Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Trees, apples, and elections

Have you heard? Shri Akhilesh Das, member of Rajya Sabha, has resigned from both the Congress Party and the Rajya Sabha. The reason? Rahul Gandhi. More specifically, Rahul Gandhi and his ‘coterie’. He’s not the only one with this grouse. Did anyone see the NDTV puppet lampoon that has Manmohan Singh ask Rahul if he wants Sachin Pilot as a minister, and Rahul says, no he’s not a Dosco! A bit of a leap, but point taken.

I’ve been mulling over why I’m not impressed with Rahul. He seems nice enough, he seems quite eager to travel the country and meet people, even his media tricks of visiting Naxal villages and that march in UP are kind of endearing (at least he’s not sipping champagne and snorting coke in his bath tub with another man). So I thought and thought. And by jove, I think I got it!

It lies in symbolism. What does Rahul Gandhi stand for?

Although not his fault, Rahul Gandhi is not representative of his age-group, in as much as he too is of the old guard, the ancien regime, as it were. He might be young, but the clamouring around the politician, and the repeated requests by his mother to her party men not to indulge in sycophancy, only serves to remind us that, in the end, Rahul is the son of a famous father, a child of historical political legacy. Therefore, despite his own capabilities, he will always represent an old India at every turn -- dynastic politics at its best -- and thus, will remain divorced from Young India.

Most of India is young. Young people are growing up fast, aspirations running high and opportunities their parents could not have dreamt of. The 20 year olds are the children of liberalisation – the change India was looking for. They are going to take this country forward. And just the way babudom is relegated to the background as private enterprises grow, people need a symbol that a meritocracy is here to stay.

Unfortunately, Rahul Gandhi doesn't fit in as the right symbol; he didn't have to climb his way to the top, a seat was reserved for him. And even if he proves to be worth the hype, he will always be the ultimate insider, despite trying to prove he is actually on the outside. As far as a youth symbol goes, his critics are correct, he is not the "exclusive" answer. Far from it.

Now before you rant at me that he should be judged on his merits, I agree, but what he stands for counts. For example, in tonight’s debate on NDTV, on Mayawati, Sonia Varma told us that when discussing who should be ‘Indian of the Year’, when it came to Mayawati, the question of corruption was discussed. Can she even be nominated considering how many cases have come up against her. No, said many, because she is a Dalit woman and a force in national politics. So that is more important than her corruption cases and in fact, the “potential” of Mayawati as a national figure is far more fascinating to people than the fact that her party has actually not performed in HP, Maharashtra etc.

But see the difference is, she is the only Dalit woman on our national platform. She has probably opened the doors for others to follow, when they will. But when they do, as with the men, there will be choices and choices. (I can’t say what the quality will be!) And so, drawing a parallel of sorts, when you talk about young India, Rahul is not the only young man on the national platform. Therein lies the problem. To be force-fed that he is our ‘yuvraj’ is just disingenuous. In fact, the term ‘yuvraj’ is at once insulting because it implies that we are not really a democracy, but a disguised monarchy. And that just does not sit well with me!

Another point, my original point on RG had actually been inspired by an analysis of Clinton vs Obama, and what they stood for. What Clinton stands for as a woman is historic -- but other than that, she is an old player, also tainted with the whiff of corruption scandals. Obama, instead, is a Black man (so his election would definately be a culmination of the civil rights movement), but also as a Black man who grew up well, he is able to analyse the country is a unique way. His observations about the frustrated small towns (Penn controversy) and also his reading of why his Pastor grudged America and why White America grudged Black America was refeshing and insightful. If you haven't heard it, this is a very brief recap. His Black pastor cried out that America had not helped his community. People reacted. Obama said that despite civil rights, many Blacks are still unhappy with their lot, thus the rant. And many Whites of the same vintage remember they gave these rights in the 60s and cannot understand why the Blacks are ungrateful. My generation, said Obama, does not suffer from this anger. Then about smaller towns, he said that they work hard, and are told they are honest Americans, but still don't see jobs coming their way. Thats why they are angry, thats why they turn to God and guns. An honest reading of the problem as he sees it, but Hillary, no, she could not believe he had insulted middle and small America. Thats what bugged me, TALK, don't brush ideas under the carpet.

Enough deviating! Anyway, back to India. And the choices we have to make in terms of the leaders we want to represent us.

Ultimately, it's a question of national identity. And what the leader of a democracy signifies -- a land of freedoms or a land of half freedoms?

BTW I don't know much about Akhilesh Das, but he's set to join the BSP I hear.


Anonymous said...

I loved what u had to say...it is indeed depressing to see the state of affairs,to see someone get away with his pseudo-nationalism and helplessly watch a person like Rahul Gandhi eventually lead our country...n lead at a time when we are accelerating towards development...i sometimes ponder what role do we have in this?..or do we have any role at all!....dynastic politics, i believe, is a sheer outcome of our deep rooted slave mentality..take for instance rajasthan...a state with very diverse political classes, viz, rajputs, jats, gujjars and brahmins...however irrespective of stronger representation, a rajput has to be the CM...in that aspect, i feel, UP has progressed...i am not sure if progression is the right word but i feel change is good...anything that breaks the shackle of our deep rooted caste system is good....i understand, the foundation of BSP too lies on caste grounds but the new face of BSP is not Dalits alone..it includes Brahmins too...the very essence of dalits and brahmins coming together to control a state like UP is a welcome trend...
Keep writing...Politics is something that seems to have lost relevance amongst our generation...N to revive it, is an uphill task...Nonetheless, writing serves as an important tool..An alternative media like blogging, has definitely changed the face of interaction and what better way to discuss politics than writing...
shall discuss something thats dear to me..the politics of the north east region...sometime later....


egg style said...

