The Congress Party is all set to form its first government after its pan India debacle two years ago under former union minister of state Narayansamy. The country’s grand old party won the assembly elections in the southern union territory of Puducherry, in alliance with the DMK. But before the new government could stake claim and take charge, it has already run into controversy. A shroud of uncertainty looms over it before it has come to being. The situation is an insight into the Congress Party’s mentality, and how it is detrimental to any political organization.
The president of the party’s local unit, Namassivayam, was responsible for the victory. Ahead of the elections he was promoted to the post and projected aggressively, for he was best suited to reap rewards due to caste equations. He delivered, and won handsomely in his own constituency as well. But the central leadership of the party, the ‘high command’ as they are called, overlooked him. Instead, they chose former union minister of state Narayansamy for the job. Namassivayan’s supporters went on a rampage after the announcement, damaging buses and houses along the East Coast Road. Murmurs about his deserting the party and jeopardizing the new government, are rife.
Narayansamy is a known face across the country, having managed the prime minister’s office under Manmohan Singh. The fact that Narayansamy was at the PMO overseeing what were probably the most notorious years in India’s recent past, is a testament of how close he is to the Congress establishment. For most of his career, he was elected to the upper house of parliament. In 2014, he was annihilated when he sought election to the lower house.
Like many other Congressmen, Narayansamy is a nobody without his patrons in Delhi. Typically, these are the type who don’t contest the elections, but are para-dropped to the chief minister’s throne straight from 10 Janpath.
The Congress Party has used this autocratic manner of selection, and selected lightweights to govern time and again. Often, we hear that the party has been unable to cultivate strong regional leaders in the recent past. The truth is that they have intentionally, and quite systematically, curbed the rise of regional leaders. It is no secret that this is a party of the family, for the family, and by the family. The party it seems is quite lenient, allowing its members to enrich themselves and put the country in peril. The only condition it sets is subservience to the family. The only doctrine it follows, is preventing any leader from becoming larger than the party and the family.
Regional heavyweights have proved to be a menace to this doctrine. The moment they begin standing on their own feet, the compulsion to bow down to the family no longer exists. In the past, the likes of Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee chose to break their shackles and carve out their own spaces instead. Rajashekhar Reddy evolved into such a political behemoth that his legacy was enough for Jagan to push the Congress Party into oblivion in Andhra Pradesh. The party couldn’t afford to keep going down this road. This is the reason Tarun Gogoi was chosen over Hemanta Biswa Sarma, and Narayansamy is being chosen over Namassivayan now. It is either the Delhi yes-men, or passive dynasts like Hooda and the Chavans who make the cut. Those who work hard on the ground and gain people’s support, aren’t to be trusted.
There are two reasons we do not see the Narayansamy phenomenon at work either in the BJP or in the Left. The first reason is the absence of an oppressive ‘high-command culture’. Loyalty is demanded of course, but not towards one individual and their son. The cadre is respected, leaders are allowed to grow, and a genuine mobility within the organization exists. The prime minister, who sold tea once upon a time, is the perfect example. The second reason is ideology. At different points in the BJP’s history, there have been leaders who became larger than the party. But when did we last see such leaders carve out their own spaces, despite how politically beneficial such a prospect might have been?
The Congress Party on the other hand is devoid of any ideology. Consolidating power and enriching oneself are the only two objectives that bind the party together. Just like certain ministries in the government are termed ‘ATM ministries’, the Congress can be termed an ‘ATM party’. People do not join the party because they are inspired by the values it professes or because they look up to those who lead it. It is just a group of self-interested men and women, compromising on integrity and self-respect to advance. Having cut its regional leaders to size and placed all its eggs in the Rahul basket, the organization is now a ticking time bomb.
A new governor and a new chief minister were appointed in Puducherry last week. One is among the greatest women in the history of our country, while the other’s claim to fame was carrying Rahul Gandhi’s slippers during the floods last year. Have you come across a better example of the expression ‘mixed bag’?