Here's a trick question. Is it possible for the Congress Party to reinvent itself without disturbing the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty? Because if the reinvention has to take place it must be within the parameters of family rule. As the CWC on Monday demonstrated, Congressmen and Congresswomen will not countenance even the thought of Rahul or Sonia stepping down. I have long argued that if one is a Congress supporter, one must learn to accept dynastic rule. It is appalling, but it is a reality.
The matter of family indispensability has become complicated currently since dynasties too have a responsibility, especially a dynasty not imposed by military or civilian dictatorship. And that responsibility is to deliver. Indira Gandhi did, so too did Sonia in 2009 and 2014. However, the defeat suffered by the party on May 16 is of a magnitude and scale which should leave even Sonia squirming.
In any other party in the free world, there would have been a spate of resignations. Predictably, after a few days of talk in the media, and "party sources", the issue has gone cold. Today, the 10 Janpath dispensation may be slightly weakened but it is very much in control, and likely to stay in control.
So, back to my trick question: Can the party be reinvented? It is hardly a secret that Congresswallahs of all vintage and stature "crawl" in front of the Gandhis. Journalists have had the unhappy opportunity of watching how party leaders humiliate themselves in front of Sonia and Rahul.
Their back is seldom straight. The Gandhis may occasionally listen to the stalwarts and sometimes give them a long rope, but once Sonia or Rahul have spoken, all discussion on the subject ceases. The "last word" has been uttered. This is sometimes called the "glue" and it has limited uses. I have heard BJP leaders often lament the absence of "glue" in their party leading to a cacophony of voices speaking on a single issue. However, my topic is the reinvention of the Congress party, not the BJP.
One way of energising and reviving the party is to let a thousand flowers bloom. For Rahul to lock himself away in Tughlaq Lane and work in secrecy relying on the expertise of four or five of his acolytes is a recipe for disaster. The one occasion I met Rahul Gandhi some months ago I advised him to seek out the widest possible opinion in and out of the party. He was surrounded by a few underlings who seldom spoke, and when they did, it was only to endorse what the boss was saying. For Congress leaders entry into Rahul's war-room is by invitation only.
Not just in journalism, but in politics, honest debate and dissent are the lifeblood of the profession — a way of arriving at the truth. Sonia and Rahul need to listen. And they must be prepared to be overruled without feeling a coup d'etat is in the offing. The top leadership must encourage party leaders to express their views candidly, especially those at variance with the thinking at 10 Janpath. Presently, instead of debate, we have a Sonia/ Rahul echo chamber.
How many strategy sessions with senior leaders were held by Rahul to formulate the party's election campaign? Did anyone in the party tell Rahul that corruption as an issue sits badly on his lips? Was the usefulness of Rahul using the family name and emphasising family sacrifices thrashed out? Were the implications of 100 million new voters entering the register fully discussed? A campaign planned in secrecy and in stealth, besides being an insult, is counterproductive for a 127-year-old party.
The "old guard" may be on walking sticks but some of them understand India from the ground. Most do not know how to use a computer so they cannot key in data and emerge with the right answers. Sure, many may have vested interests. However, a shrewd leader knows how to tap experience and bin the rest.
My reinvention formula has about a 50% chance of success because it is based on the assumption that the Gandhis cannot be touched. This poses severe limitations on creating a blueprint. Some leaders, anyway, prefer to rely on the time-tested method: oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them.
This was first published in the Economic Times
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
The Root Cause of the HISTORIC DEFEAT OF CON Party in 2014 elections is the word called "SONIANOMICS"..
The people of this country want real development, real growth and real investment and real jobs.. not doles and unrealizable rights and meaningless laws like RTE, MNREGA and FSB..
Thus, India - 80% of Indians have roundly rejected SONIANOMICS..
The message for CONgress is - try to invent a new economic theory -which can be left of center, anti BJP/Anti Modinomics but at same time does not follow the failed SONIANOMICs path..
Can they? Will they? I doubt.. even the most ardent supporters of CON party - over here, over the leftist media (guhas and tehelkas and Hindu's N Ram) have failed to daigonoze the disease and understand that 2014 is about the rejection of hare brained laws and concepts like MNREGA, RTE etc..
There are many among the young who think Gandhi arrived on the scene rather too early even before India as a unified nation was mature. To say objectively, Gandhi helped the Gandhi -Nehru family more than the nation. No wonder His grandson was rejected in the elections. It is the 2nd rung politicians under congress brand who destroyed all values in politics.
One simple fact not considered seriously by Congressmen is that the "Gandhi" surname has NO meaning now to most voters in India. To an embarrassinlgly large number, and this incudes most of the 'young', the surname is just another herald of a welcome holiday on the 2nd October every year. A few VVIPs in Delhi troop with long and serious faces to Raj Ghat to lay flowers and that is it. They, as well as the rest of the country, hardly need to remember the Mahatma for the rest of the year. As for the present dynasty with the same surname, though it belongs to an entirely different lineage not even remotely connected to the Mahatma, all the mystique, charisma and fondness for the 'Gandhis' stopped gradually after Indira and abruptly after Rajiv. A white streak in the hair or an attempt to look like one's grandfather or grandmother cannot and will not catapult one into the hallowed strata in which the earlier generations of the 'dynasty' were held by the people. The poor crowds, even after assiduous marshalling by Congress workers and aspiring candidates that turned up at Rahul and Sonia's campaign meetins are alone testimony to the faded charisma of the famous surname. Commanding by a mere lifting of the little finger, a la Marie Antoinette, is a thing of the past. The men and women fighting elections on a Congress ticket now know that they can no longer expect the dynasty to pull in votes. Else, the likes of Chidambaram and many others like him would not have shied away from contesting. In the event, they were proved spot on as Sonia's and Rahul's sole appearances in Tamil Nadu poll meetings in Kanyakumari and Ramanathpuram for Congress candidates did not result in wins, the latter even losing his deposit. Congress may still need the "Gandhis" but they cannot expect them to revive the party's fortunes. They may be shocked to learn that they have to do it themselves, with the 'dynasty' as a prop and a 'glue' to keep factions from totally ruining the party.
This is a general remark. Qualitative analysis is INFERIOR to quantitative analysis in economics and leads people astray. This includes the present article. It missed the most important point, the economic balance of a fiat economy ( being different from what is commonly assumed) is what led to economic failure.
About the fallen mango analogy, I have to say this. Algebra trumps ideology. You can't beat algebra, the TRUTH. Unless Modi's team learns fast, failure is certain.
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