File photo | Ramachandra Guha | Wikimedia Commons
File photo | Ramachandra Guha | Wikimedia Commons
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Jawaharlal Nehru had a daughter. That daughter had a son. That son had a son. And that son is constantly blamed for it.

Lineages in India are more often than not mentioned with pride — but not for Rahul Gandhi, the son of an Italian mother with three Prime Ministers of India in his bloodline. And while he was (still) recovering from electoral defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, historian Ramachandra Guha chose to pounce on his legacy too.

At the recent Kerala Literature Festival in Kozhikode, Guha blamed Malayalis for electing Rahul Gandhi to Parliament from Wayanad. He also went on to say that the fifth-generation dynast stood no chance against self-made Narendra Modi. Last I checked, India was still a democracy and criticising a politician was normal. (This doesn’t apply to Ajay Singh Bisht though). Guha’s statement was especially unsurprising because he has blamed the Gandhis many times in the past.He has also clarified that this comment was cherry-picked from his speech at the lit fest.

But the battered image of Rahul Gandhi as an entitled half-politician has become the go-to criticism every time you want to show your allegiance to the powers that be. And Ramachandra Guha using the same old ‘dynast’ jibe at Rahul makes one think, did the detention in Bangalore get to him?


Also read: Dynast Rahul Gandhi has no chance against self-made Modi: Ramachandra Guha


A false equivalence

One wonders how many times Ramachandra Guha has chided Modi voters in various constituencies for voting for the BJP. A historian has to assess and evaluate. Not admonish voters.

Modi has had a 15-year career as a chief minister and five as a prime minister. A Gandhi standing opposite him does not chip away at that image, as the Lok Sabha elections have proved. His past, with the Gujarat Model and Gujarat riots, has left no space for fence-sitting. Either you’re for Modi or against him.

Emphasising Modi’s self-made credentials would only make sense if Rahul Gandhi was in a position of power due to his lineage. He has barely sunk his teeth into Indian politics and has even lost the Gandhi bastion in Amethi. There are no electoral freebies for Rahul for just being a Gandhi. He is not even the Congress president anymore.

So, Guha is drawing a false equivalence. He is wrongly putting the onus of Modi being in power on one leader from the opposition, no matter how many times he’s been branded as irrelevant and matchless to the charisma and oration of Modi. Also, Guha should know by now that no one is actually self-made in politics. One can’t discredit the mammoth backing of the Sangh Parivar and corporates to Modi.


Also read: How the Right is tackling Left’s intellectual hegemony in Delhi — one think-tank at a time


Wayanad’s loud No

I’m in no position to advice someone as able as Ramachandra Guha, but instead of admonishing Keralites, he should congratulate them for sending a big message to Amit Shah’s communal campaign in Wayanad. Shah had said Wayanad looked like Pakistan just because of the constituency’s sizeable Muslim population. The BJP has been trying to stake its claim in south India, and Wayanad voting Rahul is a loud ‘no’ to Shah’s divisive politics. 

In fact, Guha sounds childish when belittling lineage. One would expect better of an ‘expert’ who boasts about the achievements of his nephew, son and grandfather. The smart genes definitely run in the family and there is no need to be embarrassed about it. Just like Rahul Gandhi doesn’t need to be apologetic about coming from a political family that has served India since before Independence.


Also read: From writing history to becoming a part: How Ramachandra Guha became face of CAA protests


A true historian wouldn’t 

Guha’s speech at the Kerala lit fest is based on an article he wrote for Outlook where he discussed constitutional patriotism versus jingoism. In it, he tries to dissect the reasons why Modi came to power.

Guha mentions that one of the salient features of constitutional patriotism is the “ability to feel shame at the failures of our state and society”. Although one can’t deny that Guha has been rather critical of the Modi government, but creating the Modi vs ‘Rahul Gandhi and his fiefdom’ narrative is not only unimaginative, but also tries to put the onus of misgovernance by the Modi government on a person who barely has any stake in it.

Guha also faults the Left for having a greater allegiance to other countries such as erstwhile USSR and China rather than India. An even more irrelevant segment in India’s politics as it stands today.

Ramachandra Guha calls the “chamchagiri culture of the Congress Party” a big disgrace. There’s no denying it. The durbar-style organisation of Congress is insufferable. However, the chamchagiri is very much alive and kicking within the BJP too. Entire elections are run and fought only on one name — Narendra Modi. The jobs of the External Affairs Minister, Defence Minister, Finance Minister are in effect handled by the PM — from world tours to demonetisation to using clouds in airstrikes. These are things Guha doesn’t admonish voters for.

