Take any illegitimate, immoral and unethical precedent in the political history of “independent” India and you will inevitably, invariably and unambiguously find the dark imprint of the Congress Hand behind it. Indeed, Narendra Modi couched this execrable legacy with just one term when he described the Congress Hand as Khooni Panja (murderous claw) in the run up to the 2014 elections.
One of the central pillars of this corrupt precedent is something that has stubbornly endured till date: the subversive public practice of hiring professional sloganeers during election campaigning and in general, political rallies. Over time, this deeply corrupt practice has become ubiquitous, known infamously as “Biryani Packet + ₹ 500 per person.” The blunt truth is that all these professional sloganeers largely come from the economically backward classes and have become habituated for three generations to look forward to these pathetic doles that fall into their lap once in five or so years. But the monumental tragedy is the fact that the Congress had an open and virgin field to uplift precisely this class of Indians but it deliberately chose to choke them economically. Three generations of Congress-induced poverty-generation.
The full credit for creating this class of hired political sloganeers goes to Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The well-known reason for inaugurating this nadir was her cynical tussle for absolute power against what she dubbed as the “syndicate,” a term she (or her close aides) coined. The “syndicate,” also known as the “old guard” was no match for the tactics of pure menace that she unleashed through backseat driving. Indeed, she had learned well from both her father and her Communist cronies who smelled blood. Among other things, she had deeply ingrained the Soviet-style propaganda that she inflicted with full force upon a large, populous nation that was still coming to terms with something called democracy.
One facet of this Soviet-style propaganda was to create the illusion of mass support for the Great Leader, and anybody who opposed the Great Leader was painted as an enemy and one who stood in the way of a New Prosperous India waiting just around the corner. She was the Only One who had the Master Key to unleash that prosperity. But for this propaganda, Indira Gandhi would have never pulled off the split of the Indian National Congress that she engineered. This is how the stalwart and fighter Ramnath Goenka characterizes her debasement of politics and public life:
Read that again. And again. And teach it to your children.
Because it was an illusion, it could only be sustained by deception on an industrial scale. Overnight, a new layer of middle management was created in the capital of India: the third and fourth rung political pimp. It was his job to recruit vast hordes of people who would swarm the streets of Delhi every day—sometimes, multiple times in a day—singing the glories of Indira Gandhi, praising her from the bottom of their hearts. What was obviously concealed was that these songs were directly sponsored by her for a pittance. By 1969, India’s Nehruvian commanding economic heights had shattered into nationwide shortages and impoverishment, which made it ridiculously easy for these political pimps to recruit these poor souls en masse.
Creating a climate of naked fear was the darker facet of this illusion. The message was clear: if Indira Gandhi could split the “grand old party” with such ease, she could do anything. Poor Nijalingappa and Kamaraj were no match to this no-holds-barred public skullduggery.
And who better to narrate the details of this sinister story than one of India’s foremost novelists, Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa who was employed in Delhi during that hideous era? He was not only a witness to Indira Gandhi’s Dark Arts but had briefly penetrated its workings on the ground. His autobiography contains a valuable section that recounts a few episodes. Here is a tidbit.
Indira Gandhi branded anyone who questioned or criticized her as belonging to the evil “Syndicate.” She systematically created an image for herself as the only savior of the poor and the downtrodden, and that only she had the guts and valour to destroy the wealthy people who were evil by definition. To bolster this image, an elaborate machinery that included fancy dresses, background music, drums, songs, and Melas was put in motion. I have seen some of these with my own eyes.
Footpath businessmen’s Association, Autorickshaw Drivers Association, Jhuggi-Jhopdi Dwellers Association…each day, some new Association would begin its procession from the Ram Lila Maidan and walk throughout the streets of Delhi chanting the “Indira Mata Desh ki Neta!” slogan. It would end the procession at her residence and submit some sort of request letter or application to her. She would give them her gracious “Darshan” on the lawn opposite her house and make a small speech.
At this point, Dr. Bhyrappa notes how all the newspapers, T.V. and radio would give these events glowing coverage and none of them questioned these brazen tactics.
Dr. Bhryappa decided to find out the truth firsthand.
One day, I joined one of these processions and began shouting, “Desh ki neta Indira Mata” as I walked with them. After some time, I asked the person next to me, “Bhai, how much money did they give you?”
“How much did they give you?” he asked in return. I had also worn an old and torn pant and sleeve shirt. Even my face was covered in the sweat of the summer heat, the drops dripping continuously.
I said, “five.”
“You’re a fool. I never agree to anything less than ten,” he said with great pride.
“What do you mean never? For what all processions and rallies do they pay you this amount?”
“The same thing: ‘desh ki neta Indira mata” procession. It happens once every three or four days, right? I come every time. Are you a newcomer?”
I said “yes” and left the spot and joined another place in the crowd. This time I asked the same question to another co-sloganeer: “Bhai, How much money did they give you? I got five.”
“That Thekedaar (broker or middleman) is a Badmash! He gave you five? I got only three! Let him come tomorrow, I’ll tell him I won’t come for anything less than five.”
Then Dr. Bhyrappa notes how Indira Gandhi organized these rallies by pumping in vast sums of money in order to “show” that the poor people were solidly with her and against Nijalingappa & Co. He also says that every single journalist, reporter and editor knew the sinister truth of this chicanery playing out right before them but didn’t call it out. Then he asks,
Why are these papers still glorifying her, why are they supporting her in spite of all this? Perhaps a major reason was their fear that if Morarji Desai came to power, he would enforce Prohibition. A good chunk of journalists were Left-leaning and they had been completely sold out to her through measures like bank nationalisation and the abolition of privy purses.
A magnificently creative outcome of these experiences is Dr. Bhyrappa’s Thantu, a classic of epic proportions. This is his assessment of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, variously hailed as the “iron lady” of India among other patented Congress frauds.
Indira Gandhi mercilessly stomped over the national, constitutional and ethical foundations. Every tactic she used, every political caper she launched annihilated the ethical edifice of an ancient civilization and provoked the worst tendencies of human nature. In the Bharata of my time, she was the deadliest ethics-destroying force that ever arose. That was the opinion that welled up in me back then. That opinion has only grown stronger now. [Emphasis added]
How does one even recover this shattered civilizational ethics now? Through elections? By passing newer laws? Think about it.
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