Chris Emmanuel D'Souza
Mar 21: Has India’s grand old party found some fire? The tone of Rahul Gandhi's and Navjoth Sidhu’s speeches at the 84th Congress conference suggest that Congress' belly is on fire. Sidhu speaks with rawness and brings his affluent vocabulary and slapstick humour, enough for the crowd to erupt. Rahul Gandhi spoke with eloquence and in detail and managed to hit the right chords. His words didn’t have the typical political punches, his lines weren’t ‘filthy’ or ‘abusive’, and no empty promises; but it was more like a hard-hitting lecture from a professor, that keeps the listener on the edge of the seat. As he was signing off this wall cracking speech, Rahul Gandhi had transformed himself from a 'subject of ridicule' to a ‘torch bearer' for the next generation of a better democratic India. It was a speech blended with candour, rage, virtue, humour and muscular. The rural Indian voter is smart, crafty and wily – as much as the politician; he is watching the political moves closely and has the ability to change the government and rewrite history.
The evening of May 2014, when Modi energised BJP rose to power with a landslide mandate, the Congress scion appeared on the TV screen - sober, humiliated and dejected. The dream of a 'smooth sailing' political career had suddenly torn into pieces. The noise polluting TV anchors mocked him, the rotten social media trolls shamed him below the belt and members of his own party deserted him. Questions arose, whether Congress needs to break down its dynastical thread. Many experts felt, Rahul Gandhi didn’t do justice to his position in the party. Rahul Gandhi campaigned like a 1960s post-man dropping mails on a bicycle, while his opposition force did it using modern technology like 'hologram' and using fake trolls and pumping hate with photoshop on social media.
The defeat has been a extraordinary teacher to Gandhi, so has been to most of us. The blow Rahul Gandhi received from his defeat to Modi-shah and their ‘Parrot’ Arnab- Goswami in an interview took a long time to heal. But, that seems to be the best thing that has happened to a lazy dreamer like him. After defeat, disgrace and degradation – comes ire and vengeance. His words were firm, his head was high, he looked gutsy and prepared. In the last four years, Gandhi has grown in age and wisdom. The BJP needs to take him seriously, if they desire to stay in power after 2019.
The last four years have changed the direction of the country. India is heading towards darkness. Its democratic institutions have been raided and pillaged. The media- both print and TV have been cheerleading the ruling government, promoting falsity and smearing people who oppose government policies. The 'notebandi' (demonetisation) scandal went unchecked and unquestioned in the mainstream media, and perhaps would have been the biggest scam post-independence. The TV Media Mughals have put their ratings and their revenues before the interest of the country. The judiciary - the most powerful and autonomous institute in the country appears nervous. Massive scale corruptions have cracked the roof, scandals after scandals are getting uncovered, violence against lower caste people, minorities and women have multiplied and go unnoticed in the media. Even hardliners like MNS chief Raj Thackeray is disturbed by some of the motives of the Prime Minister and his hot-headed right hand man Amit Shah. He directly referred these shady policies to Hitler's controversial biographical book ‘Mein keimpf’! Isn’t this a time in our history to be alarmed?
But the past cannot be wiped off from our memories. The echoes of hate mongering and divisive politics between 1999 to 2004, when Vajpayee-Advani-led NDA reigned the country, are still drumming in our ears. I was in high school, and vividly remember, the same 56′ inch chest thumping, over-the-sky promises and dog-fight arrogance. These five years were a defining moment in the country’s post globalisation era.
Cometh the 2004 general elections. The NDA government looked organised, calculative and jet-set for the next five years. Vajpayee, by then had greyed (aged), had lost his crowd-pulling aura, the leadership was taken over by Advani, and he did all the talking-good, sweet, sour and ugly (but way better than the language used by Modi-Shah). Advani's shining India bus campaign roared and stormed the nation. Most of the polls favoured the NDA government a 'cakewalk' victory, months before the ballot. Congress was fragmented and Sonia Gandhi had to do the unthinkable. She campaigned with grit and determination, with absolutely no command over Hindi and had also to bear the scores of low degree abuse and insults from machos of the ruling government. The election day saw a large voter turn out. By evening, the stock market crashed as results started to pour out, the NDA had been crushed, the Congress and the Left parties had made heavy inroads. The confidence and arrogance of the ruling government had reached a break-even point - some of the party members and their friendly media-men were in tears on national television. Sonia Gandhi had pulled a rabbit out of a hat, she had single handedly brought down an unhinged elephant to its knees.
The fate of 2019 General Elections is hung in balance. The nation's future is at stake. India, as a nation cannot afford to slide itself in the path of failed countries like Pakistan, Iran, Syria or North Korea. Congress needs to charge and electrify itself. The rhetoric needs to be clear and robust. Rahul Gandhi cannot do a great speech one night, and then disappear into the woods for next three months. Elections are battled day and day out, 24/7.
This is perhaps the last chance in the next twelve months or so, to mend our society and the country. The stealthy ideology of the ruling government, its deception and its ambitions to distort the sacred monuments (that is, the Constitution, judiciary, rights) of a federal democratic republic - has put a large chunk of the country in a cold foot. Experts on prime time TV shows often compare Indian political situation to political upheavals in western countries, like the rise in far right political parties and the recent victory of Putin in Russia. But western societies are ageing, the median age is above 55, their futuristic ideology doesn’t matter. What matters is indoctrination of young men and women in a very young demography like India. We have 50 percent of our population under the age of 25. Most of our online trolls and violent extremists are young. Their ideals and virtues need to be shaped. And here, a national leader like Rahul Gandhi can be a pied piper, who can willingly lead these young men away from darkness.
Chris Emmanuel D'Souza