So, rather than drawing false equivalence and playing a balancing game, Ramachandra Guha should act like a true historian — one who knows that history remembers every word.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

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59 Comments Share Your Views

59 COMMENTS

  1. “However, the chamchagiri is very much alive and kicking within the BJP too. Entire elections are run and fought only on one name — Narendra Modi. The jobs of the External Affairs Minister, Defence Minister, Finance Minister are in effect handled by the PM — from world tours to demonetisation to using clouds in airstrikes. ”

    The difference is that in BJP chamchagiri to leaders is due to their talent in achieving results. Failed leaders are removed. Not given charge after continued failures. e.g Advani, Raman Singh, Vasundhara Raje. BJP is the only party where a person can aspire to be leader irrespective of his caste, class or state origin provided he can deliver results.

    But Rahul Gandhi was handicapped because Sonia did not put his as PM in 2009 election due to influence of her advisors Ahmed Patel and Ambika Soni and other old guards. If she had, Rahul would have as much chance as Nehru, whom Gandhi put in power in spite of total opposition from Congress.

  2. Actually Kerala is one of the hotbeds of radical islam and in reality,it has become a hotspot of ISIS.So we do not know what kind of values these so called educated adding up to our country?

    Ram Guha is right in this case.

  3. Guha doesn’t know Indian history, despite writing couple of history books. He is overrated. Further, Guha probably thinks he should be heading Congress Party since he wrote books on Gandhi. Hence his eagerness to remove not just Rahul but entire Nehru-Gandhis. Even more pathetic is his attempt to hold Nehru hostage to force the family out of politics

  4. What about other constituencies of Kerala voters rejected Communists and communal BJP in general and Guha’s views biased and unwarranted.

    • A monkey is a clever animal. but a rampaging communal bull simply crushes who it finds in front of it. that would be the cow loving Bhist.

  5. I am stunned when the author calls the allegiance of the left to foreign countries as irrelevant to Indian politics today. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Whether it is nuclear policy, the revocation of article 370 or calling out terror, if the left is going to choose the national interests of other nations then we know that they are advocating against the interests of the Indian people. We know how CPM and their affiliates turned a blind eye to the genocide in Bangladesh, so why should we listen to them when they talk about human rights?

    • Guha is the hypocrite. But then he runs his mouth without thinking and knowing the subject that he may not know. He endorsed and promotes a book (on Nehru) written by Australian Ambassador Walter Crocker. Crocker blamed Nehru for annexing Goa and for not handing over Kashmir to Pakistan

  6. agree 100% with Mr. Guha. Unpleasant truths have to be told, out and loud, more than the pleasant ones. Anybody who thinks Rahul Can beat Modi lives in fool’s paradise. We deserve a better leader and not a prince Harry or William.

  7. Being a historian doesn’t mean that he isn’t entitled to have his own personal opinions. He hasn’t published it in any literary medium as a historian. If u can’t accept his opinion, kindly don’t. But give him the space to opine. Afterall there exists a fundamental right to free speech.

  8. Guha has a political agenda. There is nothing wrong with academics having political opinions. In fact, he was willing to go to jail for his political beliefs. There is nothing wrong with that either. However, all of us now must view his views of history and social sciences through the prism of his partisanship.

  9. Well, even after two consecutive defeats for Rahul Gandhi, the obsession of the author of this piece with the Gandhi dynasty doesn’t end. It is frustrating and it is this frustration that Ramchandra Guha is expressing. General elections are not meant to decide like or dislike for one particular leader. It is a matter of making a choice. When you pitch Rahul Gandhi against Modi, what choice do the voters have? Compare it with USA. A candidate who gets defeated in the presidential election, his career is finished ( Richard Nixon was the a rare exception). He doesn’t get second chance. Will Theresa May get second chance in UK – very unlikely. But here in India if the same person gets projected term after term, what should the voters do?

    • I shall reiterate my view point. Modi is good or bad is not the issue. The issue is whether Rahul Gandhi, the only available alternative to Modi, is better or worse than Modi. Twice people have said Modi is better. Still the opposition wants to persist with Gandhi dynasty, it is frustrating and Ramchandra Guha has succinctly expressed this very frustration.
      In USA, a defeated candidate in a Presidential election will rarely get a second chance- Richard Nixon is a rare exception and this happened 5 decades ago. Hillary Clinton is not even in the race for 2020. Will Theresa May of the Conservative Party or Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party get a second chance? Most unlikely scenario. The UK politics has moved on and has not doggedly stuck to the discarded options. India should learn. Even in the BJP, they should think beyond Modi- Shah duo in 2024 and think of better options.

  10. Just like whole BJP, cabinet, parliament, and government are controlled by one 10th grader, whta’s wrong if INC is controlled by one family?

  11. Mr Guha does not appear to be good in his analysis of recent events. He should stick to his role as an historian, where he will have the benefit of analysing events and various opinions on such events. Of course, he could preserve his own analysis of events as one such record to be looked into as an historian, because he appears to be burdened by prejudices, just like many current events commentators are.

    • But sir, can you inform if modi has even a high school degree? Or was his diploma also self made? I guess someone without any degree can decide who is an historian.

