The dynasty fixation of the Indian Right — it comes in many shades between the liberal and the rabid, between the confused and the hypocritical — borders on the comical.
When the mighty Narendra Modi, the supposed future saviour of the nation, wants votes in Gujarat, he has to attack the Gandhis in New Delhi with all ferocity. When Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray wants to hand over the reins of the party to the gen-next in the family, he has to vehemently deny any parallels with the so-called first family. When required to introspect their own failure in assembly elections, the many shades of the Right would point to the failure of Rahul Gandhi to work miracles in Uttar Pradesh. This is dynasty worship by other means.
The convenient excuse for this is intra-party democracy. The Gandhis, as the argument from the Indian Right goes, have stifled democracy within the party. The presence of ‘the Family’ and its loyalists has denied more efficient Congressmen the opportunity to even aspire for higher positions in the party hierarchy. They want to enjoy power without any responsibility and do backseat driving in the government by arm-twisting it on policy matters. They are dictatorial to boot.
Curiously, it’s the same group which professes fawning admiration for Modi’s style of functioning, which many believe is ‘dictatorial’ and allows little room for dissent. This is also the section which is unequivocal about the need for a strong, authoritative leader – whatever that means — but would ignore the fact that the ideas of strong leadership and democracy within are incompatible. It is the group which would denounce vigorously the centricity of religion in the formation of Pakistan, yet would champion religion-based politics in India aggressively.
The Indian Right is elastic in its interpretation of democracy, secularism and liberalism. Probably it’s normal in a group of people who exist in such diverse social spaces and are share an abstract bonding through one holding theme: religion. Whatever the reality, the contradictions and the accompanying hypocrisy are galling. Let’s get back to its dynasty obsession of the Right to understand this.
The BJP, the political face of the Indian Right, loves to call itself a democratic party. Unlike the Congress, it claims, where decisions are taken by members of one family, it believes in collective leadership. Ability is respected in the party and despite many competent leaders at every level of the organisation, it remains a disciplined outfit. All this and many other noble qualities make it a party ‘with difference’. How far from reality this could be!
Check these out. The party is one of the fronts of the mother organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an entity promoting cultural nationalism. Thus it is not a no strings attached independent existence for the party. The RSS often foists its choices upon the party, the choice is often someone with deep roots and connections within the organisation. If other senior leaders are not comfortable with lightweights being imposed upon them — Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari are examples – they don’t have too many options.
The party recently changed its constitution to allow a second term for the BJP president, an apparent move at the RSS’s behest to extend the tenure of Gadkari. If Sangh insists upon continuing with Gadkari despite all the allegations of financial irregularities against him, the party does not have a choice.
The freedom of party leaders to express free opinions is limited. They have to operate within the ideological framework of the mother organisation. The party’s most successful leader, Atal Behari Vajpayee, dared to be different and he was hated across the Sangh fraternity. LK Advani, the party’s tallest leader even now, was cut down to size promptly after he praised Jinnah during his Karachi trip. Narendra Modi is in a continuing battle with the RSS in Gujarat despite being the party’s showpiece leader. The tussle began after he sought to restrain the interference of the powerful members of the Sangh in governance matters.
For the party members going hammer and tongs at the ‘dynastic’ rule in the Congress, the dependence on the RSS is baffling indeed. The reasons of this are obvious. The BJP, which does not have too much independent penetration at the grassroots, needs the organisational reach of the Sangh for voter mobilisation. Thus it has to bend to the dictats of the latter for its political survival. The recent case of a poll-bound Modi rushing to the RSS headquarters to quell anger within the Sangh affiliates in Gujarat is a case in point.
The point here is not to be judgmental about the merits of the RSS or the BJP but to highlight the double standards of the India Right in the context of the so called ‘dynasty’. The ‘dynasty’ functions within the party and is responsible for the consequences of its actions. The RSS functions from outside the BJP’s political space and is not accountable for its electoral performance. The power without responsibility phrase applies here more than in the case of the Congress.
It’s time for the Right to instrospect.