And if she had done so, we would not have a Rahul Gandhi (another incompetent politician, as the UP elections show) trying to take over the Congress after Sonia. We now have the media discussing a post-Rahul Congress, where there is a Priyanka to pick up the threads. If pretty faces made for good leaders, maybe Aishwarya Rai should enter politics.
Congressmen are living in a fool’s paradise. In fact, they are doing themselves an injustice by giving the Dynasty so much importance when it is they who are investing the Dynasty with the aura and the authority they claim they are deriving from it.
Uttar Pradesh should come as one more eye-opener to Congress sycophants that this Dynasty has far outlived its utility to the country, the party, or even to them.
Here are five reasons why:
Dynasties that continue endlessly deter talent. A little dynasty may be good, but too much of it works against everyone’s interests. The problem in dynasties is that talent faces a glass ceiling. In short, the leadership pool is a mere puddle restricted to a few family members. As long as this puddle is healthy, the Dynasty prospers. Once we end up with a dud or two, the business suffers. In Sonia and Rahul and Priyanka we have three dud leaders. The Dynasty cannot survive their incompetence.
Dynasties attract incompetents and sycophants more than talent and initiative. The coronation of Sonia as Queen of Congress did not happen because of her innate leadership talents, but because Congress is the last refuge of mediocrities and hangers-on. The competent do their own thing, and don’t like to kowtow to mediocrity. But mediocrity loves Dynasty – since the only qualities required to succeed are flattery and intrigue, both common enough talents available in India.
When these are the qualities needed, why would the genuinely gifted – those who will help the party rise to greater heights – want to stay there? Can the Congress name on all-India leader who can replace a Sonia Gandhi? (Answer: there are names, but no Congressman will name them)
Dynasties are feudal and retrograde. They can preserve their aura only by pretending to be omnipotent, benevolent. In the political context, they feed of the poor and gullible while pretending the feed the poor. When royalty ruled the world, the King or Queen had to show omnipotence and benevolence by an occasional show of great charity. Thus a King would gift a courier who brings in good news by handing him a gold chain – and the story would be told and retold a thousand times on the grapevine to give the poor hope that they too will get their chain of gold if they get lucky.
Dynasties that are on their last legs behave like feudals. This is why while a Nehru had no use for a Food Security Bill or caste and religion-based quotas, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi need them badly: it is the only way they can retain their feudal hold. A Vajpayee is able to create real jobs (92 million between 1999 and 2004) merely by running a government, but a UPA creates all of 2 million in the next five years despite running a job-creating NREGA scheme.
Dynasties fail because they stay insulated from reality. When you are surrounded by retainers and time-servers who will only tell you want you want to hear, you cannot listen to what the UP electorate is really saying. You land up in a Dalit basti for a photo-op, mistaking it for the real thing. An Akhilesh Yadav, who is not separated from his people, is able to make development his theme-song and trundles along on his cycle for a year giving this message and receiving the people’s feedback. A Rahul Gandhi, with his Z category security and walled thinking, has to meet the people under cover of darkness, and in highly artificial circumstances. And the Rahul Gandhis have their Digvijaya Singhs promising them they have made a huge impact – when they may not have generated anything more than curiosity value.
Dynasts never seem to know when to quit or say “no thanks”. Rajiv Gandhi should have been the last Nehru-Gandhi Dynast. But Sonia Gandhi felt compelled to enter the hurly-burly of politics since she must have been told by sycophants that the party needs you. A child may need parenting, but a mature adult is quite capable of handling herself. After all, in 1991, the Congress – even with its dubious selection process – produced a non-charismatic, non-Gandhi PM who changed the course of India’s economy destiny. Even Indira Gandhi could not do that. If Nehru and Gandhi brought India political freedom, Narasimha Rao brought India true economic freedom. Not Sonia or Rahul.
But soon after the Congress lost the 1996 elections, Sonia Gandhi did not find the courage to say, no thanks. And Rahul Gandhi, who too does not have it in him to say no, is soldiering on in a profession he does not quite relish.
The greatest service Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi can do for India is to retire into private life. The Congress will flower after them, once the family’s glass ceiling is removed.
In fact, one of the main reasons why the Congress is growing weaker by the day is its inability to produce strong regional leaders. This is why it is irrelevant in UP. Or Gujarat. Or Bihar. Or anywhere.
To make the Congress relevant, the Dynasty must opt out. Go on, Rahul, get a life. And take Priyanka with you. You will do yourself and the party a favour.