Last Week I saw an interview of renowned Indian Historian Dr. Ramchandra Guha on The Wire about why the Gandhis must quit politics for the betterment of country & the party. He is considered a liberal in Indian circles and has even got flak for his criticism of the current government. He, like other liberals, seems to think that Gandhis are the sole reason for India’s current state. And when they move out, all the issues in Congress party & in the country would be solved. I do concede to the point that there needs to be a good leadership to steer the primary opposition party for the betterment of nation, but simply replacing one leader with another won’t solve the issues. I would even go on to say that it is the likes of Dr. Guha, who had failed to enlighten the people about perils of authoritarian leadership. Often, they fail to standup to the bullies. This only makes them look weak and incredulous in the eyes of the common people. Here are his principle claims and my arguments against them. And a general take on his interview
Claim 1: Modi, Shah & Nadda have nothing uniting them (i.e. familial bond) but for their Hindutva agenda
Yes & No. They are united by their ties to RSS, which is the parent body of BJP. Everyone with a basic understanding of Indian Political scene would know that these people wouldn’t be here without backing of the RSS. To say that they are self-made is somewhat disingenuous.
Claim 2: Congress Leaders leave INC for BJP because Gandhi blocks their progress
This is largely No. People leave for BJP because going there makes them purer than pure when it comes to pending cases. Mamata Banerjee didn’t leave for BJP or Sharad Pawar or Jagan Reddy. They all started own parties. They might join hands with BJP, but at least they formed a party which has its own principles. To jump from a party, which is at one end of the ideological spectrum, to another party, which is at opposite end of the spectrum is sheer opportunism.
Claim 3 : Gandhis seem to have wavering ideology.
Agreed. But don’t leaders from BJP have wavering ideology too? This might seem whataboutery at its worst, but when Political analysts criticize opposition party leaders, often the criticism would be a comparison of the opposition party’s actions to those of the party running the government. If he had pointed out the inconsistencies in both parties and asked Gandhis to be consistent, then that would have been more credible than merely pointing out inconsistencies in Gandhis.
Above all, to blame everything on Gandhis is a way to let go off the other “Leaders” in the party. What have they done to stem the rot, but for some sound bites, interviews and Tweets? If anyone is responsible to the demise of Congress, it is their state leaders and cadres. Why is there not a DK Shivakumar, who can bring the party together in time of crises, in every state unit? What has the Bihar Congress unit done in the last 5 years to strengthen its party and its cadres on the ground? It is the sycophants in various State Units and leadership positions of the Congress party, who would like to operate with no accountability hide behind Gandhis, who take all the blame. Gandhis do need to be blamed for not able to recognize this. But should they alone be blamed?
Dr Guha has criticized RSS and BJP but not the extent to which he criticizes Gandhi. Whenever he wants to criticize them, he will do a balancing act of blaming Congress for its past actions. It is easier to blame Gandhis, who don’t have any power right now, than to blame the governing dispensation & its mother body. (it doesn’t mean Gandhis can do no harm, if they get back to power)
He takes the example of Biden as a strong opposition leader who beat Donald Trump. But anyone who watches not so mainstream US media, knows that if not for the Pandemic, Trump would have won the re-election. Democrats had Silicon Valley, Major news medias, Hollywood at their disposal and played a huge role to claim the presidency. Is it the case in India?
Dr. Guha, in a subtle way plugs in his arrest opposing the CAA, claims that no Congress leaders were present during the protests. Congress voted against the law in the Parliament. It is the civil society’s job to take it to the masses. Could Congress have joined the civil societies in its protest? Of Course, they should have. But he seems to indicate that Congress did nothing, when that was further from the truth.
[When he got arrested every liberal person in India came to support him. I am not sure how many unknown people, who when arrested, got the support from liberals(him included). He was not a signatory to a statement released by activists opposing the arrest of Umar Khalid. I am not sure if he was aware of it, but he merely tweeted about it without mentioning whether he stood by their statement or not]
This is not to disagree with all the points Mr Guha made during the interview. But he seems to have a narrow view when it comes to Gandhis.
There was this nice editorial by HW News’ Managing Editor Mr. Sujit countering Dr Guha’s Claims. He made some of the points, I have mentioned here. Just to put it out I had these points noted down even before seeing Mr Sujit’s Video