Human mind is a funny piece of equipment. It forms associations where none exist. It comes across a news, an event, some happening and conjures up another, totally different incident from the deep recesses of memory and consciousness.
The intermittent news of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (I am taking no chances here, neither with feminists nor with Congressmen) leading the campaign for assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh suddenly jogged my memory and reminded me of a movie I saw in 1987. Yes, 1987, full 29 years back and the movie was named ‘Ankush’.
Permit me to explain the movie, or more specifically, a sub plot from it.
Ankush (1986, Nana Patekar starrer) depicted a young man Ravi (played by Arjun Chakraborty), educated (Engineer) but unemployed as he is unable to find a job suitable to his education and his sister who works and supports the family of three, including their mother. Despite their poverty, the family has spent lot of money on making the son an engineer, nurtured hopes that one day, he would get a job, earn handsomely and fulfill the aspirations of the family. But ironically, it is the less educated and less invested daughter who works, brings food the table and keeps the family going.
The hapless brother has strong patriarchal beliefs, does not want his sister to work, considering the big, bad world is full of louts and ruffians (he knows as he hobnobs with such kinds, daily), but the need to eat, live & survive keeps him quiet; disturbed, agitated but unable to do or say anything.
One day the sister declares her liaison with a rich co worker and in the ensuing argument, she shows the brother his place, as the most worthless, imbecile individual in the world, as the one who is living in his la la land.
In case you, dear reader, have already begun punching holes in the analogy, listing the aspects that don’t match between the two situations, kindly stop exercising your brains, there is more to come.
A dialogue that the sister (character name was Kamla) delivered was this, “If I don’t work, this family will wither away.”
Now, it may seem that the associations the mind forms on its own are not exactly illogical!
This piece is about two important suppositions on Priyanka’s entry into active politics. Firstly, Priyanka’s campaign is for the family and not the party, and second if she succeeds, the Congress would have lost, completely, irrevocably as a political party. And these two are interlinked.
Again, permit me to explain.
Firstly, It confirms the failure of Rahul Gandhi to establish himself as a leader, unable to overcome his inability to contextualise the political education & capital invested in him by the family; 12 years, 1000s of crores; that forces Priyanka to take the plunge & act as saviour, like the family in Ankush spent 5 years and thousands of rupees in making Ravi an engineer. Eventually, Ravi was unemployable because he won’t come down from his tower of knowledge, unable to use the education given to him and Rahul Gandhi too could not come down from his tower of royalty, unable to find the ability to contextualise the knowledge given to him, negating the investments made on him.
Secondly, the statement “Priyanka will campaign outside Amethi and Raibareli” reveals the story. Remember the phrase “Love me, love my dog” and “If you invite me to high tea, you must arrange for a bowl of milk for my cat too”? The campaign in other constituencies would be like the forced love for the dog or the bowl of milk for the cat. The family is the invitee here and the party is the pet.
Thirdly, if Priyanka fails to allure voters and win sufficient seats in UP, it would mean that the last section of the voters has come out of charms of dynasts roaming in their the specially bought khadi dresses, cruising in the dingy lanes of dirty towns their subjects live in, flashing their dimpled smiles thru the bullet proof glass and making motherhood statements on women empowerment & changing the system. It would mean that the family’s hold over the voter is finally over.
This hold is the only thing that Gandhis bring to the table. Party leaders & workers know & acknowledge that the family’s cluelessness in terms of party’s ideology, complete lack of communication on strategy or campaigns, total dependence on sycophants, an unstated but displayed discomfort with those who have independent, intellectual, thoughts or opinions, a stated reluctance to get their own hands soiled are real problem areas but most of them won’t speak their mind because of the belief that many voters in poor, backward and undeveloped constituencies like Amethi or Raibareli, still vote for them due to their surname and that is what fortifies family’s control over the party, like an ownership.
If this belief is shattered or even diluted, that would be the end for Gandhis, as far as ownership of Congress party is concerned and that would be a devastating for the family.
For Congress on the other hand, losing Uttar Pradesh won’t be much of a blow. Heaven is not going to fall if they don’t make a dent this time or in this state. They are a marginal player and for last few years they have learnt that maintaining status quo is also a kind of victory in these difficult times.
Many analysts use the phrase, “Congress would splinter if Gandhis leave it. But it would disappear if they continue.”
Reason for this is simple. Analysts believe that if Congress has to survive & thrive as a political party, it has to discover its ideology once again, create programs & policies based on that ideology, has to have a credible communication system to align its workers or stop using winks or frowns of the leader as communication tool, start looking up to voters instead of fawning on its leaders, give space to those having a different opinion or intellectual dispensation, become democratic etc.
All this essentially means that it has to come out of shadows of the dynasty.
Hence the supposition that if Priyanka succeeds, dynasty tightens the grip on the party and in the bargain, Congress loses, is kind of self fulfilling.
Or in other words, Priyanka is the last stand for the Gandhis.