come true why should I have this premonition? What is wrong in a political party trying to revive itself in a democracy? Nothing whatsoever. But the problem is that this is not revival of Congress party at all. Congress is dead long back. What we see as Congress is its ghost being used by a dynasty as a tool to deceive people. This is a strategy of the dynasty, not that of the party. That means we are not going to be free of this evil—i.e. Evil for democracy—force soon. There is more to come! That is the cause of my premonition. And the Indian voters will be ready for revival of the dynasty after five years. During these five years they will most probably experience repressive governance of Modi. Or a free for all governance of some really corrupt and unruly bunch of toughs. So be prepared for a lot of media bombardment of Priyanka as Indira II in the next five years.