  12. I had read that Kerala has almost 99% literacy! But obviously their ability to read and write has not helped their intelligence.
    Who in his right mind will vote for a duffer, who can’t speak or articulate anything, has suspect education credentials, Unfocused, Lazy, surrounds himself duffer sycophants and ofcourse is a complete Mama’s Boy!!!

      • The argument that Modi is not self made because he received sangh and corporate back is in my opinion incorrect due to the very fact that Modi by virtue of his own skills and talent(we may disagree with the methods employed) would have positioned himself to get all the backing he needs. However, Rahul gets whatever backing he has got by virtue of his family background.

        • Modi was trained by Sangh from an early age – is that disputed? he was handpicked and pushed up – is that not a fact? you can argue that he was handpicked for some obscure talent – like obedience to Sangh or ruthlessness or for simply being a convenient OBC.

  13. Ram Guha is the only intellectual who has guts to pose difficult questions to “lutyens liberals” and expose their shameless hypocrisy. I am astonished by the title she chose “historians job is to assess not admonish”, ahaaan…what a dumb hypocrisy…..she should first read Mr.Arun Shourie’s “EMINENT HISTORIANS” …where he exposed the so called historians/liberals of their corrupt and immoral practices. Compared to those corrupt historians…RamGuha is a far far better historian , so please mam mind your own business of ranting against modi/sha ..and you are apt in that. Dont get yourself exposed by attacking real intellectuals.

  14. I too was wondering what happned to Mr. Guha in detention. Why draw attention to Rahul at all? He is irrelevant. He is just a MP – not the PM or even the leader of the opposition! why not talk of the law that you were arrested for opposing?

    • Yeah he should have got it cleared from you. If he says what you believe he is correct, if not, then he has been coerced. Awesome.

  15. Well said. Even if Rahul Gandhi loses every election and manages to ensure that the Congress loses all elections he will remain my choice for prime minister of India. After all he has chachaji’s genes.

  16. All political parties are out to take voters of Congress & finish off Congress.

    BJP is openly telling, Mamta is silently playing. DMK not giving space. Just some example.

  17. Zainab is a Muslim and she couldn’t digest that Rahul Khan lost and a Hindu Nationalist Modi is at power. If Guha is to be thankful to Waynad Muslims to reject BJP and the only reason for Rahul Khan to choose Waynad bcoz of it’s Muslim majority population, similarly Zainab should be greatfull to rest of India for rejecting a looser like Rahul Khan and electing Modi

  18. Shri Nikhil Wagle has tweeted : I have witnessed JP’s movement in 1974. Covered VP Singh and Anna Hazare’ anti corruption movement in 1989 and 2011. But this CAA NRC Protest is unprecedented, not only by size but content too. For the first time all communities are on the road to protect Constitution. 2. Given such a swell wave to ride, where is the middle aged Surfer …

  19. This Islamist writer is a joke, the whole INC is controlled by one family led by Italian lady. It is like her private business enterprise.

  20. I agree with the article, There is no doubt that Rahul G. very
    lucky to have the privilege that he has, Even after several attempts and failures
    he still has the party backing him.However being so harsh on him is not fair.
    Its easy to hate someone with privilege and easy to forget what that privilege entertains.
    Public memory is short but surely Mr Guha being a historian,should
    know the tragic deaths of the Ghandi family?

    • Yeah yeah !! And we are rolling in wealth today. We have magically become a first-world country. There is no unemployment, no crony-capitalism, no law-and-order problem. Congress-bashing isn’t working anymore bhakt. Try something new.

  21. “Emphasising Modi’s self-made credentials would only make sense if Rahul Gandhi was in a position of power due to his lineage.”

    Is the author arguing that he was made CPP and PM candidate because of his political acumen / personal achievements? It would be useful for the author to elaborate on what those were, if that is the case.

    The best way to gauge his own projection (and that of the INC) is to view the other fugures that accompanied him on his election posters.

    But yes, blaming voters in Wayanad (it seems like something was lost in translation, but regardless) for voting for Mr. Gandhi is inappropriate.

    Mr. Gandhi has been in politics for 15 yrs. That’s not “barely sunk his teeth into Indian politics”. He’s 50 years old. He had an opportunity to do anything he wanted under Dr. Manmohan Singh’s govt. and what did he do? He’s remembered for basically trolling his own PM, knowing fully well that his mother was the one who held all the political capital and wielded that as a guillotine over Dr. Singh’s neck.

    If that isn’t privilege, I don’t know what it.

  22. It is always a pleasure to read or hear Shri Ramchandra Guha. Historian of note, a public intellectual. Nobody’s lackey or apologist. He has also used the term “ lazy “ for the gentleman. Umra saari toh kati ishq e Amethi mein Momin, Aakhri waqt mein kya khaak Waynadi honge.

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