But suddenly, in the last two months dirt has flown, scandals have outed, sullying the picture and raising questions again about the first family of India. First came the Robert Vadra deals that left a derisive Indian public asking how Priyanka’s husband got rich so quickly (well, with a little help from friends, like a Congress CM and one of the nation’s top builders). Now questions are being raised about the manner in which the Congress party transferred Rs 90 crore to a private trust managed by Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and members of their close inner circle. The charges were raised by known family baiter, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, who has in the past made wild allegations against the Nehru-Gandhis. But this time round there was enough meat in it for the party to issue a qualified mea culpa, but then it was all in the good cause of reviving National Herald, a defunct newspaper with a long association to the party. The scandal is complex, and there are issues for the income tax and legal authorities to examine.
The question now is: is the dynasty losing its halo? Assistant professor of political science at Delhi University Avinash Mishra says perception is important in this age of technology. “Till now, the image of the Gandhis (Sonia and her children) was that of a charitable family giving donations to just causes. This image comes in conflict with the picture of a Robert Vadra having many houses and properties to his name. And now the Congress president herself faces charges of financial improprieties. For me, this is a huge loss to the credibility of the Congress and more so to the Gandhis.”
But in an age when there is such a welter of charges and scandals hitting politicians, business houses and corporates across the nation, does anyone notice who’s being accused? Is the din too loud for the details to be absorbed? The good news for the Congress is that the principal opposition, the BJP, is battling its own demons. But in times like these, when the accuser and the accused jostle for space in TV studios, does the silence on the part of Gandhis help or harm their image?
Sociologist Dipankar Gupta says the core defining feature of the Congress is the family and the party will rally around them. “Just as the BJP has Hindutva and the CPI(M) anti-Americanism, the Congress has the Gandhis,” he says, adding a rider: the question is also of propriety in democratic politics. “True, there is a lot of muck being raked and legally maybe the scandal will never be sorted out. But in the context of propriety, the party has taken a hit. At the end of the day, democracy isn’t just about legality, it’s also propriety.” His suggestion: the Gandhis distance themselves from the trusts they are associated with.
He also argues that what the media does in Delhi and Mumbai is increasingly irrelevant in the states. To illustrate, he gives the example of ex-telecom minister A. Raja who spent time in jail and came out to a hero’s welcome in Tamil Nadu. “He was seen as a man who brought a mobile phone to every home at affordable rates. Perhaps the Gandhis are seen more as chief adjudicators in state politics rather than as corrupt players. Also, the Bofors kickbacks extracted a price from Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress as before he was seen as spotlessly clean. Today, no one’s seen like that.”
But surely, for the middle class it appears that the Congress is trying to brazen out the charges of corruption? Salman Khursheed is elevated from law to external affairs after facing down a scandal. S. Jaipal Reddy is eased out of the oil & gas portfolio after apparently annoying a business house.
The Bofors kickbacks became public over two decades ago. But back in 1971, there was the Nagarwala case when a raw agent collected Rs 60 lakh from a bank allegedly impersonating Indira Gandhi’s voice. The charges were never proved. And there was no 24-hour channel to play the news again and again. Those were innocent times when people were not so tuned in. Professor M.S.S. Pandian of jnu says “the English media should not be treated as a yardstick for what happens on the ground. At best one can speculate on how these charges will be calibrated for elections. Even then, it’s the image of the state leaders that will matter”. Professor Sudha Pai of the same varsity says one can never really say how this will play out. Yet she points out that “all this comes precisely around the same time when Rahul Gandhi is poised to take over as No. 2 in the party...so the charges might stick but the Congress will rally around them. Corruption is across the board and I don’t think the common man makes his decisions watching news channels in Delhi.”
Analysts from the states argue that TV channels may amplify charges of corruption but are not always a force multiplier in the states where channels have their own logic. Calcutta political commentator Rajat Roy says that “at best, there is a curiosity value attached to these charges. This is not to suggest that the people of Bengal aren’t perturbed by corruption. Rather, it hasn’t reached a tipping point where the charges snowball into something big yet.” V. Krishna Ananth, associate professor at the department of mass communications, Sikkim University, sees it differently. He feels there will be further damage caused by media amplification.
The dynasty is older than independent India and its immunity may be wearing thin. Hyper media is also hitting the dynasty in an age when the pre-eminence of the Congress is already challenged by strong regional players and the BJP. It could take a toll.
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 dynasty had a long run.
50 years back other countries looked at India for democractic inspiration. Today we have become a dynastic hegmony. The royal family of the Congress serves as a model for the Mulayams. the Karunanidhis, the Badals and what not.
Good that Vadra;s tathya has come out. The people of India should stop beleiving in fairy tales of genetic perfection and honesty after this
Thats the way the cookie crumbles
I am not sure about any halo around the Nehru clan. But do people think the Nehru clan is corrupt? I think yes. Will they reject them because they are corrupt? THe answer, most likely is NO.
In the last 40 years, Indians have shown a remarkable level of tolerance towards corrupt people. The only time corruption was a major election issue was in 1996. Other than that, Indians have never treated corruption as a major problem and have never rejected anyone for that.
So the Nehru clan will not lose because of corruption or loss of halo. If they lose, it will be due to other factors(like wrong alliances, poor campaigning etc).
Amidst the plethora of scams being uncovered on a regular basis, and the attendent question of credibility (or lack of it) of UPA government, it is surprising that hardly any question is raised on the role of government institutions. Scams are unearthed due to the effort of concerned, committed, interested (some of them vested) individuals or groups using the RTI tool. Surely the institutions under government control (IT, ED, CBI, IB etc) must have been in the know of these scams all the while.
If the government were to plead ignorance of the dealings of Robert Vadra, Khurshid, Gadkari, high-profile corporates and a host of others, it should have been hauling up the institutions under its control. That neither the government nor the media is questioning the role of these institutions points to a grand coallition of the businessmen-politician-burocrat-media nexus.
The only reason for our widespread corruption is that we don't have an Indian leading our country, the foreigners lading our nation do not have the respect towards our nation, as we natives do, that is why our country is into a freefall of corruption, scamming, insecurity & internal threats such as Naxalism, the North-Eastern demographic invasion, but most importantly, the inflation that pinches every pocket in the nation. These people only want power, but do not want to govern, when in power, they want another term and their role in government is toward re-election and self-gratification, rather than governance ..... A patriotic Indian would have addressd these issues with alacrity,sincerety& the severity they deserved.
Scientifically we could claim that the origin of a country's leader does'nt matter, but it does and we are practically observing its effects.
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