The return of rhetoric: Rahul Gandhi and United Opposition’s impact on national politics and discourse

There is an interesting quote by GK Chesterton on Democracy, I once came across while writing one of my blogs. He wrote, and I quote “Have you noticed how continually in history democracy becomes despotism? People call it decay of democracy. It is simply its fulfillment.”

Ever since the Vedic times, when Sabha and Samiti would choose a king, the risk of the king eventually becoming too big for democracy riding over the mob he turned out to control, loomed large over the society. With a strong sense of numbers, comes a possible sense of entitlement kind of divine right to rule. Rome faced it in the person of Caesar. A successful military general, he was installed as the Emperor of Rome based on popular public sentiment and soon became despotic. We could sense the same when Rahul Gandhi goes to Berkeley and claims that as a dynastic inheritor, he has a right to be the Prime Minister of India. That he kept on losing one election after another did not matter to him. That he was being rejected by the people never dawned on him them. The idea of being rejected remains alien to him and his sycophants who ensured his rise to the topmost place in the Congress are happy with total ignorance and dismissal of public sentiments.

As we saw in the recently concluded Karnataka elections, his sense of entitlement, his irrational faith in his divine right to rule in spite of his pronounced incompetence, is brazen and appalling. The more one observes him, the more one is convinced that his politics is based on this singular, stupid belief that the loss of power of the dynasty to which he belongs is a minor and temporary aberration, an innocent mistake by the unwise people of this country and this needs to be corrected.

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He has no clue of responding to his failure in winning over people with positivism; his idea is to snatch this right from the people by discrediting the current government and discrediting the wisdom of the people who elected it. He does not hesitate to play the vilest of the cards for that purpose. He wants to get back to the throne even if he has to walk over dead bodies for it, as we saw in Madhya Pradesh, or his recent tweet on Tamil Nadu protests on Sterlite plant approved by his government and favoured by his allies. He is not committed to any cause. He has walked away in the past have left the cities and towns burning for his next foreign vacation as we saw in Mandsaur. His speech readers create riotous speeches for him, speeches that tend to divide the nation, words whose purpose is to divide the nation and somehow create a victory for him.

He does not understand what he speaks and does not care about the devastation his words precipitate in the lives of the people. His men tell him that it is all about the number, and they cunningly tell him, that there is no face, no name, no soul behind those numbers. When I say his men, I do not refer only to the party members, whose survival is linked to his success. The term, his men (and women), the vast ecosystem the family built over the decades, would also include the media houses who predicted a sweeping victory for Siddaramiahin Karnataka, the judiciary which opens at two at night to hear Congress petition, the writers who write Op-Eds celebrating Congress victory when it lost significantly settling to half the number of seats it previously held. During the campaign, they had celebrated his every vile move fragmenting society as Lingayat- Non-Lingayats, North-India- South Indian, as a political masterstroke; predicted a victory for the incumbent. Having proven wrong, this mendacious mandate came to them as a face-saver. They called it the dance of democracy.

Rahul Gandhi lost. Siddaramaiah lost the election, he lost the narrative. Indians are an inherently unified lot. Unless provoked by vested interests, we generally tend to believe that we are one people. My most popular posts on Twitter are those which underline our oneness, as people, as a nation.

Then came the moment of clinical and cynical exploitation of the ecosystem. Congress went to the Supreme Court for a midnight hearing. The 15 days timeline given by the Government, the constitutional representative of the central government was reduced by the Judiciary. The party with 104 seats backed out and Congress with 78 seats, staked claim to form the government with JD-S, which had 38 seats.

The media celebrated this as some great political moves of the prince. To anyone empathizing with the hapless citizen of Karnataka, this was nothing but a knife of betrayal in the back who tried hard to escape the tyranny of the past. The two parties who were rejected by them came together and imposed on them, the leader of the party which was rejected the most as the Chief Minister. This was hailed as great arithmetic. The media houses who had lost their role in cabinet fixing were enthused. They shouted from rooftops how this model will give a win to the dynastic despot, and thus to the Darbaris in 2019 election. Their contention, this coming together of opposition will be a certain defeat for Narendra Modi. Some even went overboard calling it a coalition of like-minded parties, a secular front.

