This seems to be the season for celebrities to shower advice on the Congress party. In my previous post I tried understanding why ‘Shekhar Gupta is doctoring and nursing the Congress’. Rajdeep Sardesai in an article, “Insider, Outsider” laments on Pranab Mukherjee never getting his due from the Congress because others have to be kept at bay. Another one, “Telling the wrong story” is what catches my attention though. It is written by Social Scientologist Dipankar Gupta. Alright, let me explain. This Gupta, a former professor with JNU, the coffee shop of communists, is supposedly a social scientist. My understanding was that social scientists do a lot of work on the ground with people on various issues to arrive at conclusions. But Social Scientologists in India are now a cult group that simply work on a pre-set body of beliefs and rituals created by fiction and fantasy. The supposed religion of Scientology is described as a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard. It would have been unheard of but for prominent celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta being its followers. Scientology is also a very very secretive cult. Therefore, rather than being referred to as scientists who deal with facts, the term scientologists is more appropriate for people like Dipankar Gupta who write largely with no first hand research. After all, FAITH, is the key.
So Dipankar Gupta (DG) is his article in TOI “Telling the wrong story” (Quotes in blue) wonders why the Congress isn’t telling the right story. He writes: “Is the Congress afraid of winning in Gujarat? Nothing else explains why it lets Narendra Modi tom-tom development when it should have been the Congress banging the drums. The economic achievements of governments before Modi's read like an award citation, but too much secularism has since led the Congress astray. Instead of showcasing its past performance to regain Gujarat, it is obsessed with nailing Modi as a communalist-in-chief. Naturally, it is not getting anywhere fast”. Interesting, “too much secularism”? I give that much to DG, secularism has almost become synonymous with anti-development. It has come to represent pandering and appeasement and nothing more.
After those opening lines DG then goes on to reel off a healthy dose of statistics to reveal why Gujarat was a poster-boy for development even before Modi. I quite agree and have always maintained that Gujarat has been economically progressive historically and traditionally. As a state it has done far better on most fronts than a huge majority of states in India even before Modi. DG only fails in his reasoning why Congress is unable to counter NaMo. That is because he fails to understand the people of Gujarat. The most important ingredient in political and electoral battles is the public. As a social scientologist DG has completely failed to read the minds of the Gujjus. That’s the reason all the statistics and economic indexes he uses become academic nonsense for a Congress revival.
The story of Congress in Gujarat cannot be written without a mention of its divisive politics in the state. The one theory that most epitomises its deeply divisive tactic that meant to divide a ‘secular’ society has to be the one by former CM Madhavsinh Solanki. His KHAM theory is as much a Secular laboratory as the Hindutva laboratory that Gujarat is often called. KHAM stands for Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi & Muslim. The Congress believed creating and strengthening such vote-banks would keep them in power for good. Well, vote-bank politics is a traditional tactic for the Congress. To support that tactic the Congress also sprinkled its strategy with an abundance of reservations and subsidies. Surprised? Well that is still the strategy in most states for the ‘secular’ parties. DG perhaps overlooks an important turning point in the history of Gujarat.
In 1985 the Madhavsinh Solanki announced reservation policies which resulted in agitations and riots throughout the state. These went on for months and then suddenly turned into communal riots. A majority of people believe that the Congress turned it into communal riots to deflect the reservations issue. The Hindus in Gujarat believed they were at the receiving end of all social mishaps. Reservations, communal riots, subsidies etc. These are emotive issues and not the statistical nonsense that DG reduces the discussion to. And he’s supposed to be a social scientologist! If one Congress leader can be held singularly responsible for the party’s sinking in Gujarat, it has to be Madhavsinh Solanki. And what’s his reward? He gets to be a minister in the Central Govt. later on.
Now, having all along fought their elections on fake ‘secularism’, garibi-hatao, aam-aadmi, reservations, caste and community divisions, minorities appeasement, subsidies and so on can the Congress suddenly jump to ‘Development’ as an electoral strategy? I am surprised someone as educated as DG cannot see the irony. By his own logic Gujarat was already on a development path, what the Gujaratis didn’t want was the other nonsense that the Congress party fought elections on. Get that DG?
DG goes on to write: “Now that Gujarat's economy is all grown up and good-looking, the Congress should admit its responsibility and submit to a paternity test. What is there to hide? Hefty anti-saffron helpings, on their own, will not do. With a stomach full of that stuff, the Congress can hardly catch up with Modi. In fact, Jawaharlal Nehru taught us that secularism does not win elections, development does. Why then is the Congress doing its best to come second-best by gagging its record of the 1990s? In politics, as in sports, winning is not everything, it is the only thing”. Well DG you and other colleagues of yours in the social club and the media are the ones who brought the Congress to such a miserable shape. Peddling lies only helps so much. Fighting elections by calling Modi a mass murderer, calling him communal and anti-muslim does not resonate with Gujaratis. The Congress hoped to benefit by permanently tagging Modi with the 2002 riots and with the support of corrupt NGOs, social clubbers and the media hoped to win elections. A first start would be to admit that this strategy has failed.Another first would be to admit that Jawaharlal Nehru did to India what Congress has mostly done to Gujarat.
Another important aspect in politics and society is not just about being a minister, winning elections or about the Chief Minister. It is about leadership. I repeat what I wrote in a previous post: "What a leader does for followers is..turn anxiety into confidence. They’ve always done that throughout time and in every different society and situation. When leaders lead well, it’s because they’re able to rally people to a better future and make people spirited when they were previously anxious." This is what NaMo provided to a state in a time of severe strife and anxiety brought about by the 2001 earthquake followed by the 2002 riots. Maybe yes, he would have played a communal card since he is and will remain a politician. So why did the secular card repeatedly fail then?
Another important issue that DG overlooks is that the Congress now wants to campaign against NaMo on issues of corruption for the 2012 elections. Would you believe that DG? Where’s your advice on that? You might find a lot to hurl at Modi but corruption can be related to Modi as much as Sarah Palin sees Russia from her lawns. An issue that DG does not acknowledge is that if Gujarat managed to make giant strides under Modi it is actually because of absence of or negligible corruption in the system and elimination of the red tape.
Another wrong example that DG draws on is that of Dhirubhai Ambani: “Most recently, Mukesh Ambani praised Narendra Modi for putting Gujarat on the world map. He seems to have forgotten that his father, and Reliance, prospered in Gujarat well before Modi properly entered politics”. Dhirubhai’s success is in no way connected with Congress rule in Gujarat before Modi. Dhirubhai was a Gujju and his first venture in textiles was when Gujarat was still the Manchester of India. It is state where labour unrest was minimal. DG might like to know that once public giant IPCL used to proudly put up a sign at its entrance that said to the effect “Since inception no strikes at IPCL”. Reliance is now a stake-holder in IPCL and it still doesn’t see strikes. If the Sardar Sarovar project was started much before Modi he is credited with speeding up the canals and bringing the Narmada water to various parts of Gujarat, including Ahmedabad. The dam is only half the achievement, bringing water to the parched cities and villages counts for a lot more. Much of Gujarat was drought-prone, that’s a situation laid to rest in a very large measure.
While his sympathy for the Congress may not be misplaced, social scientologists like DG sometimes use the most spurious arguments as logic. In a discussion with Rajdeep Sardesai on Subramanian Swamy’s controversial article in DNA and the subsequent petition for his dismissal by some Harvard constituents, this is what DG had to say: “If anybody goes to teach summer school in Harvard he is obviously not top of the pops”! Well, I reserve my opinion on the professors of JNU but if DG really wants to revive the Congress in Gujarat he must sacrifice scientology and embrace facts.