Thursday, November 24, 2011

In which I become a titch obsessed with the Gandhi family and unusual consequences follow

**Edited a bit for structure and content.**

(I'm wondering I should be posting this kinda stuff on teh interwebs, it IS open to misinterpretation hee...)

So I recently got promoted at work (YAY ME!) and am working much more with the core business as it were--reading manuscripts and looking at them for structure, flow etc. One of the CEs asked me to read through this book on a Gandhi that we're doing, and it turned out to have me comprehensively hooked. I even cried at one point, which says more for the storytelling than the story cos, um, everyone knows the story. Anyway, apart from the information in the book, I've been Googling to fact check etc, and I find myself drawn into the whole narrative of Indian politics. (Okay, also into oh my GOD Rahul is so cute, and he hangs out at Khan, should I start skulking around Khan?)

My family has always been pro-Congress. I imagine the older people have their reasons for it, and we've never discussed them. I remember growing up with the Congress as the party people supported, but hey, when I was 10, it was pretty much the only proper party around. Then all the other exciting events of the nineties happened--Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated when we were joyriding in the US, the gold crisis, Babri masjid, Bombay riots, Manmohan Singh hero, Narasimha Rao tales of the neither-man-nor-beast figure who would save the world i.e. India, etc. I was fairly detached though, and never gave much thought to voting.

I finally turned 18, just after the BJP came to power with the NDA government. I was revolted by militant anythingism, so I was not happy with them. In 2004 I was delighted to be able to vote, but very upset because my options were a Soni Gandhi-led Congress (i.e. expected Forn PM) and a Vajyapyee-led BJP (i.e. good man in psycho party). I voted independent. I look back now and realise it was stupid thing to do*, but hey we do stupid things at 22. Then SG shocked the world by turning down the PMship and dear blue-turbaned Manmohan Singh began his first term.

All in all, UPA I was a shocker, a gleeful one for the Congress, but by the end of its term all one heard was criticism of it. All the young businesspeople, urban working people, people interviewed on TV ranted about how we needed the BJP back, just before the 2009 elections. That time I voted Congress. I REALLY wanted them to win. But, like most people, I didn't expect it to happen. Still, I was okay with it, cos well, the voice of the people, etc etc. And then the Congress went on to do even better than in 2004, AND Rahul Gandhi kicked ASS in UP. Jubilation! Joy! Etc. And then I forgot about it.

My political interest flickered into faint life when KCR, with the help of his terrorist supporters, successfully blackmailed the Centre for Telengana. Aside from some cursing of hunger strikes and people who use em, I tuned out soon enough.

Cut to 2011. The world has been going nuts. More hunger-striking blackmail. Scams crawling out of the woodwork everywhere. Manmohan Singh loking more and more like an ineffectual idiot man--which he isn't. But he's not a politican, and what we need now is a consummate politician at the helm. (By we I don't mean the Congress, FYI.) So what happens in the next election? Who do we vote for? Is the rural vote going to remind us, again, that urban India is a minor part of the entirety of this country?

India really needs leadership at the moment, someone who is able to take decisions. Now, setting aside MS's ability or lack thereof as far as taking decisions is concerned, any PM would need support in Parliament. Whatever your policies, unless you can enact them into law, you are faced with a problem. This is where the past decade or so of coalition governments has been so crazy.

Coalitions do not strengthen us in India. They weaken us. They give a minor party, with very specific regional interests, the power to manipulate the Central government, and how. Yes, regional interests must be looked after, but probably by giving states more power and moving to a more federal system. The government at the Centre needs to have the freedom to act if it needs to.

Granted UPA II is insanely corrupt. But who isn't? It is a system that awards the corrupt; it is shortsighted and filled with people who are mostly there to grab their fifteen minutes of fame, whatever material gain they can get out of it and take off. Of course this is not true of everyone in politics in India today, but the hierarchical geriatric trends in leadership are worrisome. If you aren't related to someone big, or you don't have a vote-bank, then you can't really get anywhere. So essentially, the system has to change. But that will take time. And until then, what choices do we really have? What does the Indian voter do? I cannot say that I am Congress supporter anymore, but what choice do I have but to vote Congress? Do I want to vote the BJP in? No, because they are definitely extreme. (The Congress however is extremely un-extreme hee.) Really, what are my options? Mayawati? KCR? Modi? The DMKs? The Shiv Sena? The TRS? No, no, a thousand times no. The least of the manifold evils remains the Congress, though I would love to be at a place where I could vote for a party for what they are instead of what they're not.

Which is where I return to the Gandhis. Dynastic politics are not a good thing--but sometimes the dynast has the ability to change things the way someone else might not. Some say, and I'm partly convinced, that Rahul Gandhi is one such person. HE has actually made a dramatic difference to the way both the NSUI and the IYC run, and might even be able to transfer this to the main party. The tough part is going to be keeping favour during the transition, because I'm fairly sure they're going to do badly in the next elections.

Ironically, for someone who is where he is and has the power to effect the kind of changes he wants, he owes it all to the very system he's trying to topple--and he knows it. Whether he will be effective or not remains to be seen--but I hope he is. (And no, not cos he's such a dish. Which he is. *swoon*.)

*The concept of party consistency and the policy of the government being dictated by the policy of the party had not sunk in yet--I was still mired in the cult of personality, and knew more about the US President and his powers than those of the PM here. Also, a stabler government is usually better, as coalitions have taught me this past decade, so randomly voting for an independent does nothing much for anyway, except to make a statement about not ovting for the parties. The independent is unlikely to win, and ifs/he does, the party that forms the government will have to cobble together a crazy coalition.


  1. Hee, nice to know your voting choices. For me, it always tends to be a choice of the lesser of the two evils. And as someone from a 'minority' community that means Congress at the state and national level at least - in the municipal elections, I have voted for an independent. Not that I have forgotten about what the Congress did to the Sikhs but at least targetting a new vulnerable minority each year is not an agenda publisized by prominent members of their party. I thought Chandrababu Naidu offered a decent alternative in Hyderabad, alas the rural vote didn't think so and that's in the end what matters.

  2. See Naidu had his problems, like the BJP, didn't do enough for rural india--we always forget how many people make up that part of our country.