No entity can either be a boon or bane exclusively, it has to be some proportion of both. We are humans, we are designed in this way. The thing is to which part of the balance one weighs more.
The Gandhi family is almost synonymous with the Indian National Congress (INC). No Indian to this day can imagine the INC without the Gandhis at the helm. Just like in the present scenario none of us can imagine the INC at the helm of affairs of our country.
What is the problem? Why is the Gandhi family a burden for the Congress now, as it seems?
How did the problem start
Like all millennials, I also was growing up and getting to know things, about politics and other stuff in the past few decades. And like all other Indians, I thought what’s told in the news is true. Later, in this decade, I decoded this myth.
At every platform, there were discussions on how corrupt the Congress was, how the Gandhis dominated over Manmohan Singh. The 2G scam, coal scam, the Commonwealth Games scam and others.
People who were raising these issues in the public domain seemed to us like they were holier than thou [the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement]. They seemed to be the heroes of modern India to us millennials and, at the same time, the Congressmen and the Gandhis were the obvious enemies of our beloved country. Because we were just getting started to know things, we didn’t know much about politics.
The Congress, and particularly the Gandhis, thought this was an usual phenomena, and it will fade away on its own. They didn’t do much to tackle the accusations that were being thrown at them.
Then a guy named Modi (Narendra Modi) emerged from nowhere (because we didn’t know much about him also then) and he rode over this sentiment of Indians so efficiently that he became the prime minister of India. But the image of the Congress and Gandhis being corrupt and authoritative stayed in our minds, and that’s how the problem started.
An unprecedented problem
The Gandhis thought that the people of India will forget about all that was shown on TV then. Even though most of the cases against Congress ministers never stood in the court and most of them were acquitted, this impression of the Gandhis and the Congress being corrupt deepened in people’s minds.
At the time of UPA rule, when average cost of petrol was about Rs 71 and just for an increase of a paise the Opposition (BJP) criticised, it was covered aggressively on news channels. But now, even petrol and diesel prices becoming almost equal doesn’t get much attention.
The Modi government effectively and regularly ‘demonised’ the Gandhis and Congress for its own failures, saying that they left the economy in bad shape and that’s why the government was not able to perform at its best.
The media, various institutions, and to an extent, even judiciary is captured by the Modi regime. Every single day is marked by communal debates, the debates on topics which divide the society on religious lines. The major part of society now doesn’t want someone who won’t talk of majority and stigmatisation of minority at the same time. That’s why, even after performing so poorly, the Modi regime is still in power comfortably.
Just imagine had Rahul Gandhi been the prime minister and the GDP would have contracted by 23.9 per cent, the news anchors would have torn him apart. See how comfortably this regime got past this blunder, and won in Bihar elections too.
Because the media doesn’t show it aggressively and even the majority of people aren’t interested in knowing the truth. The Gandhis and Congress members think the problem is political. The problem was political, but now it has become deeply social.
With the existing system of media and institutions, you can’t win by criticising Modi. For example, in the Delhi assembly elections 2020, the sitting CM didn’t make even a single remark against the Centre, even though the BJP never missed any opportunity of communal attacks on the incumbent government, and the Aam Aadmi Party won. But has it solved the social problem in Delhi? No. There were communal riots in Delhi just after the assembly election.
So the problem now can’t be solved politically. It can only be done when the society realises where it is headed, stop and course correct.
The Gandhis left the ball when it was in their court. But now that ball has changed its sport.
Why Gandhis are unable to overcome this
The family and the party try to do things in good faith but the media misinterprets and presents them in bad light. For example, take the Akhlaq case (2015 Dadri mob lynching). When Rahul Gandhi went to meet the victim’s family, the media presented it as minority appeasement.
When he went to the temples, the media interpreted it as soft Hindutva. When Priyanka Gandhi Vadra sent buses for migrant workers, it was showed that those vehicles didn’t have permission or one or two of those buses had number plates belonging to autorickshaws. What about the remaining 900 buses?
The Congress was also shown to be pro-China. On the JNU issue, it was shown to be anti-national. On almost every issue, the Congress is the usual culprit in the media. Even in the alleged Hathras gang-rape incident, the party was shown as professing fake love for the Dalits.
On the contrary, the media glorifies Modi. Any event is shown as if it was due to the tireless hard work of Modi. For example, the decision on Ram temple was given by the Supreme Court, but who became the hero out of it in news?
Even after the utter failures of demonetisation and GST, very few of the media outlets showed the government in a bad light. Apart from this, most of the big media houses work in tandem with the ruling dispensation to fuel communal hate in the society day in and day out, which naturally benefits the BJP electorally but damages the social fabric.
The system is broken and the Gandhis and the Congress are the absolute villains of every shortcoming in this country. This is what is shown to the country and this is what the society acknowledges to be the truth.
Why has the Gandhi family been on the top for so long
In uncertain and difficult times, the Congressmen had gone to the Gandhis and they showed them the way. Whenever the path seemed to be rough or whenever things did not go as the party wanted, or whenever there was infighting in the party, the workers looked up to the Gandhis.
The Gandhis mostly solved the problems, which is to bring the party to power. Whenever there is a member of the family at the top, most of the time, the Congress party has been in power. Call it a coincidence or luck, the Gandhis do steer the party to power. Apart from the past bumpy five-six years.
Everyone sees what the Gandhis have, nobody sees what they have lost.
Imagine yourself as a teenager who lost his/her father to a bomb blast so cruel that the body came home in pieces. Imagine the pain, of Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi at the time . Sonia Gandhi is not originally from India, imagine her pain of losing her husband like this.
Even after going through this, the family forgave the killers. None of us can even think of doing that. They have given a lot for the party, that the Congress members value a lot. But this sentiment has failed to reach the people because the family never banked on this issue.
On the other hand, the other guy goes to his mother with camera persons. He never fails to bank on any plank.
Given the amount and the level of criticism that has been levelled against the Gandhi family in the past, particularly in the last six years, anyone else in their place would have given up. But the Gandhis refused to give up, none of them backed off.
For any politician, the most important thing is his/her perception in public. Imagine that being torn apart and most of the country starting to believe that you are a ‘Pappu’ and people laughing whenever they hear your name.
But the way this criticism has been handled is commendable. Most of us would have gone into depression. But the family is an epitome of patience.
Is the family an alternative? The answer is both no and yes. Yes, because the aggressive and gloomy path toward which our country is headed, and for an authoritative leader like Modi, the alternative is Gandhi. By Gandhi, I mean a person who is just opposite of Modi.
A leader who listens more, who governs less, who decentralises more, who doesn’t deepen the existing fault lines in our society, who spreads love and not cultivate and bank upon hate. It seems that another Modi is required to conquer for someone like PM Modi. But will that solve the problem? What purpose will replacing an authoritative leader by another such leader serve?
And no, because the Gandhis are neither at the helm of affairs nor out of it. Either you work full-time, or you leave the top post and strengthen the party at grassroots.
But none of it seems to be happening.
Finally, every party has different culture and different norms. For a party like the Congress, which is umbilically tied to the Gandhi family, the functioning is different.
Jawaharlal Nehru was party president for nine years, Indira Gandhi for nine years, Rajiv Gandhi for six years, Sonia Gandhi for 20 years — the average time for a Gandhi being at the helm comes to be 11 years. Rahul Gandhi was the party president for only two years, nine years short of the family average.
Rahul Gandhi should go soft on himself. During his term as the Congress president, he had a lot of party baggage which was also responsible for the party’s decimation in elections. He should come back strong and lead the battle from the front. India needs empathetic people like him.
Adil Khan is a student of Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College AMU , Aligarh.