It is now evident that India will never be Congress-Mukt. Not because the Congress is going to back with the help of some mysterious power. But simply because Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his number two Amit Shah are embracing all the ways of the Congress to enhance their grip over the power structure.
In this year of 2016, it is instructive to recall that in 1966 when Indira Gandhi defeated Morarji Desai in the internal election of the Congress Parliamentary Party, she was the candidate of almost all the Congress chief ministers. They had told the then party president K Kamraj that she has to be the prime minister. But within five years, all the chief ministers were people who were hand-picked by her. Her refusal to have anyone else as the chief minister was ascribed to her insecurity. She wanted that the chief ministers should be ‘nobodys’ who survived at her mercy. It has been argued by several analysts that depriving the states of strong leaders has been at the root of the decline of the Congress. The blame for this has been always laid at Indira’s doorsteps and her successors in the family who have assiduously followed this approach.
For years, first the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and then its ideological successor the BJP denounced this practice as anti-democratic. Even otherwise, the BJS/BJP have built their political base primarily on an acidic campaign against the misdeeds of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and vowed to take the country on a different path. So what message does the Modi-Shah combine sends out by embracing the Indira Gandhi way of picking chief ministers? The tacit approval of the Sangh to their decisions to pick a non-Jat CM in Haryana, non-Maratha in Maharashtra and non-tribal in Jharkhand and now a non-Patel CM in Gujarat is only an endorsement of the ways of Indira Gandhi who initiated this practice. So it comes out that the Modi-Shah combine also wants chief ministers who are political nobodys in their state and are beholden to them for their position of power.
MODI-SHAH duo is following the Indira Gandhi pattern of governing the country, it is for the simple reason that the BJP has never been able to evolve its own power structure. It has displayed a singular lack of intellectual muscle in both economic and political matters and has been forced to fall back on the ideas that have been perfected by the Congress through years of hard work.
Is this a good strategy for a person who talks of cooperative federalism? Will a chief minister beholden to the prime minister for his position and not the support of the elected legislators fight for the rights of his own state or submit himself meekly to the diktats of the prime minister? But then this would be deemed as a silly question? All such silly questions arise when you start taking the pre-poll promises of a campaign leader and believe that he shall be faithful to these promises. The hard fact is that all such promises are simply made to get the chair. The agenda after acquiring the chair has to be different from the one that is used to grab it. In this respect, Shah delivered the right message when he said that the Rs 15 lakhs per person promise was a political jumla. People knew it when the promise was made.
But from a political standpoint it is a good thing that the chief ministers of Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Assam and now Gujarat are all hand-picked nominees of the Modi-Shah combine. Now there is no alibi for non-performance. Now if the centre and these states fail to deliver on the core promises made to the people, then there is no alibi.
In so far as the insecurity at the top is concerned, it comes with the job. It is very much a part of the turf. Indeed if the Modi-Shah duo is following the Indira Gandhi pattern of governing the country, it is for the simple reason that the BJP has never been able to evolve its own power structure. It has displayed a singular lack of intellectual muscle in both economic and political matters and has been forced to fall back on the ideas that have been perfected by the Congress through years of hard work. The latest example of the BJP falling back on a Congress idea is the GST bill. Ultimately, it was passed as the BJP emulated the Congress ideas, and Prime Minister Modi was compelled to push for an idea that the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi opposed tooth and nail for several years.
From the standpoint of democracy, this is a great tragedy. The more the BJP embraces the Congress, the weaker is the choice before the people. In the end if the choice for the people is reduced between Tweedledum and tweedledee then it is no choice. A country of India’s size genuinely needs an alternative narrative to politics that is different from the one practiced by the Congress. So far neither the BJP nor the much hyped Aam Aadmi Party has displayed the desired political imagination and intellectual bandwidth to come up with alternative ideas.
It is all right for Prime Minister Modi to charge that the Kashmir problem is due to the wrong policies of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. But the point is have we moved forward even an inch in the last two years of his regime? Or he wants to blame Nehru for the killing of the militant Burhan Wani and the resulting unrest in Kashmir over the last few weeks and wash his hands off?
As a slogan Congress-Mukt Bharat, does appear attractive to those who are enamoured of the magical powers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Electorally, the BJP is being helped by the Congress (the way in which Rahul Gandhi drove a capable Congress leader in Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma into the arms of the BJP and would perhaps continue with his blundering ways in other states as well) but that is just a part of the problem. The real thing is that the BJP cannot hope to embrace the Congress ways and then come up with different consequences. If Modi-Shah follow the Indira pattern of picking chief ministers, then there is no reason to hope for different outcomes. If the Congress collapsed because of weak leaders in the states, the BJP too would fall into the same ditch. Even the mighty organisational muscle of the RSS would not save it.