The irony of Lohiaites tying up with the Congress is not lost on anyone. Ram Manohar Lohia had launched a new narrative of anti-Congressism, but his so-called disciples have jettisoned the Lohiaite dream
Ram Manohar Lohia once wrote how the Congress and communist parties “all claiming to be national, secular and broad minded, have since the advent of independence become increasingly agencies for elbowing and jostling. Their leadership and their membership unashamedly propagate particularist ideas in order to get the vote of the people…” Unfortunately there are very few, or perhaps none at all, within Lohia’s own party or its pale form that claims to be ‘Samajwadi’, who read Lohia, can match his intellectual sweep and vigour or even produce a grain of what he had given in terms of a prolific intellectual output. Lohia’s political heirs — those who claim today to be carrying forward his legacy in Indian politics, have little use of him and even less understanding of his genius.
Fifty years after Lohia had succeeded in dislodging the Congress from its position of uninterrupted pre-eminence, he had, together with Deendayal Upadhyaya, brought together the Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD) experiment, the so-called Lohiaite party — the Samajwadi Party — is in an alliance with the Congress, the party that, post-independence, was perhaps Lohia’s principal provocateur in articulating his political positions and philosophies. The Congress and the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh are perfect ‘agencies’ for the politics of ‘elbowing and jostling’.
When BJP president Amit Shah reminded his audience in Gorakhpur of the irony of Lohiaites tying up with the Congress, he was alluding to this historical fact — how political progenies of those who created and articulated ‘anti-Congressism’ in the country were now together trying to blow air in a deflated dream, glibly talking of a transformative revolution.
In fact, the 1967 election forever ended the Congress’s monopoly in electoral politics. The Opposition, inspired by Lohia and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, succeeded in reducing the Congress to ‘a minority in several States and, almost without exception, in other States sharply reduced the Congress majorities’. The Lok Sabha status was best described by one paper, which said, “Congress struggles to a majority”. The year 1967 proved the turning point and gave a strong fillip to efforts at creating an alternative political narrative to the Congress, efforts that had begun in 1951, when the Jana Sangh under Syama Prasad Mookerjee had decidedly set out on the path of creating such a narrative to the dominating Nehruvian one. The year thus is a phase the Congress would definitely prefer erasing from the collective memory.
Fifty years down the line, Lohia’s party has almost disappeared or metamorphosed beyond recognition, while his ideals face marginalisation among his self-professed political adherents and as far as the Congress is concerned, it continues, as it did even then, to promote the politics of jostling and of elbowing.
In fact, the Congress has long jettisoned any semblance of adhering to ideology and direction. Since 2004, it has increasingly become a victim of the whims of some of its top leaders, especially its vice president. In this gradual erosion it has lost the capacity for political articulation that leads to a certain political discourse. So shallow and depleted has this capacity become, so habituated has the Congress’s top leadership become to making gross political points, that its leaders at the top keep losing direction. The most recent example of this loss of direction was when the Congress leadership instructed its party members to oppose the Army chief when he sent out an unequivocal warning to those elements who have been at the forefront of instigating violence and unrest in Kashmir valley.
The reference to dogs vis-à-vis Prime Minister Modi, Rahul Gandhi’s and his sister’s point that Modi is an ‘outsider’ in Uttar Pradesh, all essentially stem from that depleted capacity to generate a political discourse or point — a point that can withstand the onslaught of counterpoints. As an aside, it’s of course rich and demonstrates the uniqueness of our political structure that the children of a foreigner who had no other reason to live in India except that she got married into the then Indian first family, refer to Modi as an outsider, Modi who was actually born of the Indian soil, led a disadvantaged existence, struggled through its many echelons, both societal and political, and eventually earned the office of Prime Minister through grit and a near interminable round of steeple-chases. In fact, Sonia Gandhi’s children have actually never grown up, their politics, their political language, their political world-view and callow articulations keep reminding us of that.
This ‘outsider-insider’ debate is an insidious attempt at dividing societies and mindset and fellow-senses, it goes against the very grain and spirit of the Constitution. How can such a political argument stand ground and be even be accepted — when such points are made by Congress scions and their minions it is greeted by a welcoming silence by a section of the opinion makers and intelligentsia — in free India. The Congress, especially under Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, has in fact repeatedly taken recourse to such reductionism; its larger political narrative thrives on divisiveness and on trickery, it continues to survive through political management. Its latest infatuation with the Samajwadi Party is an example of that.
While Nehru, Indira and Rajiv to a lesser extent had the intellectual quotient to evolve a certain political narrative, the Congress under Rahul has failed to re-think and re-invent, because the leader himself is bereft of any such capacity. Bombast and tall talk in the present age do not provide cover to exposed flanks. But this has almost always been the habit of the Congress’s first family, Nehru spoke of controlling corruption and did precious little; Indira spoke of removing poverty and didn’t do much; while Rajiv spoke of eliminating and brokers and did precious little.
Lohia was at his acerbic best when describing this propensity for and mastery at “trickery”. Referring to Nehru, he wrote, “Mr Nehru…can always play the unparalleled trick of combining in his own person the leader of the Government as well as the leader of the Opposition. When Mr Nehru talks in mass meetings, he talks as the leader of the Opposition. The latest example of this is full of grotesque humour. After building the Punjab capital of Chandigarh with its Government house worth many millions and standing before it, Mr Nehru spoke of equality against palaces. I wonder how long the people would put up with such trickery.”
Nehru’s heirs continue with that tradition of ‘trickery’.