The 2014 general elections seem to mark the zenith of power, so far, of the Sangh Pariwar’s affiliate, the BJP, and the nadir of the Nehru Pariwar’s fortunes. It is interesting to study the relationship of rise and fall of these two Pariwars.
Before the arrival of Gandhi on the Indian political scene, Indian nationalist politics is dominated by two different schools of politics. One comprises the likes of Pherozshah Mehta, the anglicized drawing room nationalist, who thinks that most of the answers to human problems have already been found by the Anglo-Saxons in Western Europe and Northern America and that all we have to do is to copy them deftly. The other school, equally powerful but the opposite pole, is represented by the likes of Bankim Chandra who, loosely put, suggest that going back to the days of ancient glory was the answer to all present-day problems.
Gandhi snatches the politics away from these westernized drawing rooms and ancient caves and makes common cause with the common man howsoever illiterate and poor he may be. The present, as it is, in its ugliest form is embraced with a resolve to make it beautiful in accordance with an indigenous vision, rather than being remade in the image of some remote western model or some ancient dream.
But these two powerful thoughts reassert themselves soon - almost together. The Sangh Pariwar is founded in the year 1925. It follows the legacy of Bankim Chandra. The drawing room of Mehta is reborn when the Nehru dynasty is founded in 1928. Jawaharlal Nehru is made the president of the Indian National Congress in 1928, a few years before his contemporaries such as Prasad and Patel, with active support from Motilal, and another Pariwar is born. There are letters from Motilal to Gandhi pushing for Jawaharlal to be made the Congress president in the year 1928. Similarly in the 1950s, immediately after Jawaharlal Nehru resigns from the Congress’s Central Parliamentary Board, Indira Gandhi is nominated for this highest political decision making body of the Congress. Indira Gandhi is made Congress president in 1959 when Jawaharlal is the prime minister. We will not be able to find many great political achievements of Indira Gandhi making her eligible for this top post of Congress in 1959. Contrast this with Gandhi, who, when offered a choice of nominating a young student for a foreign scholarship, prefers to send somebody else over his sons. When Patel becomes a minister after independence, he bars his son from coming to Delhi lest there be a notion that his son had access to the highest echelons of power. Motilal and Jawaharlal, in that glorious galaxy of nationalist leaders, are the rare exceptions who pushed, with some circumspection, the political careers of their offspring and established their Pariwar.
There have been insinuations that one Pariwar had, at least some relations with Godse, the man who killed Gandhi. However, Godse was too small a man to be capable of killing Gandhi at the level of thoughts and ideas. The real blow to the political ideas of Gandhi comes from the other Pariwar – the Nehru Pariwar. The post-1947 establishment under Nehru will have nothing to do with the radically decentralized Swadeshi model of political organization and development of Gandhi. He embarks upon a policy of a highly centralized model of political organization and development. To a large extent, Nehru imports and implements a centralized western Fabian Socialist model of development and damages Gandhi’s political ideas seriously at the level of thought. At the level of behavior, the attack comes from Indira. Purity and goodness, which are central to Ganhi’s political existence, are made irrelevant to a large extent, by Indira. Lohia tries to take Gandhi’s legacy forward but is not allowed to take his area of influence beyond a certain point by the two Pariwars.
The two Pariwars, the Sangh Pariwar and the Nehru Pariwar, are born together. From 1947 onwards their fortunes have been intertwined. The pinnacle of Nehru Parivar’s power is reached in 1947 and the decade following that. The Sangh Parivar is at its lowest during that period. It is accused of having a hand in the murder of Gandhi, it is banned and so on and so forth. As the power of the Nehru Pariwar starts waning in the 60s, the power of the Sangh Pariwar and its political affiliate, the Jan Sangh, grows. In the 1967 general elections, Indian National Congress (led by Indira Gandhi) gets less than 300 seats for the first time. It is interesting to note that this is the election when the Jan Sangh makes its presence felt on the national scene with 10% of the votes and 40 parliamentary seats. Since then, in 1977, in 1989 and in 1998-99, every dip in the fortunes of the Indian National Congress has benefitted the Jan Sangh and its other political avatars, the Janata Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Similarly, the surge of the Congress in 1971, 1980, 1984, 2004 and 2009 has been at the cost of Jan Sangh/ BJP. The 2014 general elections is the starkest example of this trend. The biggest loss of the Congress in 2014 elections has produced the biggest win for the BJP. (1991 is an exception where sudden decline of the Janata Dal benefitted both the BJP and the Congress apart from the event of unfortunate assassination of Rajiv Gandhi).
