Rahul’s rise points to inherent weakness of Indian politics
THE appointment of Rahul Gandhi, son of the slain prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, as the vice-president of the Congress Party, which is currently headed by his mother Sonia, was, in a way, inevitable. One Indian political analyst was quoted in a report published in New Age on Monday as saying that ‘Congress has no other choice’ as it ‘would be very difficult to name some other person because there would hardly be any consensus.’ In fact, as the Hindustan Times says, Congress may have stopped short of naming Rahul as its prime ministerial candidate ‘out of consideration for its sitting octogenarian prime minister Manmohan Singh.’ His elevation to second in the Congress hierarchy behind his mother is also viewed by many as representing a ‘generational shift in Indian politics’ where most political leaders are over 60 while roughly half of the country’s 1.2 billion population is under 25. As such, another Indian commentator characterised it as the Congress’s attempt at transforming ‘itself from a grand old party to a brand new party.’
However, such crafty conclusions essentially, and sadly, seek to paper over a fundamental flaw in what has often been dubbed as the largest democracy in the world. While India appears to be the most stable electoral democracy in South Asia, it continues to be in the grips of dynastic politics, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and partly Bangladesh. It is a pity that the oldest and largest political party in India has not yet taken an institutional shape and needs to look up to the Nehru-Gandhi family for leadership. If subsequent political and electoral development in India goes the Congress’s way, India could be on the way of having a fourth prime minister from the Nehru family — after Jawaharlal Nehru himself, his daughter Indira Gandhi and his grandson Rajiv Gandhi — and its mainstream political leadership will have made lateral entry a norm, not an exception.
Yet, many, not only in India but here in Bangladesh as well, especially those who usually benefit from such dynastic hold on national politics as well as statecraft, may argue that Rahul is not a lateral entrant into Congress politics but has risen through the ranks. Of course, the 42-year-old scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has been in politics for a while and was not drafted directly into top leadership of the Congress. However, what his supporters and sympathisers would want the people to believe as rising through the ranks seems to have been an exercise in acclimatisation on Rahul’s part; after all, his institution in a leadership role does not seem to have been ever in question. Bluntly put, it could very well have been an act of deliberate deception, by the Congress in general and the Congress president in particular.
It is ironical that dynasticism and personality cult, both of which are antithetical to democracy, still have national politics in their grips across South Asia, which ultimately points to the systemic flaws and inherent weaknesses in the region’s democratic political process in general. Rahul Gandhi’s confirmation as the heir apparent of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, in likelihood, will be offered as a justification by those having dynastic aspiration, even here in Bangladesh. Democratically oriented sections of society thus need to step up and help people see through the charade so as to desist the mainstream political parties here, which appear enamoured with dynastic politics, from trying to pull off such political stunts.
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