Aiming Higher

At best it was a commemorative opera as the Gandhis were desperately trying to create something from nothing. At worst it was an attempt by the Congress party to explore new electoral alliances at the all important meet to mark the 125th anniversary of Nehru’s birthday. Ironically the parties that opposed Nehruvian policies during his life time were the honoured guests at the two-day seminar organised by the Congress party led by Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, to make Nehru relevant in a situation where everybody talks in terms of market, rather free market. Whether it makes any sense to whip a dying horse is altogether a different matter but the Gandhis cannot do anything else other than aiming higher while literally going lower.

The hard reality is that there are few takers of what they call Nehruvian legacy even in the Congress camp. Sonia Gandhi—of for that matter Rahul Gandhi—didn’t explain what Nehruvian legacy means. Talking about Nehruvian democracy, inclusion and empowerment, was too vague to enthuse the motley crowd of ex-socialists, official communists and liberals who gathered at the function. They found nothing Nehruvian in the Congress culture otherwise steeped in history and legend. After all Nehru was not a socialist. His socialistic pattern of society was a utopia that never took off. It was an exercise in escapism.

They raise the issue of democracy when they lose elections. If they win it is fine. Faced with saffron heat they are talking in multiple voices in a world full of contradictions, antagonistic as well as non-antagonistic, waiting to be resolved. But the Nehru legacy cannot resolve them. They are like withered lotuses at the back of the pond, past their prime but still standing.

Nehru was not a friend of communists either. Communists enjoyed his bitter democracy when the first elected EMS Namboodiripad government in Kerala was dislodged rather crudely, possibly at the instance of the Uncle Sam. Those were the days when it was difficult for a communist to go to America even for higher studies. And Nehru’s pro-Soviet stance was just skin-deep which was further exposed at the time of India-China border conflict and the fall-out of border tensions continues unabted even to this day as both Indian and Chinese troops frequently violate the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas. This is one of the Nehruvian legacies that they refuse to discuss. Nehru opened India’s defence strategy to Washington, hopefully to contain ‘Chinese aggression’ and imprisoned the so-called pro-Chinese communists while portraying them as traitors, not patriots. Yet Nehru has always been a socialist darling of communists. The same tradition continues and communists these days find a saviour in dynast Rahul Gandhi. It is the Nehru dynasty that always attracts them. Ideologically Lohia was always opposed to Nehru but his disciples who are now running the obnoxious show of casteist politics in North India under different brands of Janata Party were too glad to attend the anniversary.

For the Congress the Nehru anniversary was one more occasion to unify some regional political outfits that always look for maximum return with minimum investment to fight the phenomenal rise of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). After their humiliating defeat in the last parliamentary poll the Nehru dynasty now faces the crisis of identity. Technically speaking, Indian National Congress has lost its national and opposition status as well. The guest list at the Nehru seminar didn’t include BJP and it was a calculated move on the part of Gandhis to duel over secularism and communalism while keeping the men in the street in good humour.

No doubt saffron power seems to be instrumental in uniting notorious casteist outfits of Laloo Yadav and Nitish Kumar in Bihar. Not quite unexpectedly CPM, once bitten twice shy, sees in the ‘move for uniting different Janata factions a positive step’ in the prevailing political atmosphere otherwise dominated by the saffron brigade despite their communal image. The fact is that they disown Lohia through their acts. For the present what matters to them is electoral success, even at the cost of their proclaimed ideology. These political opportunists are born to preach what they don’t practise. But no amount of sweet discourse on Nehru is strong enough to present Congress Party as a real secular alternative to communal BJP. All these self-proclaimed secularists are just trying to woo muslim voters, with partial success, of course, here and there. Communalism was there even when BJP was not a major force and it will remain in the society for decades to come. In a sense the communal factor within the Congress of yester years was the initial culprit for the steady rise of saffron politics.

Interestingly, they talk of secularism when there is no immediate possibility of communal riot. And they remain passive and issue harmless press statements when actual communal riots break out. And as a routine they raise the pitch of their secular voice during electioneering with the holy objective of targeting minority vote. They never attack the economic base that fuels social tensions and all sorts of reactionary political tendencies including communal ones.

For one thing BJP has nothing to worry about this much publicised Nehru drama of the so-called secular forces. Opponents of BJP are in a mess. Even the left is wandering in secular-communal wilderness. With Soviet command economy gone and China practising capitalism with Chinese characteristics, Communists are deprived of championing their pet theme of building even ‘Nehruvian socialistic pattern of society’ by way of encouraging public sector enterprises.

For all practical purposes the socialist tradition of Lohia is dead. Laloo and Nitish can at best mock at themselves by talking of its resurrection. And the communist left does no longer believe in communist ideals, they don’t find any solution of communal danger in marxism even of their kind. Tragically all of them need Nehru to keep their flags flying and this can be done by endorsing the Congress party’s dynastic culture, directly or indirectly.

Vol. 47, No. 21, Nov 30 - Dec 6, 2014