Nehru-Gandhis: ‘Written Off’?

Nehru-Gandhis: ‘Written Off’?

by N V Subramanian - Jul 26, 2016 05:12 PM +05:30 IST
Nehru-Gandhis: ‘Written Off’?Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
  • A flood of books are shaming the Nehru-Gandhis and they present an unprecedented challenge to their authority in the Congress.

It has been raining books on the Congress party since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. The trend really began when Sanjaya Baru’s exposures about Manmohan Singh’s prime ministry sent shock waves through the 2014 general election campaign. It has all gotten worse since.

Natwar Singh and, more recently, Margaret Alva have written about their dreary times with the Congress. Their aim was to embarrass Sonia Gandhi and the 10 Janpath establishment, and they have handsomely succeeded. An authorized biography of P. V. Narasimha Rao has ripped apart the Nehru-Gandhis.

Then there are the revelations of the former Reserve Bank Governor, D. Subbarao, that show P. Chidambaram as he is: a Janus-faced self-seeker. His party and he would have lost further face with A. Raja’s book on the 2G scam but that’s been stopped in the press, according to the media, because of the Congress and the DMK’s political alliance.

How damaging are such works to a party and individual’s reputation?

Books are supplied with an authenticity which eludes the best media reporting, and media reporting of that kind is all but over today. Books last and give longevity to the subjects contained between their covers. This quality is more readily apparent in fiction than nonfiction but political nonfiction is not to be taken lightly.

In their own ways, therefore, what Natwar Singh or Margaret Alva have to say or what is spoken on behalf of Narasimha Rao will have long-term, political consequences. The brunt of this will be borne by the Congress party and the dynasty which has driven it to doom.

The question that naturally arises here is this: if the Congress party were not so doomed, would these tell-tale works have seen the light of day? There is no uniform answer. Alva would have held back and perhaps Natwar Singh though he could possibly derive no further material benefits from the Congress. These are opportunistic excursions by all means.

That is about the intent. But however embarrassing they prove to certain parties, does that automatically erase their merit? Obviously not. This is where the destructive quality of certain works surface. Take, for example, the book on Narasimha Rao. He had no hand in writing it. But it will do lasting damage to the Congress party.

Here was one of India’s better Prime Ministers. He kept India together during the dark phase when the Soviet Union was unravelling and forces were active in Pakistan, Kashmir and Punjab to dismember this country. He single-handedly enabled the 1991 reforms. And what do we know from the new book on him, or rather, what is confirmed? That Sonia Gandhi and 10 Janpath vindictively ensured that he did not find his final resting place in Delhi.

The non-Congress opposition will ferociously exploit the issue in the next campaign season in the former Andhra Pradesh. The Congress will be hit in both the Andhra and Telangana regions for dishonouring an Andhra statesman.

The sense of hurt will not confine to the campaign or even the region. Every Congress functionary exposed to the insult to Narasimha Rao will be psychologically distanced from 10 Janpath. Congress leaders will interrogate themselves if devotion to the party is worth the cause. And when Margaret Alva and Natwar Singh join others in denouncing the Congress leadership of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, you reckon the party has written its own epitaph.

You could have journalists in your payroll to write to disparage Alva and Co. But the damage is already done. Newspapers are only relevant till the morning after. Books last.

This writer suspects this is only the beginning. As the Congress party’s fortunes further sink, the memoirs will grow nastier against Sonia Gandhi and 10 Janpath. There is enormous anger against the Nehru-Gandhis in the Congress, and it simmers just below the surface. This anger is by no means a new development.

In Narasimha Rao’s own lifetime and, in surprisingly, Arjun Singh’s last years, the anger and disenchantment with the Nehru-Gandhis had reached epic proportions. The conventional narrative is that Narasimha Rao and Arjun Singh were sworn enemies after the Babri Masjid demolition. Not true. They had made up, and they saw 10 Janpath as their common enemy and the nemesis of the Congress.

This sentiment is more widespread today. Mated with the damaging books which are coming off the presses, they present an unprecedented challenge to the authority of the Nehru-Gandhis in the Congress. The Nehru-Gandhis have started to call the Congress one big family but they are the only ones in charge.

The pen may yet prove mightier in bringing this scabrous edifice down.

This piece was originally published on News In Sight and has been republished here with permission.

N.V.Subramanian is the Editor of and writes on politics and strategic affairs.
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