Would Rahul Gandhi like to close India's top dynasty?

 

Share
Related Topics

Is Rahul Gandhi, heir to head India’s top political dynasty, preparing not just to renounce the prime minister’s job, as his mother Sonia did in 2004, but also to organise events so that the chances of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty continuing far into the future are greatly reduced?

It is beginning to look as if that might be what he ideally wants, with democratically elected grassroots members of his family’s Congress Party rising up through the ranks. If that is so, then his critics (including this blog) need maybe to stop regarding him as an indecisive, work-shy, reluctant politician, and consider whether he could eventually turn out to be a significant political reformer.

The peg for these thoughts is remarks he made to reporters and Congress MPs in the Central Hall of the Indian Parliament on March 5, when he indicated that he neither wants to be prime minister nor to marry and produce dynastic heirs.

"Asking whether you want to be prime minister is to ask me a wrong question," he was reported to have said. "Today, I see how MPs feel without power and it is the same story in all the parties, be it the Congress or the BJP. I want to empower the 720-odd MPs in Parliament. I want to give voice to the middle tier, empower the middle-level leaders. There are some parties in India which are run by one leader, two leaders, five to six leaders and 15 to 20 leaders. My priority is that I want to empower the MPs as also the 5,000-odd legislators in various states," he said.

There are varying versions of exactly what he said about marriage. The Indian Express reported: "I feel we should all be detached from power. Only then we can contribute to the society better. You people ask me about my marriage plans. Sometimes, I think, if I marry and have children, I would want my children to take my position. Sometimes, I feel that status quo is better." The Times of India and others said, "If I get married and have children, then I will become a status-quoist and will be concerned about bequeathing my position to my children".

The Express also reported that he regretted political parties were designed in a manner that prevented youth from acquiring key positions at a time when they were seeking a greater say in political affairs. "At one point, the pressure from the youth will be such that there will be an explosion," he said. Either way, Rahul Gandhi, who will be 43 in June, indicated that he is shying away from marriage.

Coupled with Rahul’s frequently repeated criticism of the Congress Party’s "high command" culture (with Sonia currently in command), the logic of the remarks is that new people would rise up through the Congress Party. But it is not clear whether Rahul is envisaging them being ready to take over the top job in 20 years or so when he might retire, leaving nothing for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to do after dominating Indian politics since independence. In his remarks, he only seems to have talked about giving power to MPs and “voice to the middle tier, empower the middle-level leaders”. That echoed his emotional speech when he was anointed the Congress vice-president in January and promised to work for the development of the party. Does it mean however that he envisages a dynastic glass ceiling above that middle-level?

Life, especially in politics, is of course not simple and no-one can predict that far ahead. Would Rahul ever be prepared to step aside? Even more importantly, what line would the family take? There is his personable and politically appealing sister Priyanka who has always been seen as an able fallback should Rahul step aside. Then there is Sonia Gandhi, who is 66 and has undergone treatment for what is believed to be cancer. She has said that she entered politics seven years after her husband was assassinated in 1991 in order to save the Congress Party from collapse, but she also saw herself as a dynastic bridge between her late husband and their son. Would she approve if Rahul aimed to secure the future of the party but not the dynasty?

Certainly, with its current national and regional leaders, the party needs the dynasty in order to hold together. Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, summed up the situation well in a column two weeks ago when he wrote that, while the Gandhis were no longer vote winners for the party, they were essential for its discipline. When he asked a senior long-term Congress leader why the Gandhi family was still so important and had total sway over the party, the reply was: “They cannot help anybody win elections, but they keep the party together. Their word is law and the party needs that discipline”.

But that may prove to be academic because there seems little likelihood of Congress winning a leading role. This would bring the focus back to Rahul as the party leader, and the huge task he would have in transforming an organisation that is hamstrung not just by the Gandhi dynasty but by many others in the states – often appointed and encouraged by the Gandhis to hold top posts. He has already been facing opposition from established regional leaders who resent newcomers.

If Rahul means what he says, then he has a huge task, not just to halt his own dynasty but to change the way that the patronage and privilege-based Congress Party operates. Let’s see if he means it!

For a slightly longer version of this article go to John Elliott’s Riding the Elephant blog athttp://wp.me/pieST-1V5

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

SQL Developer - Permanent - London - Up to £50k

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum 23 days holiday plus Pension scheme: Clearwater Peop...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

We need to talk about homophobia in the police

George Gillett
 

i Editor's letter: Summer holidays are here... so what to do with the children?

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn