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Dynasty versus Democracy: Rahul Gandhi exposed

Author: G B Reddy
Publication: Vijayvaani.com
Date: October 2, 2017
URL:   http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=4450

Rahul Gandhi stands exposed due to his answers to questions, particularly on “Dynasty Politics” and admission of “arrogance in 2012” at the University of Berkley, California, US, besides misquoting even the number of Lok Sabha MPs – 546 instead of 545. Subsequently, at Princeton University, Rahul Gandhi gave two reasons for the rise of leaders like Modi and Trump: non-acceptance of unemployment as a problem, and politics of polarisation, with over 100 million tribals and minorities left out of the vision of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Transactional predilections based on expediency cannot substitute for strategic thinking. Thinking strategically also demands ongoing efforts to reconcile interests, ideologies and values. Rahul Gandhi, known as a reluctant leader, lacks a long term strategic perspective for India.

Gandhi must refrain from attempts to fool domestic audiences in foreign lands to cover up the Congress Party’s misrule or failures (60 out of 70 years independent India), particularly during the Congress-led UPA’s 10 years rule. He must admit that the Congress Party woefully failed to seize the opportunity to consolidate its position during this time, due to gargantuan corruption.

The sooner all political leaders without exception realise that unless the population surge is contained with utmost expediency, the challenges of unemployment within permissible limits and polarisation of politics will be unstoppable.

Gandhi and even Modi must first get the facts regarding population correct. In 2017, India’s population is over 1.34 billion and not 1.30 or 1.21 billion. Over 8.5% fall in the bracket of 20-24 and 25-29 groups each, that is, over 17 % population. This means 227.8 million will seeks jobs over 10 years (22.78 million per year or 62,432 jobs per day).

Finding jobs at the current rate of population surge will remain an uphill challenge, what with scarce natural resources, capital, low quality human resources, corruption and poor governance. And, the root cause for politics of polarisation squarely lies at the door of “appeasement politics” of the Congress Party. It is never too late to strictly implement population control and stem the rot of illegal immigration from neighbouring countries. But political parties continue to adopt an ostrich posture out of fear of voter backlash at polls.

Rahul Gandhi must stop pontificating against the politics of polarisation and communal vs. secular politics and instead spearhead the key issues of population control, development and growth – inclusive economics, politics and societal dynamics.

Next, the dynastic politics endorsed by Gandhi in the United States needs balance. Having adopted parliamentary democracy based on “first past the post system”, his answer “That’s how the country runs” to the question “INC is a dynastic party”, exposes intellectual bankruptcy. The justification, “Most of the country runs like this. So, don’t go after me. Akhilesh Yadav is a dynast, Stalin (DMK supremo M Karunanidhi’s son) is a dynast, (Prem Kumar) Dhumal’s son (Anurag Thakur of the BJP) is a dynast. Even Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast, also Ambani. That’s what happens in India and just the way India runs”.

Of course, the list of political dynasties in India is ever-expanding: Nehru-Gandhi; Abdullah (J&K); Scindia (Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan); M.S. Yadav (UP); Badal (Punjab); Patnaik (Orissa); Karunanidhi (Tamil Nadu); Chautala (Haryana); Lalu Yadav (Bihar), Rao (Telangana); Naidu (Andhra Pradesh); Pawar, Chavan, Thackeray and Naik (Maharashtra);  Gogoi (Assam); Gowda (Karnataka); and numerous Members of Parliament, Asssemblies, etc.

At least 29% of the current Indian Parliament consists of those whose family members – fathers, mothers, siblings, husbands, wives, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins or in-laws – preceded them in politics. At least another 5% had family members either enter politics simultaneously, or follow them. And, 66% of Muslim parliamentarians, 25% of parliamentarians from Scheduled Caste seats, 28% of parliamentarians from Scheduled Tribe seats and 34% of the rest, have family ties. Surely, 34% parliamentarians with family ties are a large number for any democracy.

In reality, Lord Acton’s dicta that “Power corrupts; but absolute power corrupts absolutely” is quite applicable to Rahul Gandhi and his coterie of dynastic leaders at all levels. The virus of VIP arrogance and intellectual bankruptcy has spread to all political dynasties of India.

Politics today is a profession that does not seem to require qualifications. Dynastic leaders, once elected, would entrench themselves and their siblings in power forever, irrespective of merit, undermining the democratic principle of equal opportunity for all.

Reservations have made Indian democracy more broad based and representative. The flip side is that a large number of neo-political dynasties have emerged from an extremely broad social base, across regions and social categories. Now, the process cannot be reversed.

