Editorial: Rahul, charity begins at home
Among the ten commandments of the New BJP’s druidical canon is to insult the intelligence of adversaries it fears most. So, it’s not a surprise that the ruling party’s troll army has been heckling away at Rahul Gandhi’s lecture at Cambridge University. Fresh from the success of his Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Congress leader must feel gratified that he remains significant to the BJP despite the no-show by his party in the just-concluded elections in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.
Mercifully, Rahul Gandhi’s presentation to students of the Judge School of Business was not given to bombast. Even if he did say the yatra has been ‘transformational’, his lecture was a measured submission on the state of democracy in India and the imperative of investing in manufacturing, which would give a platform to the working class to organise and thereby shore up democracy in India.
If any post-yatra chest-thumping has been seen in the Congress, it was at the Raipur plenary of the party late last month. Apart from the predictable showering of encomiums on Rahul Gandhi, it was full of backslapping talk of ‘energy unlocked’ by the yatra and plans for an East-West journey to release yet more of it. The party’s new president Mallikarjuna Kharge said this was the beginning of a ‘New Congress’.
However, if this Congress be ‘new’, what of it is new? Sure, the plenary adopted a wide-angled social justice agenda that is further to the left than the party has ever been before. It includes a legally mandated minimum income for the poor, reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs in the judiciary, a ministry for OBC empowerment, etc.
It’s clear where the agenda is coming from: it has a strong whiff of the kind of progressive left thinking the National Advisory Council imparted to the UPA. While the Congress in coalition has a fair record of implementing an agenda for governance, its resolve in carrying out internal party reforms is open to question.
Indeed, the party constitution may have been amended to reserve half the seats for the weaker sections, but the party has shied away from holding elections to those seats, or even from implementing the ‘one family one post’ principle it adopted a year earlier. The party did elect a non-Gandhi president in Mallikarjun Kharge, but we still see him playing second fiddle to the Family.
The truth is that the Congress is trying to carry out a social justice agenda with an elitist leadership. The party continues to be dominated by urban progressives who may believe passionately in that left-of-centre agenda but lack the nous of communicating with voters in the necessary language and idiom or may be deficient in the legerdemain required to win over the masses.
Clearly, the party needs to give more places of influence to leaders who come from rough-hewn backgrounds, people who have led student movements, labour movements, or farmer movements, not just people whose view of society, however earnest, comes from the liberal arts departments of bespoke universities.
Both on the Left and the Right worldwide, we are witnessing anti-elite movements sweeping aside scions of privilege. The Congress cannot claim to fight the good fight against fascism unless it acknowledges this phenomenon and adjusts itself accordingly.
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