Saturday, March 05, 2016

How Congress and BJP have got each other by their jugulars

Ratnakar Tripathy  

Let me start with an admission – I have been a part of the writing brigade that has for some time moaned about the lack of political dialogue in our national politics. I now feel I was wasting my time indulging in a morose discourse with no consequence. The fact is realpolitik unlike a classroom rarely resembles a lecture hall where the learned and the learning thrash out issues, concepts and beliefs. The political education of the lay public may happen best at times when there is no dialogue but a constant recrimination, however jarring between two adversaries. In the process they unravel layers of each other’s realities and persona and provide the often naive public with a naked display.  Like a shouting match between two neighbours that may give you deep insights into those you have to live with. So let us stop whinging in piety over the lack of dialogue and acknowledge the merits of all the grand debates we are having over nationalism, patriotism, sedition, identity and Indianans among all other grand notions we never get to discuss.

The fact is political events in India are moving at a pace unusual in Indian politics during a non-electoral phase when the dull everyday policy concerns take over and news columnists have to think hard over their choice of the topic of the day. Indeed, life has been made interesting, far too interesting on a daily basis by the BJP and the central leadership in Delhi in ways  to be good for the nation’s welfare. So much so that picking a topic for the week out of a sizable heap of burning issues to discuss has now become a problem instead! The ten years of Congress rule in India seem like a yawn that was slowly transitioning into a coma. Even the 2014 elections failed to wake up a disheartened UPA regime at the centre. By the time the Congress found its voice, the Modi tide had already turned into an overwhelming roar.  No one could imagine a year ago however that the roar would soon, really so soon turn into a deafening cacophony of empty slogans and threats issued to sundry social groups and individuals. The government at the centre is losing friends and well-wishers like a debutante gambler in Las Vegas on his first night. True, the public votes a party in power fully aware that five years, a substantial period for an individual lifetime is at stake. But as a party steps into power, there is another way of looking at the five years in question – like most medicines, it is also the beginning of the process of expiry unless remedial measures for renewal of the trust are put in place time and again. What the Modi government seems to do instead is to choose a course that is taking it into an irreversibly descending course over a steep gradient.

You do not have to be an exceptionally insightful person to see that the majority in India is actually made up of an almost unending series of minorities difficult to put on a piece of paper. It is a fact that this basic feature of our societies [yes, the plural is deliberate] is not changing much despite the contesting decibels. The BJP’s idea of the majority is after all just an idea, a construct it aims and hopes to achieve, whether you call it Hindutva or the nationalist/patriot or devise new coinages to say the same with a more dramatic effect! The trouble is this aggregate called the ‘Hindutva fold’ is just not coming together out of the fluid humanity called India. A more pragmatic ideologue would jettison the delusional idea of the socio-political monolith of any kind in order to ensure lasting political success. Instead, the BJP is busy sculpting a monumental menhir out of a limp batter of its own choice. The entire majoritarian rhetoric of the BJP is thus a vain aspiration that is making explicit its authoritarian instincts it is unable to undo much in the manner of a destiny foretold. In brief, democracy in India can be strained only so far and we are drifting close to a breaking point.  

Many well-wishing friends of democracy would agree with what I say here. But it is also true that quite a few among them are quietly putting their hopes in the Congress all over again. At this point few would openly admit this sudden preference for Rahul Gandhi but every time the man speaks out they hope he would get bolder and louder by the day. There is a reason for this frantic hope – if not the BJP, where else does the voter go? Willy-nilly he has to shift to the other pole as if the political landscape of India allowed no other possibility! This ironically also lies at the root of BJP’s arrogant confidence. BJP too reasons that if Rahul Gandhi’s Congress stands no chance, there is no other option but the BJP. Why this dogma seems increasingly questionable is a matter I will discuss elaborately in the future when I argue that we are heading straight to another phase of coalition politics in India. I said ‘heading’ not ‘heading back’ since this time round unlike the past the coalition partners may be a lot more demanding than ever before. But I leave that for some other time.

What I do wish to wind up with now is how the BJP and the Congress have got each other by their jugulars. In his recent post-budget speech and repeated statements, Rahul Gandhi keeps referring to the authoritarian temptations of the central government. His point resonates with both the classes and the masses, most prominently with the youth all over the country. On the other hand, when in his response to Rahul Gandhi’s allegation, Modi speaks of the Nehru- Gandhi dynasty, he seems to get the Congress by the jugular too for that is indeed the chief reason why the Congress faces a dead end today. Very like the BJP’s Hindutva ideology, the dynastic convention, indeed the dynastic instinct of the Congress has proved to be the millstone around its neck it can carry no more. As many commentators claim, the enervated dynasty cannot carry the party on its frail shoulders anymore and paradoxically, the party will not remain together without the dynasty that functions as its political adhesive. If the BJP seemed to be in a bad spot how about this dire predicament?  Maybe the title of this piece should have been – ‘When the Congress and BJP FIND each other’s jugular’ to convey the sense of dedicated and resolute grip their fangs now seem to have on each other’s vital artery. Like a predator going singlemindedly for the kill!


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