How the mighty fall! The Congress, the country’s oldest party that successfully fought against the world’s largest empire, has become the handmaiden of a dynasty that has done immense harm to the party as well as the nation.
The grand old party’s transmogrification is astonishing. The party leaders never tire of genuflecting to the family members. The transmogrification shows that if there is a rebel in every person, there is also a slave in them. It is the objective conditions and the climate of opinion that determine who comes to the fore—the rebel or the slave. In the Congress, the latter emerged victorious after Nehru.
Let alone the family retainers and lackeys, even the so-called rebels are extremely courteous to the Nehru-Gandhis. Notice that even the attitude of G-23 is akin to ‘We beg to differ with you…’ rather than ‘Enough is enough…’ Obeisance replaced argumentation.
Yet, the family has not lost sympathy of the intellectual class, which is essentially Left-liberal. Sonia Gandhi is viewed by Left-liberals as a leader who successfully took on the Bharatiya Janata Party and ruled the country for 10 years (Let’s drop all pretense; she called the shots, the then prime minister Manmohan Singh being putty in her hands).
Sonia’s real imprint pertained mainly to keeping the Nehruian legacy alive by reviving informal tie-up with Leftwing fellow-travelers and resuscitating socialism. In the process, the Congress became a fiefdom of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
Sympathetic commentators portrayed Sonia as a bereaved widow reluctantly taking charge of the Congress when all was lost. But this narrative should be taken with more than a pinch of salt, for while she took over the GOP in 1998, she was never inactive politically. For instance, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, she had condemned the incident—undoubtedly a very political move.
She was never out of the reckoning. Senior party leaders were continuously in touch with her, many of them beseeching her to get actively engaged in politics. Many a foreign dignitary paid a visit to her, anticipating an important role she might play in the future. They were right; she did.
When she took the plunge, she not only leaned towards just the Left Front, whose outside support was crucial for the United Progressive Alliance government for four years (2004-08), but also fraternized with salon socialists, professional revolutionaries, sundry activists, and green nuts. This rainbow coalition was to play a significant role in discrediting the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government (1998-2004) and later, when she became powerful, mold economic policy. Once she took charge, free market principles took the backseat and Nehruvian socialism came back on the bandwagon of a myriad of entitlements like the rural job guarantee scheme and the food security law.
She also ardently promoted her son Rahul Gandhi, making it evident that he would be the inheritor of the party. Her wish has been fulfilled: he is now party president. The fortunes of the dynasty have been restored—interestingly, not against the aspirations of the top brass.
Sonia also formed an informal alliance with fellow-travelers; this has had baleful consequences for the country’s economy and prosperity. In a way, history repeated itself. In the late 1960s, her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, had got pally with the Communist Party of India (which became her ally and remained so till 1970) and Left-leaning intellectuals.
Sonia also succeeded in resuscitating socialism. Under her tutelage, and a nudge from the commies, the Manmohan Singh government gave up on bolder reforming measures like privatization. Worse, landmines were laid in the economic policy—the landmines like revenue-guzzling rural job guarantee scheme and the forest rights law.
The term ‘profiteering,’ which was of the pre-1991 vintage, made a comeback; and it is still an idea that rules even though Sonia doesn’t. The Modi government constituted the National Anti-profiteering Authority to ensure that GST rate cuts get transferred to the consumer.
This is the toxic legacy of Sonia Gandhi, the main legatee of Nehruvian ideology. Domestication of the Congress was collateral damage..