When there is dependence on pliable, ‘yes-man’ leaders and assistants, the power and organisation start crumbling.

New Delhi: An elderly politician, while discussing the political situation of the Congress in 1983, told me this aphorism of Vidur Niti: “Sachiv, Baid, Guru jo priye, bole bhay ke aas, raj dharm aur tantra ka hoye vinaas (If due to fear the secretary, doctor, and guru start speaking sweet words, then it surely is a sign of destruction).” Even after forty years this situation is visible in politics today. The Congress, in particular, is going through this crisis.
Especially in the times of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, there were many such leaders who spoke bitter things. But when there is dependence on pliable, ‘yes-man’ leaders and assistants, the power and organisation start crumbling. How can the dreams of success come true; when the leaders only keep thundering like clouds from the distant sky and do not provide rain to give relief on the ground? Rahul Gandhi’s poor decisions, dissatisfaction, and failures in the states have made the Congress look weaker today than it was in 1977.
If Rahul Gandhi and his associates had adopted the formulae adopted by Indira Gandhi to revive the party between 1969 and 1983, they would not have found themselves in such a sorry state as they are today. Even after the defeat in 1977, the Congress put forward Brahmananda Reddy and Devraj Urs. They came into power in 1980 with a huge majority, but after two years, in the Assembly elections in South India they had to face defeat and the party started looking weak, leading to discontent in several states of North India. Taking a crucial step at the beginning of 1983, they made Pandit Kamalapati Tripathi the acting president, so that the party could be strengthened.
At that time also I had written in my analysis that Mrs Indira Gandhi had not only put the blame of their defeat in the South on regional leadership, but she herself had taken the responsibility of defeat on her shoulders. But, there is a strange situation in the present era: Rahul Gandhi, despite taking the tag of being former president, has not strengthened the party by making any other leader executive or vice-president. Even though Sonia Gandhi is the acting president of the Congress now, all the decisions are still being made by Rahul.
Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi made efforts to keep the two generations together. As long as they did that they were facilitated in keeping the governments and organisations strong in the states. They never hesitated to make necessary changes after listening to the critics. I remember an example from her long meeting with Pandit Dwarka Prasad Mishra in February 1983, where she took advice from an estranged leader on the weakness of the Congress.
After this meeting, I interviewed Mishra for my magazine. And it is very interesting that whatever was said about the Congress then, it is very much relevant to the present Congress too. Mishra not only mentioned the things said to Indira Gandhi with complete clarity, but he also gave permission to publish them. My acquaintance with Mishra was from 1972. He was considered Chanakya of the Congress. He got away from the party because he disagreed with some decisions taken by the party; like the declaration of Emergency. However, 82-year-old Pandit Dwarka Mishra then told me: “I still have sympathy for the Congress and it hurts me to see the party in this condition. In fact, there have been no elections for the party for many years. Every state, every district has certain supporters who give everything to elect their favourite candidate, but they also give their best to remove the candidate if they don’t like him. The Congress is only concerned about what is at the top and is ignoring what is at the bottom.”
After hearing this bitter truth, Mrs Gandhi engaged senior leaders like Kamalapati Tripathi and youth like Rajiv Gandhi to work together. But within a year and a half, she was murdered. Rajiv Gandhi also tried to carry on with the same approach for two to three years. But members like Arun Nehru humiliated the elders and dug the holes for themselves. Rahul’s new team is doing the same thing. That is why Captain Amarender Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Bhupesh Baghel along with Manish Tewari, Sachin Pilot, and T.S. Singh Deo are being publicly insulted. In this context, the Congress members are shedding tears these days when the election strategist Prashant Kishor (PK), who badly defeated the Congress in the recent West Bengal Assembly elections, got the role of “Chanakya” for the party. Leaders like Dwarka Prasad Mishra, Kamaraj, and Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, who were called Chanakyas of the Indira era, used to call this adjective wrong. Dr Sharma once told me in an informal conversation: “We feel very bad when we are compared to Chanakya and Chanakya is compared to Machiavelli. Chanakya was actually a Maharishi. Comparing him to Machiavelli is an insult. Machiavelli wrote a book called Prince and in the name of that collected a lot of money by roaming in Italy. Chanakya was a Maharishi and the Maurya empire was his achievement. He lived on the other side of the Ganges and used to fill his stomach by collecting the grains left by the farmers after harvesting. He never expected any profit from the power.”
Now be it PK or any other person, is there any dedicated person in Indian politics to be called Chanakya? Even my friends working in media should think a little while using the word Chanakya. Why should the name of Maharishi be maligned by addressing someone as ‘Chanakya’? In the current political era, the number of people who listen to things calmly, who speak for the best is continuously decreasing. And without it, the roots of democracy will start drying up.
On the other hand, many leaders and experts, who are distracted by the strength of the Bharatiya Janata Party and staying in power in many states, are calling this situation dangerous. They are also troubled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi being omnipotent. But veteran leaders and journalists should be reminded of the claims and arguments of the 1980s, on the basis of which it was written: “The country can be more secure and developed if the Centre is strong.”
The ancient history of India is also proof that whenever the power of Centre has weakened, the subedars of different princely states declared their independence. “Even today, when there are different governments in different states, there is not only political conflict, and distrust but sometimes anarchy is witnessed. Plans related to the public interest are not being implemented, there is direct confrontation between investigative agencies and regional police administration.
The identity of the regional spirit and their existence can be understood to an extent, but only if there is better coordination, trust, respect in the federal system that the progress of the society and the nation can take place.
The writer is Editorial Director, ITV Network (India News & Aaj Samaj Daily)