Often, the emerging neo-Maharajahs, due to their wealth, are aggressively staking claims for power. The growing educated middle-class is craving for a fair share of power, challenging dynastic politics. Alongside, historically deprived sections are staking claims through the power of their majority at the ballot box. There will be bitter power struggles between the ‘old’, the ‘new’ and the ‘emerging’ for a fair share of power.

Rajiv Gandhi had lamented: “leaders are like fences that protect the crops. But today we have leaders who do not serve but oppress the poor, who cheat the state and whose only concern is their private welfare at the cost of the society. They have no work ethic. They have only a grasping mercenary outlook, devoid of competence, integrity and commitment.”   

Rahul Gandhi must ask himself why the Old Guard, mostly drawing room entrants through the Rajya Sabha, famed for backroom intrigue and out of sync with the aspirational India, continues to play a key role in his party.

Dynastic politics in India has become a systemic phenomenon, the causes of which lay in the structure of the State and political parties. The large returns associated with state office and the organisational weakness of political parties is primarily responsible for the emergence of dynastic politics.

Few believe that political dynasties aren’t always bad. A dynasty confers on a political party substantial advantage – legitimacy, recognition and most importantly extensive networks. Politicians who are part of a dynasty strategise for the long term because they’re mindful of the family name and the clan’s political future. Even if they enrich their families in the process, as they often do, they may take better care of their constituents as well. Today, such a belief is the worst fraud.

Also, political experience is vital. A longer tenure allows a legislator to accumulate political capital – financial or human capital, recognition, or contacts. Because family rule can so easily be used by the opposition to provoke resentment and, worse, rejection, democratic dynasties need to tread carefully. Even political children have to win elections to get into the system. Their parents can only ensure they become party candidates. Ultimately, people decide their fate. 

As long as India’s dynasties deliver, political parties will accept, defend and promote them. Even when they stumble, if they retain the capacity to recover, they will survive. 

But the dark side of dynastic politics outweighs the positives. Political pundits view ‘dynastic politics’ as a contradiction and denial of real democracy; anti political party system; and anti-development. They also behave in an autocratic and authoritarian fashion. The real damage to democracy from dynastic politics comes from the violation of democratic ideals. Recently, a “masala” of intrigue and treachery was on grand display in the Samajwadi Party internal politics in Uttar Pradesh. 

Moreover, the high command or coterie culture is contra democracy as it leaves little scope for internal debate and dissent. Most decisions are taken behind closed doors guarded by sycophants or yes men.

Three types of entry are available to become leaders: drawing room entry; grass roots level entry; and the most despicable “Don” type entry. Plus there are the very rich and the criminals.

Often, political parties opt for leaders with corrupt and criminal records (mostly at local level) due to winning prospects. “Winning” is the sole criteria; sometimes they get elected and even get cabinet berths.

Thus, there is an endless supply of elected representatives masquerading as leaders without vision based on knowledge of history and sense of service to their constituency. They are full of personal greed – “I-Me-Myself-My Progeny” syndrome. Many leaders create crises by hurling provocative, adversarial and acrimonious allegations against each other, and do not know how to resolve them when they boomerang. Most do not rise above “factionist or feudal’ leader status.

Vince Lombardi said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile”; the sooner Rahul Gandhi imbibes this, the better for him and his party. In democracy, leaders do not fall from heaven; they are born in the society and bred by it. Great Man theories based on inheriting leadership qualities are a bogey.

History abundantly proves that effective dynastic leadership is by exception only. That is why all dynasties fade away, at witnessed by mankind’s history. Statesmanship is still rarer.

Rahul Gandhi also needs to understand the difference ‘born leaders’ and ‘natural leaders’ who are artificially boosted by muscle and money power. Leadership is an art rather than a science. Not everyone can be a leader just as not everyone can become a good actor. It is a set of innate traits, refined and perfected over time with education, training and experience. Leadership styles vary with maturity, followers and situations.         

Leadership is often a ‘Choice’. A leader is a person who comes forward to take the challenge.  A natural leader is inspired and inspiring. There is also an aspect of being in the right place at the right time, which gives you the opportunity for your talents to shine. That is why despite dynastic inheritance Gandhi does not inspire confidence among domestic audiences.

History records many remarkable self-made leaders from poor backgrounds - Benjamin Franklin, John D. Rockefeller, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., being some, while in India, Lal Bahadur Shastri was a much revered leader of humble background.
 
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