In The Armchair

Ramachandra Guha on Dynastocracy

Posted in India by Armchair Guy on November 9, 2010

I’ve long been incensed at the way in which Congressmen in general, and Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in particular, have attempted to wipe out the memory of P. V. Narasimha Rao and his tremendous achievements.  I don’t find it surprising that they have done so; to acknowledge Rao would be to admit that almost all the positive developments the Congress can lay claim to in the last 20 years were initiated by an Outsider.  It’s possible Rahul and Sonia now believe their own hype — that they are no longer capable of understanding that non-Dynasty members may have made major contributions.

I have mixed feelings towards Manmohan Singh on this topic.  On the one hand, I feel angry at his silence.  But mostly, I just feel bad for him.  He seems to have sold his soul to Sonia and Rahul in exchange for his gaddi.  But  I don’t believe Manmohan lusts after power — I think he just wants to be rescued from the utter obscurity that awaits a leader with no political network of his own.  Perhaps he’s not strong enough to embrace that obscurity.  Perhaps he feels that, puppet though he may be, he can do more good than his putative replacement.  It doesn’t matter. What feelings bubble up behind that weak smile, I wonder, when he hears Sonia and Rahul giving Rajiv credit for everything that his original mentor did?  Has age and time numbed his conscience?

These points are nothing new.  They have been standard talking points on blogs and online discussion fora for at least half a decade.  I said it too: here and here.  But Ramachandra Guha collects them all at one place here, and fleshes out the story with a little bit of history.  He says:

Our leaders … do resemble Stalin … in their vanity and insecurity. They cannot purge or kill former colleagues, but they can at least disparage their contributions, while magnifying their own.

And then he asks:

In the 125 years of its existence, the party has produced a series of impressive and important leaders. … will its historians and propagandists recall the great women leaders of the past, such as Sarojini Naidu, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, and Sucheta Kripalani? … Will … such charismatic and greatly influential individuals as J.B. Kripalani, C. Rajagopalachari, Jayaprakash Narayan and Rammanohar Lohia be mentioned at all …? Will … its most outstanding president, K. Kamaraj, and its brilliant prime minister who died early, Lal Bahadur Shastri?

Let’s keep dreaming.  Ram Guha addresses this topic from time to time, see also for example here.


2 Responses

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  1. Armchair Guy said, on November 10, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Essential reading:

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