In the run-up to the historic post-Emergency elections in 1977, Babu Jagjivan Ram had come out with a one-liner that captured the imagination of the masses across the nation — “There is a one and a half men rule in India”. Babuji was referring to the reign of Indira Gandhi-Sanjay Gandhi.
Ask any old-timer and he will tell you that nobody except these one (Indira) and a half (Sanjay) men mattered in Government of India those days. And who else could have known the prevailing state of affairs better than Jagjivan Ram, the senior most minister under Indira’s premiership? None perhaps.
Feeling suffocated, Babuji had resigned from primary membership of the Congress and founded a new party, Congress for Democracy that merged later on with Janata Party. The Janata Party registered a spectacular victory in the elections, re-established rule of law in governance for a brief period and then crumbled under the weight of what was described as “too much democracy” within less than three years. Indira and her son rode back to power triumphantly. The one and a half men rule was back with a bang. And rest is history.
A young, budding Delhi based journalist, Purushottam Naveen, who is fond of doing thorough research before putting pen on paper, has written an article recalling Jagjivan Ram’s caustic comment that had come like a bolt in the blue during those turbulent times. In fact, I had myself heard Babuji making that comment in course of his speech at Gandhi Maidan in Patna.
But forget history for a while and please take a look at the present scenario in the Capital rather closely. Aren’t we witnessing “one and a half men rule” once again? Ask anybody who has access to the corridors of power in Lutyen’s New Delhi and he will tell you how things move in the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah era. Nobody, neither in the government nor in the ruling party, matters except this duo.
No minister, no party functionary and no civil servant are considered big enough to escape scrutiny by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). You have got to be on the right side of the probing eyes of the duo to survive and flourish. Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are not just individuals. As a duo, they have grown into an institution that forms the nerve-centre of the present day establishment.
Isn’t it ironical that the good-old Congress culture of one and a half men rule is back with a bang, regardless of the fact that the present day masters are leaving no stone unturned to ensure emergence of a Congress-mukt Bharat?
Indeed, politics is the art of the possible. What else?
Why not ask members of the ruling party’s margdarshak mandal (guidance committee) for their comments in this regard? They may or may not stand up and be counted at this point of time. In any case, their views are well known. Remember what the party veterans had said after the debacle in Bihar last year: “A thorough review must be done of the reasons for the defeat in Bihar as well as of the way the party is being forced to kow-tow to a handful, and how its consensual character has been destroyed”.
Arun Shourie, another fire-brand leader of the Atal Behari Vajpayee era, had warned two months ago that over the next three years he expected an increase in “decentralised intimidation besides choking of inconvenient voices”. Bracketing the Prime Minister with the likes of Indira Gandhi and J. Jayalalitha, Shourie had accused Modi of “narcissism and Machiavellism”. The PM’s attitude to people is to use and throw them, he had further said during an interview on Karan Thapar’s show in India Today TV.
But there is always the other side to arguments against dictatorial leanings of the man on top at whose doors all bucks come to a stop. Can you handle things in this undisciplined, superfluously democratised nation without a strong dictatorial bent of mind? Perhaps, a big No. Indira Gandhi had learnt it the hard way after her fight with the famous “syndicate” consisting of big names such as K Kamraj, Morarji Desai, S Nijalingappa and Atulya Ghosh. And Prime Minister Modi has had to face “difference of opinion” vis-à-vis the likes of LK Adavani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha.
And Modi is not the only one who has fashioned himself precisely on the lines of the 'Iron Lady'. In fact, almost all political parties with the sole exception of communists have copied Indira’s style and Congress culture. If Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, Laloo Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and Karunanidhi’s DMK are at best one and a half men shows, J Jayalaitha’s AIADMK and Mamata Bannerji’s Trinamool Congress happen to be one man political outfits for all practical purposes. Uddhav Thakre’s Shiv Sena is no different. And last but not the least, Arvind Kejariwal’s Aam Admi Party is no longer a party with a difference. All the ‘inconvenient men’ including Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav have been shown the door. And all those who remain within the party can’t afford to raise their heads against the whims and fancies of their ‘supremo’. Like it or not, we are all living in Congress-yukta–not-mukt–Bharat. Please don’t mind, we have come full circle.