» Election » A vote in favour of a new dawn

A vote in favour of a new dawn

By Saisuresh Sivaswamy
May 17, 2009 09:32 IST
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Sometimes, there is no shame in eating one's words, and this is one of those moments.

For years, I have ranted against the Congress party and its dynastic moorings, even while acknowledging the price in blood the family has paid for the pre-eminence it occupies in our polity.

I have railed against the Congress for suborning the institutions of our democracy, a charge that is not entirely without substance.

I have criticised the Gandhi family day in and day out for being unwilling to let go of power, for willfully distorting the people's will, and for foisting a coterie on a nation of one billion. In my defence, I will say that none of it was without reason.

A party that had ruled the nation for 50-odd years has to take the responsibility for its pathetic failure to tackle the grim problems of poverty, illiteracy and lack of female empowerment, I was convinced, and my views reflected this.

And when the party that led our national movement turned to a foreign-born, I, like many Indians, was outraged. Is this the best a nation of one billion-plus could do, I grieved.

Even Sonia Gandhi's 'supreme sacrifice' of turning down the prime minister's job in 2004, with her sycophantic party members insisting she does not, didn't touch me. It was all a ploy, I was convinced, to foist a family retainer into the top post who will do her will and who will keep the seat warm for her undeserving children. You can't blame me entirely for thinking along these lines, I was only going by the party's recent history.

The Uttar Pradesh assembly election results despite the family's full-scale involvement in the party's affairs convinced me that its charisma factor was long past its use-by date. With the party ceding ground to regional satraps and its base shrinking dramatically, I often wondered if this was the party whose flag once fluttered from north to south, east to west.

Months ago I had blogged (link: that the party should go it alone in the heartland to try and regain its pre-eminence if it had any dreams of recapturing its top position. Many were tickled no end when Rahul Gandhi actually pushed for this, none more than the bullying satraps who ended with egg on their face on Super Saturday, and the election results on Saturday vindicated his decision.

Today the Congress party is once again on the threshold of a great future. My criticisms mentioned earlier pertain to the past, while it is time to look at the future. Our future together as one nation, one people.

Of the two blocs that went into the polls selling different views of the way forward, the people have made a clear choice. It is not a choice made on some emotive issue where the heart rules over the head, everyone was agreed this was an issue-less election.

The Indian voter has once again dazzled us pundits with his savvy and wisdom. He may not boast of the best degrees the nation has to offer, he may not know where his next meal is coming from, but his is the shoulder on which India hopes to ride into the future. Today he has made a choice -- to keep out blatant power-mongers, blackmailers and undeserving dreamers for the top job -- in favour of a new dawn.

As the man who led the party campaign relentlessly against a superior opponent -- in terms of experience, influence and reach -- and as the man who chose many of the party candidates in the crucial northern belt where the party has put up a stellar performance, the victory at the hustings will forever be remembered as Rahul Gandhi's personal one.

And when the media scrimmage unfolded in the national headquarters on Saturday, with various spinmeisters giving their twist to a historic verdict, the man who was singularly responsible for the victory was away in the innards of Amethi, his constituency, out of the reach of our 24x7 media.

I caught a glimpse of him through a manic day. Clad in a white kurta-pajama, flanked by his doting sister and brother-in-law, the Gandhi scion didn't lay claim to history. Nor did he outline any grand plans of entering the Cabinet (where any post is his for the taking). Rather, he dedicated himself to working for the youth of this nation, in who rests our future.

Seeing this, for the first time in my life, I felt that a Gandhi has finally earned his priceless surname. Sixty-two years ago, at the cusp of history he had helped fashion, another Gandhi was similarly away from the spotlight, breaking bread in Bharat as India rejoiced. Harking back to the past, Rahul Gandhi has shown the way for the future.

The real meaning of politics is not power but service, he has shown by personal example. If only his party would imbibe this lesson, and not let sycophancy take over and cloud the vision, India is well on the way to claiming its long-awaited potential.

To head into the future, all Rahul Gandhi needs to do is look into the past. And learn from the mistakes committed by another young man even while avoiding them. It does help that that young man was none other than his father, Rajiv Gandhi.

Almost 25 years ago the nation had similarly reposed its trust in him, crowing him with a mandate that was denied to even Jawaharlal Nehru. And five years later the voter took it back. Why and how, are lessons that son will do well to learn.

Power is a heady mixture more potent than anything invented by man. One minute it puts you among the Gods and in another it brings you crashing to the netherworld. The enormous pressures and pulls at the Congress parliamentary party meeting next week will show this young man what he will face for the rest of his life.

As he basks in his finest moment yet, Rahul Gandhi could learn from what an enlightened soul from Lumbini whose teachings course through the veins of this nation said, and 'not pursue the past or lose himself in the future but look at things in the present moment'.

As for me, my breakfast awaits me. Humble pie and crow.

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Saisuresh Sivaswamy