Boomerang was an ancient method of hunting among indigenous people of Australia. A specially designed wooden blade with aerodynamic properties would be thrown towards the target only to return after a hit. Eventually boomerang became a popular recreational sport with world competition. Maximum Time Aloft (MTA) is a very popular format of this sport, it merely measures the amount of time lapsed before boomerang returns. Current world record is 3 minutes 49 seconds for the boomerang to return to its sender. If India were to be represented in this competition, it has to be a part of the Gandhi family. Congress went back to Gandhi family in less than seventy days. This is a brand new world record among dynastic political parties.
Sonia Gandhi has returned as the President of Congress. Why wouldn’t she? The boomerang of Indian National Congress is not entirely unexpected . The so called think tank of the party is just a team of well trained pet army of cheerleaders. Congress today is struck in a trap that it has laid for itself. Many Congress leaders would like the masses to think Rajiv Gandhi as architect of modern India. While this is a propaganda-based narrative that they compulsively built among the cadres, the large malicious footprint that he left on the Congress party has not been discussed enough.
From being a party of ‘freedom fighters’ to a refugee camp of quasi liberal individuals, Congress’s story is indeed an incredible journey of dilapidation. Today’s situation of Congress was a carefully, if not a wisely orchestrated debacle. Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure has fundamentally altered the party’s character. The team of ‘intellectuals’ that Rajiv Gandhi built were mere cheerleaders in the guise of politicians. These were members of the same gang, who went to school with the party leader, or shared the same neighborhood as the party leadership. This is so much in contrast to the ideas on which party was initially conceived. This is the same party which had election among stalwart of leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose and Pattabhi Sitaramaiah to choose the Party President. Today, it has reached a stage where it conducts twelve hour meeting among the cheerleaders to decide that they cannot have anyone else other than Gandhi family to lead them.
How can we expect a party that cannot think beyond a family to be playing constructive opposition in a large democracy like ours? The level of intellectual bankruptcy of the opposition was very evident in its behavior at the Parliament when the most Productive Parliament session was in progress. The congress has exposed itself on several occasions in last two months. In a historic circumstance like Kashmir integration and the disation on Article 370, congress is busy peddling fears among minorities, not realising that they are standing along with the enemies of the country. The Congress was use red faced after its Parliamentary leader Adhir Ranjan Chawdhury called Kashmir an ‘international’ dispute. Did Indira Gandhi take UN permission before signing Indira – Sheikh accord in 1975? A leader, who represents the grand old party of largest democracy, either has no knowledge on history of Kashmir or an idea about the public pulse on the issue.
In sixty years of the Congress rule, there was never a single attempt to integrate Kashmir with rest of the nation. In fact, there was a conscious effort to keep Kashmir ghettoized and away from the rest of the nation. Generations of Kashmiris remained isolated with no participation in economic growth that the country witnessed in the globalized circumstances. In fact, all the privileges of Kashmir were diluted during Congress tenure. Starting from abrogation of financial independence in 1954 to 1975 Kashmir accord, the nature of special status was weakened in a blatantly deceitful manner keeping the local population in dark. This led to ambiguous and unstable conditions in the valley. Enemies from across the border then exploited these vulnerabilities to manufacture secessionist sentiments. Moreover, Congress has systematically extrapolated the Kashmir issue across the country to garner minority vote bank, the cost of which was paid by innocent Kashmiri youth. With the dawn of the strong decisive Government in Delhi, this status quo has been removed for good, finally.
An opposition party can have different ideology but should not act against the national interest. But congress out of sheer desperation is towing line similar to that of the enemy country. A party, which once had immense competition among talent, has become a household business of one family. However, this case study is important as it has very valuable lessons for many regional parties. There is a pattern which occurs in four stages –
Stage 1 – Subjugate internal talent: At some point all the political parties had leaders who have grown from the grassroots. e.g. the leaders from student wings, people movements etc. In stage 1 all such organic leadership pool will be sidelined, making them feel trivial. A gloring example is the treatment of the former Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao in late 90s within his own party.
Stage 2 – Cheer for more: Fill the party with sycophants & yes men and limit the power in the hands of psuedo politicians. The more they cheer, they better they are positioned in power. Example is rise of lutyen gang in Congress era.
Stage 3 – Total disconnect from common public and their aspirations. Due to lack of voices from the field , party leadership will have no idea of public mood , needs or aspirations. As a result, in this stage, parties tend to talk more about freebies rather than governance. Corruption creeps in within the party, and the leadership remains ignorant. Example – whole mis-governance of UPA was in this stage. It was at this stage that the congress started normalizing corruption at large scale.
Stage 4 – All hail prince: Acknowledging the brewing crisis in the party, a change of guard to new scion will be round the corner. Slowly but aiffirmtively, the party leadership will be transferred to an undeserving but privileged ‘prince’ . Already demotivated, the cadre becomes more indolent. Seniors defect from party to join rivals. Those who remain are blind hailers of the prince.
Now, stage 4 is a point-of-no-return for a political party. Once this stage is reached, any change at the steering, will only ‘boomerang’ . This pattern can be observed in many regional parties siding along with Congress. Starting from Rahul Gandhi in Congress to H.D. Kumaraswamy in Karnataka, all of them have come down to this point of no return. Today, many regional parties are filling their cadres with faithful cheerleaders rather than people with expertise and commitment. The pattern is obvious and driven by greed for power. Congress keeps playing boomerang at stage 4, whereas TDP is already in stage 4. TRS in Telangana is accelerating itself from stage 3 to stage 4. In the temple of democracy it’s only voters who show the politicians the place they deserve.
(The Author is Economist and Director, Center for Leadership and Governance. The views expressed are personal)