Indian Express

Posted: September 21, 2010 in Politics

This article mysteriously disappeared from Indian Express, after minutes of airing tpday. Before it meets the same fate everywhere else, here it is (Source)

Congress is a status-quoist party, has no convictions: PM’s adviser Tue, Sep 21 05:40 AM
During a discussion at a book-release function in Delhi’s Nehru Memorial Museum and Library on Monday, Harish Khare, the Prime Minister’s media adviser, articulated an unprecedented critique of the Congress.

The Congress, Khare said, is “by nature, chaal, charitra, essentially a status-quoist party. It does not believe in any conviction. (Its) only conviction is to win elections. That is its only conviction”.

This is the first time that Khare, a former journalist, has publicly criticised the party that leads the government that employs him.

Khare was speaking as the discussant after AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh released JNU professor Sudha Pai’s book, Developmental State and the Dalit Question in Madhya Pradesh: Congress Response. Digvijaya said that as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh for 10 years, he had followed the “politics of conviction”, as opposed to the “politics of consensus”.

Khare said that the argument for social change has to be made “in a larger frame of political respectability. Not (in the context of a) politics which rewards cynicism, family nepotism, bogus factionalism, groupism in the party, yet expects the larger body of citizens to make sacrifices”. You will end up with “cronyism, crony capitalism, defeated initiatives”, he said.

Khare began his intervention quoting Harold Lasswell’s definition of politics as ‘who gets what, when and how’, and added, “at whose expense”.

Attempt at social transformation will come to naught, he said, without a political strategy in place to deal with the inevitable conflict and resistance it provokes. And the attempt is doomed to fail, argued Khare, because “you can’t change the Congress”, still the country’s largest party, to which “all good things and bad things in the country can be traced”.

Only “enlightened leadership” from above is not enough, said Khare, in the absence of the creation of a “commensurate political constituency for change”. He gave three examples of such a failure of Congress governments of the past: Indira Gandhi in 1971, Madhavsinh Solanki despite his astute ‘KHAM’ strategy in Gujarat in the 1980s, and Digvijaya Singh in Madhya Pradesh in 2003.

Digvijaya’s initiatives on land redistribution to Dalits and Scheduled Tribes did not succeed in MP, said Khare, “because the party was not with him” — it only “tolerated his politics of conviction” and therefore “he did not have the political space.”

The Madhya Pradesh Congress, Khare said, is “a far cry from good politics”, and his “supposed mentor Arjun Singh”, who “was fighting the prime minister” at the time, was making “conflicting demands” on him (Digvijaya).

This is why the Bhopal Declaration which was part of a politics that “set the cat among the pigeons” was soon reduced to a “personal initiative of a leader” which had “very little traction in Madhya Pradesh. No local linkages, no local support structure”. To implement it, Digvijaya Singh had to “bypass the party and rely on the bureaucracy”, Khare said.

Digvijaya’s experience in MP, Khare said, has “lessons for all of us”: “Unless a political leadership is willing to totally overhaul existing administrative structures, no meaningful social transformation is possible,” he said.

For Khare, the Congress’s failure is also embedded in its larger framework of social alliances. The rhetoric in 1969-71, for instance, when the Congress was also “tinkering with legislation” in the face of “opposition from big business, party bosses” was followed by the inability to live up to the “architecture of expectations” it had aroused after it won the elections. Because “you (the Congress) had not chosen your allies… Then the urge for political consolidation and consensus. You try to have every camel in your tent and it becomes messy inside the tent — a dilemma that the Congress has not sorted out”.

Responding to the discussion later, Digvijaya Singh admitted, “I did not involve the party in land reform.” He had seen Congress workers in such a situation earlier “go into collection mode”, he said, “collecting money in exchange of (land) pattas”.

Digvijaya said he disagreed with Khare’s description of the Congress party as obstinately “status-quoist”. But he admitted that “unfortunately, the party has not been able to keep pace with changes happening in the cow belt”.


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