This contention was so wrong. What is like-minded between a Yadav outfit and a Jatav outfit from UP, or a TMC and a Communist front in West Bengal. And by what logic and authority they call this set of parties secular and the other communal. They named the pretence of the coalition a dance of democracy and danced around it like cannibals dancing around the prey. This stealing of mandate, the coalition of crooks did enable them to form a government in Karnataka. But is it always about arithmetic? Is it always about numbers?

No, it is not. Democracy is not a number game. It depends on the number but calling it a number-game is disrespecting it. What separates democracy from mobocracy is a sense of morality. Do we want to be ruled by mobs? Mobocracy is the face of number supremacy which we see in Naxal Jan Adaalats and Talibani public stonings. In mobocracy, the largest number is heard.

In a democracy, the loneliest, the faintest voice is heard. So we have in Karnataka a CM who blatantly goes around telling his people that his accountability begins and ends at the doorsteps of the family of a matriarch of Italian descent who became an Indian after a decade-long deliberation and who ran one of the most corrupt governments India has ever seen by proxy. He is honestly admitting that he is not accountable to the people of his state who rejected him. If it was not so cruel, it would be very endearing. Is Kumaraswamy representative of his people, or is he the representative of the Family, a vassal to the dethroned Sultan of Delhi? What the so-called intellectuals call Dance of Democracy is nothing but the theatre of absurd. The government of Karnataka is an illustration of how your democratic choices could be made redundant if the crooks come together. For them, the people, their hearts and minds mean nothing.

BJP lost the Kairana Bypoll, much touted as a predictor of 2019. But then every election since 2014 has been an indicator of Narendra Modi’s popularity with the people of India, every election has been his test. For people finding solace in small victories, even the loss of a school monitor election by the son or daughter of a BJP leader in primary classes would also be a measure of Narendra Modi’s losing popularity. Some would even demand his resignation on the basis of that. These elections are again a coalition win. It is again a coalition win of parties who do not represent any uniformity of ideology or plan.

Should we wait for the decay of democracy to happen, letting it denigrate into arithmetic of votes from the chemistry of the leader with his people? Should we rise up and ask questions from those who provoke us on rough rhetoric and send us down burning your own houses in fury? Karnataka government formation is nothing but a cynical crushing of public mandate by a coalition of crooks, who lack any accountability towards the people. It represents the return of rhetoric, which yielded great results with slogans like Gareebi Hatao for a leader like Indira Gandhi who imposed Emergency on India.

Congress scion who tore off the ordinance approved by the cabinet of an elected government trots slogans like ‘Save Democracy’, brings out impeachment against Chief Justice of India for an unfavourable judgement and then shouts ‘Save Judiciary’, represents the party that imposed Emergency on India and speaks about ‘Save Constitution.’ He believes in rhetoric as his route to power, so he lies blatantly from Sterlite to SC/ST reservations. Are we, as the people of India, still so gullible? Will we watch as mute spectators as democracy denigrate, degrades and rescinds into the dark and complex interpretations of mob rule which is called as politics of arithmetic by the sophisticated elites or will we rise to elect accountable leaders? It is time for us to rise. Left to its own, we know that Chesterton was not wrong.

Democracy devoid of morality and ideological anchor always runs the risk of turning into a despotic system. We must elect people on their ideology, politics and morality. There is no place for these abstract things in the politics of arithmetic. We tweet and we want the minister to respond and now we have a CM who says he is not accountable to the people of his state. If we let this theatre of absurd play at the national level, we will someday have a PM who will say that he is not accountable to the people of this nation. Will we vote on rhetoric and a plea of negativity, or will we ask those who seek a vote to clarify, define their ideological positions and vote on that basis? We, the people of India, will have to decide, for as Abraham Lincoln said- “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their backs to the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” No nation which stood at the crossroads of the history knew that when it actually stood there. We only know that with the benefit of hindsight. By then, it is often too late. I would think we do stand at that defining point today. We need to elect a government which is aware of the historical sensibilities and future possibilities which our great nation stands for.

A technology worker, writer and poet, and a concerned Indian

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