Two young women set American women on road to the liberation through a psychic change that enabled nearly seventy per cent American women to dye their hair to suit their tastes. Both copywriters gave a catchy one line slogan for their hair dye for the average housewife, claims Malcolm Gladwell in his book. For promoting any product, attractive packaging is imperative, to `make it more alluring.’  Few politicians comprehend this need to motivate people with their idea and set aflame their imagination.

Mahatma Gandhi dressed in a short dhoti, a wrap around his shoulders and a ‘lathi’ in his hand.  The ‘lathi’ was the symbol of inner strength and a sign of his physical infirmity. Yet, he inspired every Indian to adopt Lokmanya Tilak’s assertive mantra, ‘Swaraj is my birthright.’ It brought the masses to the streets to fight the British, without weapons, armed only with moral courage.

Jawaharlal Nehru motivated people to accept him as a benevolent dictator, dictating to transform their lives by building a strong and prosperous India.  The masses overlooked his attempts to deliver socialism from his palatial residence and travel in luxury cars. His denial of any role to the wealthy in socio-economic development convinced masses to stake their future in his promise.

Indira Gandhi broke the spell of fatalism under which masses eked out their lives for centuries, by making them conscious of their right to two meals a day. She became a mighty personality by her two actions, the nationalisation of 20 big banks and the abrogation of former rulers’ privy purses. The poor put Indira Gandhi on the highest pedestal. Accountability from the leader became a part of the Indian people’s psyche since then.

They could perceive the hollowness of Rajiv Gandhi’s performance, which abetted profit motives of the wealthy and provided lip service to the needs of the poor. Vishwanath Pratap Singh could not evoke any hope in masses despite his intense campaign against corruption and his attempt to extend the benefits of reservation to the deprived classes. He only ended up arousing violent passions.

The masses acknowledged the efforts of Atal Behari Vajpayee to normalise relations between India and Pakistan. They thought it would end the ever-looming threat of terrorism in the neighbourhood. However, this came to nought afterr he succumbed to internal pressure to abort his effort for an agreement with the perpertrator of the Kargil misadventure, General Pervez Musharraf at the Agra Summit.

People also found it hard to forgive him for giving up on his efforts to jettison Narendra Modi from his office as Gujarat chief minister after condemning him for his failure in upholding Rajdharma. Despite a tremendous economic turnaround, Narsimha Rao could not relate to the psyche of the masses and went down as a miserably failed ruler.

The Manmohan Singh regime has strived to prop up the scion of the Gandhi family for future. The weird power-sharing arrangement has not touched the psyche of masses. Everyone can see, he holds office and is accountable, but has no power.  The party chief has all the power but cannot be held accountable as she does not occupy the chair.

People are perceptive of genuine leadership qualities reflected by the ideas and inherent actions of power-seekers. Many present-day politicians believe public images can be falsified by attractive packaging. They even hire image experts to achieve the objective of propping up their nominated leader to become a saleable commodity to catapult them to power.

In this process of erecting scaffolding for the image, they ignore the impending catastrophe. Advisers of Rahul Gandhi have cast him in the role of a dictator, to project him as a decisive leader. Not only the party, but the government also bends to his wishes.

He walked a few miles to champion the cause of landowners who lost their land after it was acquired for public purposes, but without sufficient compensation. The central government quickly enacted the new law on compensations for acquired lands. Landowners benefitted, but no one remembered landless workers eking out an existence by working on lands before acquisition who were rendered jobless and homeless. Yet, Rahul Gandhi is being hailed as the great achiever of this legislation even when it seeks to champion and protect the interests of rich.

The ordinance seeking to restore the principles of natural justice after the highest court decreed immediate disqualification of tainted legislators was trashed by the Prime Minister after Rahul Gandhi frowned at the attempt.

The general secretary, Janardhan Dwivedi, a close confidante, has now urged him publicly to replace caste-based reservations with economic criteria-based quotas instead. Dwivedi did not ask the party to consider it through proper channels. He sought the indulgence of his party vice-president, as though there were no need for the party to debate over it.

The motive behind the move was obviously to enhance the standing of Rahul Gandhi, by providing him the opportunity to stand by the downtrodden by rejecting the suggestion.  These are all desperate attempts to refurbish the party’s image.

By spending a night in a Dalit family’s hovel or partaking of a meal with them or even howling bloody war to protect their entrenched interests does not make anyone their messiah. The move does not attempt at seeking a psychological change to motivate the downtrodden to fight, to enable them to protect their interests.

The twenty years’ social movement by Kanshi Ram has given them courage to fight for their rights. Rahul Gandhi can be their lead partner only if he indicates that he would rather fight for them than fight for power.

Mere tokenism in politics does not reap dividends. It merely reflects the lack of vision and understanding of socio-economic realities. Tokenism is not politics. But the real difficulty in seeking new enterprises is not in developing new ideas, but in getting away from old ones.

Vijay Sanghvi

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