THE LATEST CIRCUS-SHOW TAKING PLACE outside a Surat court is both unsurprising and counts as the latest marker of Rahul Gandhi’s nuisance value. The fundamental question ever since Rahul Gandhi formally entered politics, then became an MP and then frontally led the Congress to the brink of extinction is this: how was a political creature like Rahul Gandhi even created in the first place?
The short answer: a Rahul Gandhi is the inevitable outcome of a path that the Congress carved out with its own hands after usurping the fruits of the freedom struggle.
The long answer is available as a series of warning-essays that DVG authored way back in 1949 in the issues of the Public Affairs journal. Reading them even today is an education in itself. Few people in our time know that DVG identified himself primarily as a journalist. Fewer still, know that he was an active participant in the Indian freedom struggle and was closely associated with the topmost echelons of the (then) Congress Party. But this association did not mist up his eyes to its many faults, which he exposed with his characteristic fearlessness and integrity.
Starting from the April 1949 issue of the Public Affairs journal, DVG singed the Congress for more than six months in a series titled The Congress Ailing. He wrote on the indomitable strength of facts, truth and experience, giving unimpeachable authority to his essays. They are also invaluable primary sources for the history of that period. When we read them today, it is clear that only a dangerous and clownish embarrassment like Rahul Gandhi would eventually helm the Congress Party. It was simply a question of when. In that sense, DVG was prophetic.
Beginning with this, The Dharma Dispatch will carry excerpts from this essay series in a spirit of public service. The first essay was titled, Congress & Parties.
We hope that this series will serve as useful reference material for students and researchers and will act as aids to the continuing education of professionals and political analysts and public-minded individuals.
Minor editorial changes in formatting have been made.
THE CONGRESS IS AILING, both in and out; and that is a matter for concern even to those who do not belong to its organization, because the Congress is in charge of the country's government all over.
Its trouble inside is personal rivalry and factions; outside, it is improper use of opportunity and incompetency in the management of affairs.
A condition of health for a political party is the existence of a rival party strong enough to inspire fear. The well-doing of the Government in a democratic State is proportionate to the efficiency of the Opposition in Parliament. It is the fear of defeat at the hands of the rival and consequent loss of office that suppresses the dissident elements within a party and holds its members together.
Mahatma Gandhi must have had in his mind a full and reasoned appreciation of what would be not only to the credit of the Congress, but also the good of the country when he gave the advice that the Congress should cease to be a political party after the coming of independence and that its best work afterwards is to be as an organization for the country's educational, social and economic reconstruction.
The Congress's, difficulty today is one that arises from the formidable height of its own status.
Firstly, its nation-high stature has now to shrink to the modest proportions of an ordinary political party.
Secondly, its colossal form frightens away all thought in others of calling into being another party as a competitor in the field. If Mahatma Gandhi's advice had been accepted, political parties would have had to be formed afresh, independently of the Congress, and that would have been an advantage to the country. Neither of the new parties would then have had the advantage, over the other, of being the sole inheritor of the prestige of the Congress.
Power is as much a disintegrator as an integrator. So long as power remained a far-off object to be fought for and won, the rank and file in the Congress had uppermost in their minds a sense of the need for complete unity. It is just as natural that after the prize has been captured, there should be scramble among them for shares. Search unites; gain divides. This is a law of human nature.
Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel and Acharya Kripalani and Dr. Pattabhi have delivered admonitions galore to Congressmen pointing out the unworthiness of selfishness and the error of provincialism and the evil of pressure groups and personal recriminations.
A disinterested outside observer cannot help wishing that the great national leaders had taken note of the greater strength of the forces of nature — of human nature above all. Search makes for unity; gain for division. What can check the forces of division is a challenge from the outside. A threatening rival's appearance will end the quarrels inside, partly by steadying the loyal and partly by clearing away the doubtful.
The best that the well-wishers of the Congress can do for it is therefore to close down its political front once for all, thereby furnishing both impetus and opportunity for the formation of a new party that will provoke the birth of another.
Such a development is not to be hoped for so long as the Congress retains its capacity of an institution of power-politics. Everybody would now like to have the use of its unique prestige — careerist as well as idealist, money-grabber as well as the man of sincere public spirit. Such promiscuity is loss of character.
This is a view of the matter that may not appeal to people who are already in possession of what there was for them to win through association with the Congress and are hopeful of making similar conquests in future. But they are short-sighted men. Rivals are sure to arise some day soon for them to face; and there is then bound to be much cursing and swearing by them…
The bulk of Congressmen are surely not men whose eye is riveted to the main chance, and they must prevail over those whose loyalty is not disinterested.
Let the hallowed ground be cleared of scheming and brawling crowds and closed to partisan strife once for all. Let it be dedicated to to non-party activities of service to the motherland. Let the seekers of political power go out and establish their camps elsewhere…That will be a fair fight, and one which the country may be glad to help and profit from.
The matter should be looked at from another side.
The words of Mill and Acton on power are today a commonplace. "Power corrupts; absolute power absolutely." How are we to mitigate its evil? By making its absoluteness impossible. By making it unavailable for monopolisation. By keeping the wielders of power under a constant fear of rivals who would challenge and defeat them and snatch it way from their hands. In other words, power becomes a comparatively safe thing when there are two or more parties contesting for it.
In India's political context of today, a precondition of the sound functioning of Governments is the existence of pull or resistance at two points in their mechanism:
(i) The fear of an Opposition in Parliament threatening to oust the party in office.
(ii) Mutual criticism and check between the Centre on the one side and the Province and States on the other.
Both these salutary tensions are impossible today because of the omnipresent dominance of the Congress. There are no real Opposition parties in any legislature.
To be continued
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