This is also a historic opportunity!
Why the Congress Party remains relevant?
Just now I recorded my video on the subject of the Indian political scenario and posted the same on the Net. To make my views more clear and precise and to give the subject a historic context and also to emphasise certain points of my argument here I write this blog.
The 2014 Lok Sabha elections in India had reduced the once-mighty Indian National Congress party, 130 years old movement that fought for Indian Independence and ruled the country for all these post-Independence years, with few interruptions, to a rump of just 44 MPs in a house of 544 MPs.
Also, significantly, the winning party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a decisive absolute majority. That was significant for this is the first time since some 30 years there were only coalition governments. So, that gives the Indian polity a new political stability that was missing for the past three decades.
Now, the latest development is that after some 9 months of absolute majority and also winning some of the important states Assembly elections, in Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Jharkhand the confident Mr.Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister had to face a humiliating defeat at the hands of a new, small party, namely, the Aam Aadmi (AAP).The Congress became a zero in Delhi! It is a great shame and a shock for the Grand Old Party!
Mr.Modi’s carefully cultivated image of invincibility is broken. Also, Mr. Modi is facing some criticism, though still muted, for his inability to match his promises with deeds.
Now, the Congress party is faced with a crisis of credibility and even an identity crisis.
The public perception has also changed.
The people at large see the newly successful AAP as a credible alternative to the Congress party.
No one, neither Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul Gandhi or anyone else in the Congress seems to have any clue. I refrain from commenting on both Sonia and Rahul for obvious reasons. I was recently in New Delhi and had met some senior Congress leaders, notably, Motilal Vohra and A.K.Antony who are also confidants of the party president.
From what I saw at the AICC, the party headquarters and elsewhere there is a distinctive feeling the Congress party has lost its nerve. All the powerful leaders, who were Cabinet Ministers and others who enjoyed enormous power and perks, including the former Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, the former New Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit have become silent (they didn’t show their faces in the Delhi Assembly election campaigns, nor the former ministers who lost their elections, once elected from Delhi Parliamentary constituencies didn’t show their faces either.
So, the Congress remains demoralised. No one knows what will happen next. No new thoughts or ideas or action. How long can this non-action are sustained? No one seems to have a clue.
It is in this context and at a time when there is non-action and when the party faces new challenges, it is now asked to vacate its headquarters as well (!), I thought I must give my thoughts on the crisis faced by the party and also what can be done.
Just luckily I also read the latest edition of The Economist weekly (February 21st-27th 2915) on the ‘Britain’ electoral system’. I thought I must bring it to the attention of the Indian readers, in particular to the attention of the Congressmen and women all over India to say that there is much reason, both historical and ideological, to believe that there is a great future for the Congress party.
Britain, the oldest modern democracy is celebrating the 800th year of the Magna Carta, the first charter that gave rights to the barons, the subjects of the British King John. The Westminster model of British Parliamentary democracy is the oldest in the world, the mother of all parliaments.
The British political system is also old; the two oldest parties are the Conservative and the Labour party. The ideologies were again two, one Conservative, class system, the Opposition, first Liberals and later the Labour. Now, there are five parties, except the two main parties, all are small and they don’t count at the national level.
The Economist article analyses the current political crisis there where there are challenges to the two party systems with the emergence of the splinter parties, three new ones, Scottish National Party, the UK Independent party and the other the Green. House of Commons has 650 MPs.
The article analyses the various issues, voters, apathy, the preponderance of the migrant voters, in some 65 constituencies there are significant 25% share of the migrant voters. So, the Labour party as well as the Conservatives have put up more BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) candidates as their candidates.
I want every concerned reader to download this article from The Economist (Economist.com).
The critical point of the article is that in spite of the new small parties (the new ones are called as ‘insurgents’) they can only contribute to a weak government at the Westminster.
In India the regional, cattiest or nationalist or separatism-oriented parties can only weaken the Central government in India. As the experience so far has proved.
Otherwise, there would always be a need for two broader national-level formations, one, Centre-Right and the other, Centre Left.
In the Indian context, given India’s vast size and diversity, there can only be two political formations, two broad ideologies, Centre-Left-Liberal and Centre-Right-Hindutva. However much we try, this long-term perspective is unlikely to change in India. This is the main thesis.
The Congress has a long tradition. Its key ideologies are democracy, secualrism and a left-oriented free market economy. For the BJP or other rightwing parties too, it can only be democracy, Hindutva and free market economy only.
The very democratic compulsions would demand this two party system formation only.
Coalition politics may come and go. But the future points towards a dual party system only.
So, whatever be the immediate, short-term future of the Congress party, the long-term seems to have a built-in compulsion towards a two party, two ideological systems only. As for the BJP too, there can’t be any other drastic change of course except to move further towards a right-wing party.
Of course, we need intellectuals like Amartya Sen, Jagdish Bhagwathi and even Dr.Manmohan Singh to articulate the aspirations and hopes of the people in a more agreeable and rational way.
The role of intellectuals in Indian political space has been rather nil almost. Or, modest at best.
Freedoms in India, freedoms of all types, personal or media freedoms, are all hedged between an over-weaning fear of the authority and the pressures of the more powerful elements in the society and polity.
Even the upper classes, be they corporates or the otherwise rich and powerful or the middle classes and even the lower classes are highly conditioned by the all-encompassing fear.
This is an inheritance of sorts, inherited from a series of long-times invasions and occupations of the country. Inferiority complex, an inner cowardice, servility and unquestioned submission to authority have characterised the Indian personality.
Unfortunately, Indian intellectuals, settled on foreign soil or inside India, have adhered to these basic failings.
Argumentative may be Indians. But this argumentativeness is only in closed circles, not even on the campuses, there is always this low self-esteem, especially among the academics. Not just academic freedoms, they are nowhere. No freedoms in India are as absolute as in the British or even in the European sense. Indians of this generation are yet to understand what the concept of individual liberty is. Even our concept of democracy, democratic norms, the very many nuances are yet to be made known and appreciated.
So, when Amartya Sen wonders why link nomination of a chancellor of a university to academic freedom, it is an abstruse argument. He hasn’t understood the brutal side of political power, the raw power. Only when you come down to the ground level reality in India, you would realise your arguments fall off, reality bites you, brutally hurts you!
It is unfortunate, these intellectuals didn’t play any robust roles on previous occasions, except when they got wounded (as Dr.Singh) or bruised (as Sen) or Dr.Bhagwati who went out of his way and slipped out the judgement. He said (too early I think)’Modi is a gift of God’ to India!
They didn’t utter a word when Dr.Singh, their close colleague once, was Prime Minister for 10 long years. When many wrongs occurred. Also, as one reader in a prominent business daily pointed that Prof.Sen was rather a guilty party, as, as the reader points out, when Jyoti Basu, the long-serving Chief Minister of West Bengal politicised the Bengal academic appointments and thus ruined the famous university of Calcutta and the Presidency College.
We need much more honest self-appraisal of our arguments as to how the Indian polity is evolving and what we must be doing next.