“Maya jaal se satark rehna uchit hoga, parantu paryaapt nahin. Jaal bhi vibhinn prakaar ke hote hain. Sadiyon pehle, Bharatvarsh ke poorvajanon ne machchli ki jaalon mein uttam pragati dikhayi thhi, videshi haath dwaara 'bait' ke prayog se adhik samvedansheel. Gandhiji, jinhone ek avsar par paschimi sabhyata ko 'achha sujhhav' thhehraya thha, vibhinn vichaardharaaraon se swayam apne vichaaron ko ujwal kiya karte thhe. Parmaanushakti yug mein, yeh aaj bhi paramaavashyak hai.”

That’s a wizened old voice talking. Or is it? Hard to tell.

Highly engaging blog, must say. Agreed, youth in itself is never a valid differentiator for leadership. There are many others in the midway generation who can link India’s midnight gen with the lib kids. In any case, age is really no big deal, certainly not the big question at hand. Nor is the crown inheritance bullshit very relevant (it opens the locks to further vulnerabilities – unfair though it is to pin parental screw-ups on their progeny), except that it causes discomfort. It’s common sense that name recall is just that, tomtommed or not, pained or not, and what finally matters is what the name represents in the current context, and what these values mean in practice -- to every single citizen.

Aint too clear on that, as your second last para gets to the nub of it so insightfully (good work! Nice headline!) Guess it aint always easy what to say, what not. Even while trying not to run rings around tricky issues, stuff can slip one’s mind. It’s only human.

The Dude said...

great post!
loved it from the opening right till the end.
i feel bad for RG, but as you pointed out he is just the next in line to the dynasty (as sadly are most of the younger in lines in almost every party who are being propped up) and though he seems to try, he never makes one feel like he really is one of us! hes like an old man from my parents time in a young guys body at time!
and loved the short blurb on the US democratic candidates, i couldnt agree more. I respect hillary, sure, but she apart from being a woman as president (which is sadly a big deal), i dont think she really has much to offer - shes too much of a politician and not enough of a leader. Obama, though I have my questions still, seems like the kind of strong leader needed.
Kinda like what we need here.

Nirvikar said...

I do feel that as far as Akhilesh Das is concerned, he comes from a breed of opportunist politicans whose decisions are based only and only on their personal benefits and agendas. There he gets dropped for non performance from the cabinet and within hours joins BSP with an assurance of being the Lok Sabha candidate from Lucknow for the BSP, I hope you don’t think he is some sort of a martyr or a messiah of people ?

A lot is being written about Rahul Gandhi, and I have also noticed that you too have started giving him a lot of importance and prominence too ,. I have really not understood why are we getting so critical about him ?

In the recent reshuffle he could have got a cabinet berth as a minister, and sat in the plush office in the PMO as the minister of state . He has chosen not to. Some would even feel that he has not taken the berth because he does not want to take responsibility. There are endless theories and views on this, but the fact of the matter is that , only time will tell, whether he lives up to the expectations of the new young India and will he represent them well .Lets not be so judgemental !!!.

Well , where in the world does dynastic politics to some extent not exist ? From Sr Bush to Jr Bush, From Bill to Hillary, Bhuttos ………………. the list is endless, Im not going in merits or the de merits of dynastic politics but all that im saying is, yes it may give one a platform but then it’s your ability to work and deliver which counts there are endless examples of people belonging to a particular dynasty who have lost elections and not heard these days, who have not been able to deliever.

So Rahul might have got the platform of the Nehru Gandhi Family but don’t forget he still has won his lok sabha seat through the democratic process of elections and it’s the people who have voted from him.

I agree with you , most of India is young and meritocracy should be the the deciding factor, but tell me honestly how many of us will truly join politics to make a diffrence ?? How Many ????

mahima said...

Ok, you are right N. I'll lay of Rahul Gandhi for a while, and give him his due chance to prove himself a capable leader before judging him. (Although my judgement of him comes after seeing him on the public scene for a few years but still, since you seem to be a fan of his, I'll wait for something 'big' to happen before I comment any further). Thats fair.

mahima said...

Ok, you are right N. I'll lay of Rahul Gandhi for a while, and give him his due chance to prove himself a capable leader before judging him. (Although my judgement of him comes after seeing him on the public scene for a few years but still, since you seem to be a fan of his, I'll wait for something 'big' to happen before I comment any further). Thats fair.

Nirvikar said...

oh, with what great difficulty have i managed to buy some time for RG from Ms M !! Im honoured and grateful,for you being so considerate and giving him a breather :).

Not being a fan of his, but just wanting to be a little optimistic about the younger genration and people like him ,sachin, jyoti............ until they prove me wrong.

suresh said...

Hi, find your judement on caustic and refreshing , actually RG stands for nothing , though he is endearing and sincere ,but then are so many ....mayawati for all her credentials is a terrible parallel....any ways refreshing take..Cheers!

Anonymous said...

The Cong crisis is not about coterie, dynasty etc etc. It is about basic principles of Indian independence and price put on it. Ashly Telis told an audience that India's best hope of being a world power is to become a subordinate ally of world's only superpower. He arranged the deal. Indian electorate approves or not is the crisis of credibility

Jai Hind

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Anonymous said...

only akhilesh das?
half of SP is joining Mayawati now

mahima said...

Lol yeh I needed to get in touch with Mayawati's people and I was told "why don't you call shahid Siddiqui?" Oh the life and times ! :)