Congress’ Raag Darbari

Every President of the Congress has his own Raag Darbari, a signature of the person's style

Every President of the Congress has his own Raag Darbari, a signature of the person's style
Every President of the Congress has his own Raag Darbari, a signature of the person's style

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he 1968 Hindi novel, Raag Darbari, is a metaphor for post-Independence India. Written by Sri Lal Sukla, the winner of 1969 Sahitya Academy Award, the novel depicts the politics, society, and economy of a UP village, presented as a microcosm of the entire country. It mirrors the political reality in its multifarious abominations; and among the various shenanigans employed by the local satrap, Vaidyaji, there is the empowerment of youth. To this end, he abdicates—in favor of his own son!

In a case of politics imitating art, Rahul Gandhi is said to be taking over the reins of the Congress. This, we are told, is a big move, a major ‘surgery,’ empowerment of the young, etc. Tweedledum replacing Tweedledee is a great change, the grand old party would like us believe. “We all want Rahul to take over, as and when [it will happen], we will make a proper statement,” party spokesperson Sushmita Dev told reporters on Wednesday.

Typically, party president Sonia Gandhi added an element of mystery to the Rahul-is-taking-over story. On a visit to her constituency Rae Bareli, she refused to comment on the subject when asked by journalists, who thus were further encouraged to speculate over the possible succession.

Among those rooting for Rahul is Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh. At a press conference in Chandigarh, he not only said that time is right for Rahul to become party president but also favored Priyanka’s full-time involvement in active politics. “Sonia Gandhi is a brilliant leader. I have said that she has been working [as Congress president] for the last 20 years. If she feels that time has come to give it to a new generation, then she should pass it on and we will fully support Rahul [to take over].”

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he enthusiasm of the changers—curiously called ‘young Turks’—is matched with the resolute resistance of the old guard. Which is not surprising, for confidants and coteries are not transferable. Not a single person close to Rajiv Gandhi is in the close circle of Sonia. Similarly, when Rajiv took over in 1984, after his mother Indira’s assassination, he gathered his own team around himself—Arun and Nina Singh, Arun Nehru, Suman and Manju Dubey, Romi Chopra, M.J. Akbar, Ottavio and Maria Quattrocchi, Satish and Sterre Sharma, and Mohan and Nimal Thadani.

Before him, his younger brother, Sanjay, had an entirely different clique. It included, among others, information & broadcasting minister Vidya Charan Shukla, minister of state for home affairs Om Mehta (dubbed as ‘home’ Mehta, for he practically ran the ministry on Sanjay’s directions, as the senior minister chose to remain a mute spectator), Delhi Development Authority vice chairman Jagmohan, senior Delhi Police cop P.S. Bhinder, and Municipal Commissioner B.R. Tamta. Ambika Soni and Ruksana Sultana, the mother of film actress Amrita Singh, added the touch of glamour (It needs to be remembered that Soni was never in the reckoning so long as Rajiv Gandhi was in power. It was only after Sonia’s ascension that she became important. Revival, not transferability).

Notice the preponderance of Punjabis in this group. Sanjay is said to have a fascination for Punjabis and their culture, especially the boisterous part of it; he ended up even marrying a Punjabi girl, Maneka.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]H[/dropcap]is mother, however, was biased in favor of Kashmiri pundits such as D.P. Dhar, P.N. Haksar, T.N. Kaul, B.K. Nehru, R.N. Kao. Let alone transferability, Sanjay seems to disdain his mother’s ‘kitchen cabinet.’ Such was the animus that he even got Haksar’s 80-year-old uncle arrested on a frivolous charge during the Emergency (1975-77).

So, it is not surprising that the persons close to Sonia are opposed to Rahul’s ascension. In this context, four points need to be made.

First, apart from circumstances, the ability of Sonia’s coterie to scuttle Rahul’s formal takeover will play a major role. Many among the old guard are doggedly peddling the theory that change at this point may not be suitable.

Second, there will continue to be more noises for Priyanka’s bigger role in the party. This time it may actually happen, an indication of which is the Congress’s change of stance on its relation with Robert Vadra; he is no longer a private citizen but associated with the party, and Sonia recently dubbed the assault on him as an affront to the party.

Third, change at the top, if it takes place, will be insubstantial, for there is no indication of Rahul questioning the direction—the Left turn—that the Congress has taken under the stewardship of his mother. In fact, nobody knows about his politics; he has come only with platitudes, inanities, and banalities.

And, finally, there is little evidence to suggest that Rahul would be equal to the task he will, sooner or later, be burdened with: revival of the Grand Old Party (GOP). So far, he has failed to perform in polls; in the last few years the only election results that have delighted the party leaders and cadres came from Bihar last year, and that too had more to do with the allies and electoral arithmetic than with Rahul’s sterling leadership qualities.

Therefore, as far as the GOP is concerned, the only changes one can expect would be in the constitution of the darbar. And Raag Darbari will continue.

Ravi Shanker Kapoor
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  1. Speculation becomes rife (as many times past) whenever any major incidence happens to the Congress.Commentators, Congressmen, media persons invite themselves to forecast endlessly on the who, when and how aspects of handing over the baton.However the trio keep laughing over the naivete of the whole process. they know very well that the choice is limited to the trio ( Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka.) only as any other names can never crop up for fear of getting the unceremonial boot a la old Sitaram Kesri.


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