Nehru and Golwalkar are the most articulate voices of these two powerful political forces representing two sections of Indian society. They set out, in their own deeply flawed ways, to reconstruct India and unleash formidable political energy. At their best in the decade of the 50s, they represent two opposite sides of ideological spectrum and are able to get a whole generation of Indians to take up the project of, what they believe in their own ways, national reconstruction. The rise of these two forces drowns the voice of Gandhi.
Both the Pariwars have exercised significant influence on Indian history, specially post independence. They have been the biggest national political forces in the last century. The Communists and Ambedkarites have never been a national presence electorally. The socialists of the 1950s and 60s also could not have a pan-Indian presence. Mulayam, Laloo and Nitish have neither been socialists nor maintained a national vision. Much as one would like to criticize them, the two pariwars have given some kind of political stability to the country. From 1951 onwards, more or less, their combined vote-share in the national elections has been more than 45% and they have, together, got more than 300 seats giving the country political stability. They have also given some semblance of growth. However the legacy of Gandhi and Lohia has been buried somewhere.
The last three decades have seen a steady decline of the Congress even though they have won some elections. The organization of Congress hardly exists in the Hindi heartland. The only ideology they seem to possess is singing paeans to the Nehru Pariwar.
For BJP’s Ramdev, Sonia has Imam Bukhari. Imran Masood of the Congress who threatens to chop Modi to pieces can find a good friend in Giriraj Singh of the BJP who threatens to send people who would not vote for Modi to Pakistan. The right wing politics of the BJP can be put to shame by the right wing allies of the Congress in Kerala.
At a superficial level, the 2014 election seems to be glorious for the Sangh Pariwar. However, for any discerning eye, the intellectual and moral decline of the Sangh and the BJP in the last few decades is more than obvious. After Golwalkar, the Sangh leadership can be seen in constant intellectual decline in Deoras, Rajju Bhaiyaa, Sudarshan and Mohan Rao Bhagwat. Rahul Gandhi is as much a caricature of Nehru as Sudarshan was of Golwalkar.
The only difference between Manmohan’s and Modi’s crony capitalism is who is the favourite – Ambani or Adani. Modi himself has nothing to do with Ekatm Manavwad of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. The corruption and Congressisation of the BJP is complete. It is nothing more than a saffron Congress as once suggested by its now discarded patriarch Advani. Out of more than 280 MPs that they will have in the next parliament, it will be difficult, for a neutral political observer, to suggest ten names as possible cabinet ministers whose integrity and caliber will be beyond doubt. Rahul’s physics is as weak as Modi’s history. Rahul has been lampooned by Modi with balloons and toffees. Equally, however harsh it may sound there is no getting away from the fact that Modi himself is an intellectual bonsai who has a tendency to place Takshshila near Patna.
As one pariwar is replaced by another in the 2014 elections, the prospect of a regenerative Indian politics is not a concern for either of them. There is hardly any replacement in the real sense of the term because the two streams have become completely interchangeable. In their rise, the two Pariwars, represented two streams flowing in opposite directions – eastward and westward. Subsequently both have gone downhill and they seem to merge in their decay. But this merger is not producing a Sangam.
Will the Sangam come from the ideas of Gandhi and Lohia, the two most formidable political thinkers of the last century who are yet to gain their due! Who will revive the legacy of Gandhi and Lohia and make it a national force?
To produce that Sangam of political activism, we can not wait for another political prophet like Gandhi to lead us. The nature has been too kind to us. We have had ten Avatars of just Vishnu. May be, as a nation, we have exhausted our quota of prophets. The task now is left to all of us, the meekest of us. The famous last man of Gandhi can not wait for great leaders like Gandhi. He has to rise for himself