In fight with RSS, Rahul Gandhi needs an ideological counter narrative
Did Rahul Gandhi make a U-turn or chicken out as some would say after calling the RSS the killers of Gandhi? While the Congress has been vociferous in denying that its party vice-president did a volte-face in the court, the sympathisers of the RSS assert otherwise. It’s been a rather long debate. But does it really matter? Not for the latter at least.
Did Rahul Gandhi make a U-turn or chicken out as some would say after calling the RSS the killers of Gandhi? While the Congress has been vociferous in denying that its party vice-president did a volte-face in the court, the sympathisers of the RSS assert otherwise. It’s been a rather long debate. But, does it really matter? Not for the latter at least.
The more the Congress cries itself hoarse about the "hateful and divisive agenda" of the outfit, the more it exposes its own weakness to build a credible ideological counter narrative. With all its supposed and obvious flaws, the RSS comes out looking better in comparison.
Now, did RSS kill Gandhi? History has always been a tricky territory. It confuses more than it clarifies. For every proof it produces a counter proof; for every fact it digs up an opposite fact. Truth and fiction get mixed up in different ways in every contemporary narrator’s version of events and persons. Thus whether RSS killed Gandhi would forever remain a matter of which version you choose to buy.
For over 60 years after Gandhiji’s death, the dominant political narrative kept raising an accusing finger at the organisation. In today's narrative however, the RSS is the driving force and Gandhi himself is subjected to questions. If Rahul Gandhi and the Congress are serious about challenging it, they have to produce a strong and convincing counter-argument.
That the Congress has failed abysmally in this respect is an understatement. What we have so far from them are random accusations and shoot-and-scoot attacks amounting to nothing. It has been long since the Congress acknowledged that the RSS, and not the BJP, is the real threat to its existence and the party’s revival depends critically on how it counters the ideology of the former and presents it to the people. But it has done precious little about it. Now, it raises serious questions on whether the party is even capable of it or not.
It is understood that the RSS’s narrative of India is self-limiting and in parts incongruous with the spirit and the temper of the age. Yes, it has the potential to be divisive. Unless it modernises, it might open up several unmanageable conflicts in the country. But what has the Congress to offer?
It is ironical indeed that a party which claims to be pro-poor has little support left among the poor; a party which swears by secularism has few backers in a country that is temperamentally secular; and a party which talks of liberalness has little support in a country that has a strong liberal trait. Perhaps the predicament of the party stems from its own past hypocrisies and its politics of survival over the years. That is one reason it has alienated all its traditional support bases – Dalits, minorities and tribals – and failed to attract new ones such as the urban youth, intellectuals among others.
Contrary to popular belief, it did not land in an existential crisis in 2014 when the Modi wave reduced it to the level of a regional party; it hit the sick bed in the early 90s when it failed to find a response to the Mandal-Masjid conundrum. The traditional supporters were quick to shift loyalty to more dependable parties. The Congress is still in a quandary on how to wean them back. If there’s a lack of intellectual honesty to admit mistakes and make amends now, it was the same two decades ago. By contrast, RSS, for all its weaknesses, has been honest about itself.
In normal circumstances the comparison between the Congress and the RSS would be like comparing apples and oranges. One is a political party and the other is a socio-cultural organisation that incidentally has come to have a say in politics, a situation that might change. A comparison becomes imperative since the Congress draws one into it through its tactless attacks on the latter, exposing its own weaknesses. The offensive would be fine if the party presented an ideological alternative and forced people to look up and take notice. The bankruptcy on this front is too glaring.
Will Rahul Gandhi be able to build a new narrative? Looks difficult.
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