Is it that the Congress is not able to tell good from bad, and blindly doting on the ‘darling’ of the party?
“When Shah Jahan came in the place of Jahangir did any election happen? And when Aurangzeb came in place of Shah Jahan did any election happen? It was known to everyone that the throne of the king will automatically go to the heir," said Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, retorting to the "dynasty" jibes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Rahul Gandhi's election as party chief. "But in a democracy, elections are held. I openly invite Poonawala to file the nomination and contest.”
Forty-seven-year-old Rahul Gandhi, accused of corruption and out on bail in the National Herald case, will be the sixth Nehru-Gandhi scion to helm the party. His mother and incumbent party president Sonia Gandhi, co-accused in the same case, also out on bail, signed the first nomination paper for election of her son to post of Congress president. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who called Rahul Gandhi the "darling" of the party, accompanied Rahul when he filed the nomination paper.
Shehzaad Poonawala has openly lamented the imminent elevation of Rahul Gandhi and called it a “Mughal coronation”, a process of “selection” rather than “election”, and accused the elections of being rigged in favour of Rahul Gandhi. Ironically and unintentionally, Congressmen have likened the “election” of Rahul Gandhi to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s ascension to the throne, an uncontested one, much to the mixed feelings of astonishment and amusement of other political parties.
Speaking of Mughal emperors, the recent upheavals by the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and his son, Mohammad bin Salman has been much talked about in the last few months. Their actions constitute a coup because, if successful, they will result in changing the “constitution” of Saudi Arabia, which is its fundamental political and governance system. So far, all of the Saudi kings were chosen from among the King’s sons by some unknown criteria. If successful, the appointment of Mohammad bin Salman and his ultimate succession will replace that system.
The new king was behind the arrest and confinement of nearly a dozen princes and perhaps close to 200 others, including ministers, military officers, civilian officials, major businessmen and political dissidents, on charges of corruption!
What is noteworthy is that in this case the coup was executed not by the military but by the king himself and, under his own authority! Undoubtedly, the new regime and the old are both autocracies, but their fundamental mechanisms will have been changed, at least for the moment.
A year ago in September 2016, the then prime minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron paid the price for his failure to secure Britain’s future in the European Union. While announcing his resignation he admitted that the country needed “fresh leadership”.
“We should be proud of the fact that in these islands we trust the people for these big decisions,” Cameron said. “We not only have a parliamentary democracy, but on questions about the arrangements for how we've governed there are times when it is right to ask the people themselves and that is what we have done.”
He added: “The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered.”
But back home in India, despite an overwhelmingly decisive mandate by the Indian public against the Congress, repeatedly over the last few years, the top leadership of the Congress seems to completely ignore the will of the Indian people! They also blatantly defy the various charges of corruption against the top brass.
In stark contrast, the Brazilian Senate impeached Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, and removed her from office for the rest of her term, and toppled one of the hemisphere’s most powerful political parties. The Senate voted 61 to 20 to convict Rousseff on charges of manipulating the federal budget to conceal the nation’s mounting economic problems.
The removal of Rousseff, who was suspended in May to face trial, was a verdict on her leadership and the slipping fortunes of Latin America’s largest country and was a strong message that no political leader, however high the position, can be above the interests of the country.
Political parties all over the world should take a word of advice from Stan Mathabatha, of the African country of Limpopo. Mathabatha, leader of the ANC party, said that the removal of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe should send a clear message that no leader should be allowed to be more powerful than the party. "It should never be difficult or even impossible to call a leader to order or to account. The leadership of a party is not the ownership of a party," said Mathabatha. He said leaders should be subjected to internal party discipline too, when they have erred or wronged the party.
Three weeks ago, 93-year-old Zimbabwean ruler Robert Mugabe was forced to relinquish power after a dramatic transition that saw Mnangagwa taking over from his mentor. It is quite surprising how Mugabe and his wife Grace failed to read the writing on the wall! Political commentator Maxwell Saungweme says, “Grace might have seen a coup coming and chided people about it but she, like Mugabe was out of touch with reality and thought the mysticism, mystery and myth around the name ‘Mugabe’ and its supposed power was too potent for any of those that were subordinate to Mugabe to turn against him.”
He adds, “It happens when one gets drunk with power and fame, a spirit of invincibility engulfs you to the extent that you are larger than life and not even a disease can afflict you.
“This is the mirage; the chimera the Mugabes believed so much that they detached themselves from reality. Yes, you only had to be blind to think all was okay. Even a naive and unsophisticated mind like Grace’s could discern that.”
In a similar incident, in the Asian continent, Park Geun-hye, South Korea's first female president, was ousted in March 2017 and later charged with abuse of power and accepting bribes. She was elected president in 2012, defeating current President Moon Jae-in.
She was impeached shortly after allegations surfaced that she revealed state secrets to a confidant, Choi Soon-sil, who has been convicted in connection with the corruption scandal. Protesters took to the streets by the tens of thousands demanding her ouster.
She was impeached in December 2016 and a high court decision in March led to her ouster and clearing the way for prosecutors to charge her (sitting South Korean presidents are immune from prosecution for anything but insurrection and treason.)
Thus, the world over, no political leader, whether aristocratic or from any democratic organisation, in the developing world or the developed countries, no matter how powerful their “name” may be, no one can be immune to allegations of bad performance, poor leadership or charges or corruption.
What then, can be the reason for the grand old political party of India, the Congress party, to repeatedly “reward” Rahul Gandhi, even in the face of lack of good leadership, no real electoral victory to his credit, and charges of corruption against him? He also has a habit of disappearing during times of crisis, partying during times of national calamities, going on vacations for indefinite periods to undisclosed destinations, making unintentionally hilarious statements, and the like.
Furthermore, even though he is often promoted as a “youth icon” by zealous members of the Congress party, the 47-year-old is no match for the mind boggling and ever-growing appeal of 67-year-old Narendra Modi!
As per a survey conducted by Pew Global:
Modi is very popular among men and women and among adults in both rural and urban areas. Young Indians, those ages 18 to 29, show slightly greater intensity of support than their elders, ages 50 and older.
“No other major political figure in India approaches Modi’s level of public support.”
It is noteworthy that 72 per cent of those in ages 18 to 29, and 70 per cent of those in ages 30 to 49 have a “very favourable” opinion of Modi and the support for him is improving over the years, thus showing the deep connect the Prime Minister has with the youth of India. On the other hand, the popularity of Rahul Gandhi is seen to be dipping in comparison with previous years.
The youth of today, relate more with the success story narrative of the person who works his way up the proverbial ladder and is also proud of his cultural roots, than that of the privileged heir who is largely alienated from the daily struggles of the Indian youth. They look up to a strong leadership who has created his place and can inspire millions to do the same, as against one who was “born to be a leader” but has to be constantly propped up by his partymen and seniors.
In an article in Forbes, titled “15 Ways To Identify Bad Leaders”, Mike Myatt (recognised by Thinkers50 as one of the top leadership thinkers globally,) remarks: “It’s important to realise that just because someone holds a position of leadership, doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Put another way, not all leaders are created equal. The problem many organizations are suffering from is a recognition problem – they can’t seem to recognize good leaders from bad ones.”
The million dollar question is if the Congress is unable to recognise good leaders from bad ones or does it really lack good leaders altogether?