Out of my mind: Faith in RS
August 13, 2017
Crisis? What crisis,
existential or not? Ahmed Patel won. Normally Rajya Sabha
elections are totally predictable, frankly boring. But we were
treated to a cliffhanger. Every positive and negative aspect of
Indian democracy was on display, making it the most watchable
show in town. We had the wits of two Chanakyas — Ahmed Patel and
Amit Shah — pitted against each other. Like Rocky IV, the senior
man won. But, along the way, we saw the combination of extreme
legality and obvious corruption of political morals. No party
trusts its representatives, knowing that they have no
commitments to the party above personal gain. Hence the forced
isolation in Bengaluru. Two defectors wanted to convince the BJP
that they could be trusted; that defeated the plan. There was
also the procedural nitpicking where lawyers from both sides
besieged the Election Commission. The denouement was
fascinating. It seems that in a Rajya Sabha secret ballot, you
have to show your ballot to your party whip but not anyone else.
This means that not just the parties but the electoral system is
based on mistrust of those voting. It is a shocking confession
of the weak foundations on which the Rajya Sabha election system
is based. A secret ballot is not secret. Who let that through?
The Congress won, but I guess for the citizens watching, their
faith in the electoral system for the Rajya Sabha suffered.
But while the BJP could not snatch one more seat than their due,
they are now the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha. Thus
far, the Congress had some clout in the Upper House. The
government could not pass its prized land acquisition Bill
despite repeated attempts. Now the balance may change. As the
Rajya Sabha numbers change in a different rhythm than the Lok
Sabha, if Modi were to deliver another majority as looks likely,
the Congress will be in exile for a few years longer.
What many outside wish and as Jairam Ramesh expressed, the
Congress ought really now to get around to looking at itself
critically and ask what went wrong and how to put it right. It
is difficult for a long-dominant party to face the reality of
decline. But it is now or never. The Congress should not rely on
cyclical comeback as happened in 1977, 1991 and 2004. Now there
is a formidable party which has become hegemonic. Rather than
repeat their entitlement to rule thanks to Gandhi-Nehru-Gandhi,
the Congress ought to construct an alternative narrative which
will appeal to the new generation.
It is hard to be hopeful that the Congress will revive itself.
The conversion of a cadre-based party into a family fiefdom by
Indira Gandhi emptied the party of anyone who can think outside
the box and dare to point to the Emperor’s (or the Crown
Prince’s) clothes. The last time it was an “outsider” from deep
inside, Sonia Gandhi, who saved the party from terminal decline
and delivered its comeback in 2004. You can’t step into the same
Maybe it is not a crisis but an opportunity. At 70, India can
witness the passing of the baton from the Grand Old Party born
in British times to a party born post-Independence. India has
confidence in its democracy and is happy to renew it by a change
of the hegemonic party.
This news can also be viewed at: