By Ashok Thakur
Haven’t heard of a more hare-brained idea in a long time than the Congress revival plan. It seeks to ape the RSS – BJP organisational model to regain relevance. From a mass party reliant on the popularity of its leadership, and the pull of its core message, overnight the 134-year-old party wants to shed its generic character and become the cadre-based organisation like the ruling BJP. It is easier said than done.
Whether you call them preraks, as in the proposed Congress plan, or pracharaks, as they are called in the RSS, where will you summon the same dedication, devotion, the same degree of resolve to give your all for the greater cause? Where are Congressmen say, like Narendra Modi, who from a young age became a full-time swayamsevak and served the RSS in various capacities before being seconded to the BJP? Besides, where and in what will you locate your greater cause? We all know the core of the RSS-BJP philosophy, its belief system centring around Hindutva. Devotion to Bharat Mata, with an unquestioned obeisance to a mythical past, makes for a great emotional glue for a vast majority of the people. What will bind the Congress cadres together? Mythical greatness of the living and past members of the Nehru-Gandhi family? A party which is not in sync with the popular mood on such burning issues as the deletion of Article 370 or the abolition of triple talaq, will be laughed out of court if it were to try and recruit cadres for its own in-house RSS-like organisation to advance the Congress’ cause.
More than a movement, RSS was a way of thinking even for a vast number of people who did not care to don its ganabesh and join the morning shakhas. That is particularly true of much of North and Western India where in ever growing numbers people identify themselves with the RSS, without necessarily feeling the need to be active in its old-fashioned shakhas, with a little bit of physicals and a smattering of baudhik, all conducted under the shadow of the saffron flag. Even the RSS prayer sings paeans to the valour and glory of the Motherland. It is a paradox that the growth of the RSS shakhas in BJP’s traditional strongholds has seen a sharp diminution, while the BJP itself has grown from strength to strength.
However, in the South where the BJP is still trying to expand, the RSS has registered a healthy growth. It goes without saying that being a voluntary organisation, the RSS popularity depends on the prevailing social and political environment. Where is the conducive atmosphere, therefore, for the Congress to think of spawning an RSS-like organisation of its own to boost its electoral fortunes? Besides, the electoral success or failure of the BJP does not determine the organisational strength or weakness of the RSS. It carries on with its work unmindful of the success or failure of the BJP.
Moreover, a cadre-based organisation demands discipline and devotion from its top leadership, and not just from its own cadres. The Gandhis don’t measure up to those standards by a long chalk. They ceased to inspire even those who sit in a fawning inner-most club of courtiers called the Congress Working Committee, almost all of them ciphers, who find winning their own parliamentary seats an uphill task. To expect that they will hold themselves to a higher standard of discipline as the covenanted apparatchiks of a proposed cadre-based army is to be blind to the woeful reality of the Grand Old Party, which is in the last death throes of its long and often successful existence. It does not need to borrow the RSS-BJP model to fail further. It is now doomed to failure, with the entire top leadership facing corruption charges and some out on bail and some others cooling heels in the Tihar jail.
What the Congress really needs is a new leadership, young and bold; ready to rough it out in the political battleground for decades without looking for an immediate electoral success. With patience, fortitude and hard work, its time will come, especially given the early signs of the BJP catching the Congress bug with its venerable members embroiled in allegations of rape of students and a state Chief Minister desperately trying to stave off fall by threatening to appoint some half a dozen Deputy Chief Ministers. Power can make the BJP a new Congress before anyone in the saffron party realises. In other words, whether or not the Congress is able to replicate the RSS-BJP model for survival, the BJP in power is certainly beginning to look more and more like the Congress in decline, which may eventually cause to its own decline.
Meanwhile, if you must know the revival proposal of the Congress was the brainchild of a close aide of the Janeudhari Rahul Gandhi, whose Shiv Bhakti not having paid dividend in the last few elections, he seems to have gone back to be the spokesperson of those who are dead set against the nullification of Article 370 and triple talaq. There are editors and editors. One cannot but commend the professional integrity of an editor who despite obvious odds has had the courage to expose the racketeering of a large corporate house whose owners allegedly were found to have salted away millions in unaccounted money in foreign accounts in tax havens. The report was well-researched and fully supported by details, which leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about its veracity. We can do with more such upright editors.
Indeed, it brings to mind the time when the same paper then edited by a venal journalist brazenly spiked a story about the same corporate house which had indulged in legal and administrative jiggery-pokery, something the controversial group is notorious for, to appropriate the land of an orphanage in Mumbai to build itself what is a monument to obscene wealth. In the dead of night the then editor, apparently on a jaunt abroad, killed the story filed by its then resident editor exposing the skulduggery involved in forcing the orphanage to locate itself on the fringes of the metropolis so that an opulent mansion could be erected for the convenience of the moneybags. The said editor then virtually doubled as the owner of the paper, signing his own fat cheques.
Talking of editors, then there is this one who then edited a minor Mumbai weekly and most brazenly planted reports and cover stories under his own byline which were written by paid hacks of the same corporate house. Never mind the owners, he even gave covers to its PR men and wrote laudatory cover stories about the predecessors of Nirav Modi, who had then gained notoriety as “the world’s biggest bankrupt”. That such an editor should now tout his proximity to the current regime and hope to corner more and more high-profile positions is in itself a comment on the need of every regime to patronise mercenaries in the media. People also get the media they deserve. INAV