I can feel the ‘hatewave’ bearing down menacingly on me even before I’ve published this piece. Many will read the title and instantly pronounce a verdict. Some will forward this with glee to others of the same feather claiming that this blogger has defected and others will simply tear into me. Dear reader, hold up, read the blog first and then pass your verdict. Fair enough?
I hate to write a post on politics, personalities and power at the time of an existential crisis. Incidentally, all three have failed us! That said, I must do so at this juncture as it is critically important this crisis and the actors therein are not forgotten for what they are and aren’t.
If you are active on social media, especially Twitter, I’m sure you have been exposed to the combined wisdom of a group of left of centre Twitterati who consistently champion liberal ideology and causes, share liberal talking points, occasionally pen illuminating articles and also fight fascism and its proponents. I’m also sure it would not have escaped your attention that these good folks have also been super busy of late (understandably) piling it on Modi and his party (deservingly) for their abject failure and abdication of responsibility during this crisis. What might have actually escaped your attention though is the fact that the same crew is simultaneously hard at work trying to prop up Rahul Gandhi as the knight in shining armour who will gallop to rescue the nation and ascend the throne whence Modi will have abdicated. They have earnestly begun to advance the “If not Rahul then who?” narrative with tweets, articles et.al perfectly timed to leverage the flattering backdrop of goodwill created by the absolutely phenomenal relief work done in the Delhi national capital region (NCR) spearheaded by a certain B. V. Srinivas. These folks sense blood in the water and are not only out in force to get for good the wounded, bleeding and slightly disoriented (more so after the Bengal bashing which was again not of their doing) once formidable adversary but also to ensure their man replaces Modi. I don’t blame them for that. They are after all long time Congress party supporters and clearly Rahul Gandhi fanboys/girls too. Good on them for playing their part.
Heard the name B.V.Srinivas? Chances are you have as he is currently all the rage on Social Media and Television. B.V. Srinivas is the national President of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and also the presiding Messiah to a multitude of Covid patients and families in the Delhi NCR region and perhaps a beacon of hope across the country. He has been nothing short of spectacular in his mobilisation of the youth cadre of the IYC into becoming an omnipresent lifeline to a populace desperate for help and most importantly in dire need of life saving medication and Oxygen. He continues to tirelessly marshal his troops and the resources at his disposal to deliver the gift of life saving Oxygen to those hanging on by a breath. The hashtag #SOSIYC on Twitter has not only saved many an Indian soul but also the souls of some staffers of foreign government consulates. Both of these much to the chagrin of the current dispensation.
B.V. Srinivas is 41 years old. He graduated through the ranks starting out as a NSUI member to becoming the block president and then going on to becoming the vice-president and subsequently serving as the president of the IYC. It is a story of an individual of unremarkable origins having the courage of his convictions, the persistence of both belief and effort which have seen him rise through the ranks to where he finds himself today. The stellar work that he has done during this crisis is perhaps a testament to his attitude and disposition and also a vindication of his elevation within the party.
That said, why do all young Congress leaders hit a brick wall at a certain point? Why is it that the Congress supporters on Twitter who have otherwise waxed eloquent about Srinivas and his yeoman work can’t find it within them to elevate Srinivas to the same pedestal as Rahul Gandhi? I ask too many rhetorical questions! If Rahul Gandhi who is 50 years old is still a youth icon/leader then surely Srinivas who is merely 41 is youthful much! Srinivas and his team have pounded the pavement in perhaps India’s darkest hour to bring relief and succour to her citizens. Rahul Gandhi on the other hand has fired salvo after sporadic salvo at his adversary on Twitter! I know many of the Congress supporters and even a few centrists would love to attribute Srinivas’s efforts to the Congress ‘leadership’. They would be patently wrong. Still, let us suppose, just for the sake of the argument, that the initiative was was indeed flagged-off by the ‘leadership’. Even so would we still not have to give all the credit to Srinivas and his team for having the courage to sustain this herculean effort while being acutely aware that he was putting himself and his team’s well being in harms way?
The limited point I’m trying to belabour here is that Rahul Gandhi is no more deserving to lead the Congress party than is B.V. Srinivas. In fact, as a matter of argument, Srinivas is much more meritorious and deserving to assume an elevated leadership position. Srinivas jumped into the deep end without worrying about the consequences because he has an attribute called Junoon. A trait that is shared by all successful (read electorally only) politicians throughout history. Jagan Mohan Reddy was able to take on the all powerful Congress high-command, form his own party and sweep to power eventually because he has Junoon. Arvind Kejriwal formed a party from having absolutely no political background and then proceeded to win 2 elections and form a government in Delhi no less because he has Junoon. Junoon is Mamata’s middlde name and the Left parties and the BJP now are well aware of that ! Last but not least, Narendra Damodardas Modi, the man Rahul Gandhi is seen as trying to dethrone or more appropriately is being projected by his loyalists as such is Mr. Junoon himself. Alas, all he has is negative Junoon. Rahul Gandhi on the other hand has zero Junoon!
The Rahul – Srinivas comparison is but an allegory for the broader and pervasive culture plaguing Indian politics. One that places cult of personality over merit. It is disturbing that even people with education and intellect lose both their learnings and sensibilities when it comes to choosing a leader. They fawn at the mere mention of the anointed one and constantly endeavour to bring heaven and earth together to ensure the primacy of the ‘chosen one’ is never challenged. How are they then different from the crowd they disparagingly call ‘Bhakts’? Merit ought to be the sole yardstick for elevation in a democracy and especially in politics as policy makers hold the power to make or mar our collective future.
Rahul Gandhi is perhaps a good man who has a great moral compass and is also very sound in both mind and body (as demonstrated recently on multiple occasions) but also is one who has been spectacularly inconsistent and has accomplished precious little in the ludicrously long run he has been given at the helm. It is such a travesty that despite having failed on every single count he continues to occupy not only the top post in the party but also the imagination of the loyalists. Other leaders in the Congress party who have worked their butts off at the grassroots level and helped shepherd the Congress party either back into power or helped them hold down the fort (at a time when party’s fortunes were flailing and the marauding BJP election machine was marching on the castle) have been betrayed time and again by the same Congress supporters in favour of their beloved crown prince. The damage this has done to the party morale needs no mention here what with the slew of defections and episodes of open rebellion having unsavourily played out in the recent past. Therefore, it is even more surprising to observe that not much has changed within the fan club despite such upheaval. It is frankly disgusting that this club is now using another young Congress leader’s heroics to yet again boost the stock of Rahul Gandhi.
In light of the above, the unencumbered minds inside the party and the unbeholden outside of it would do well to ensure that the meritorious are accorded the pedestals they deserve. It is not about the Congress party. It is about the future of Indian politics and by extension Indian society.
Don’t let a blunder steal someone else’s thunder.