What are the lessons learnt from the Scindia saga

It is not just that Scindia’s role is badly enacted but the silence of other Congress leaders is also frustrating. Even Rahul or Sonia or the CM could do with a few more lines of explanation.

 |  5-minute read |   19-03-2020
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An ordinary citizen reading a newspaper report is often left puzzled, obtaining a sense that both the narrative and the analysis are incomplete. Most political events unravel as Pavlovian scenarios: there is a kneejerk character to them.

The recent report on Jyotiraditya Scindia’s defection to BJP has that touch about it. One does not deny the drama or the political consequences, but there is a predictability to the script. It plays out current stereotypes. The young leader with a presentable aura resigns. Immediately, the focus is not on him but the Congress. There is a wave of sympathy for a man caught in what people believe is a terminally ill party. His exit seems an easy one. He is promised a Rajya Sabha seat and he walks out with about twenty loyalists. The news is almost read as an act of liberation.

Questions over exit

The papers report that Sonia Gandhi had little time for him and that Rahul Gandhi dismisses the exit as a careerist. Scindia himself portrays this by claiming that he is impressed by PM Modi as a leader. The immediate scenario is kneejerk. Everyone praises the acumen of the BJP and beats the Congress like a dead horse. But reading the report, one wonders whether things are all that simple.

Scindia is one of the young leaders of the Congress, an individual personally close to Rahul Gandhi with easy accessibility to him. There is also the history of his father joining the Congress rebelling against his mother, one of the founding representatives of the BJP. The question I want to ask is: do friendship and loyalty dissolve so easily? Is there no sense of doubt, no appeal to conscience, no sense of ambivalence and ambiguity? Rahul, in wishing Scindia well, claims he is amnesiac about both friendship and ideology. I think Scindia as an individual should answer these questions.

main_jyotiraditya-sc_031920105703.jpgJyotiraditya Scindia is one of the young leaders of the Congress, an individual personally close to Rahul Gandhi with easy accessibility to him. (Photo: PTI)

The ordinary citizen wishes to know: What is the value framework within which he made the decision is? Secondly, if the move was tactical and more than careerist, should Scindia not come out with a narrative of his attempts to catalyse the Congress? One is not saying that Congress is not often inert. One is asking for a more satisfying explanation. Scindia behaves as if he owes no explanation to ordinary citizens or even other Congressmen. Merely repeating the usual litany that Narendra Modi is his leader explains little.

There is something almost robotic about the story. But beyond the personal backstage, there is a public backstage. The silence of other Congress leaders is frustrating. One has to ask are they toeing the party line mechanically, or is this the time to openly ask questions about the functioning of the Congress party? Is the congress a mere family of three people or does it possess a public presence which demands some transparency about its internal dynamics?

Congress’ legacy

It is not just that Scindia’s role is badly enacted, even Rahul or Sonia or the CM could do with a few more lines of explanation. The way the script goes now, it seems as if the Congress is feigning indifference. But there are questions also about Rahul as a person, not just as a Congress leader. In ordinary terms one has to ask, is that all that friendship and memory means? Does one articulate a sense of loss, a genealogy of past events, or does one brush this aside in such moments? Is there no sense of mourning or loss for a friendship gone to waste? Rahul and the party emerge with a certain nonchalance which is puzzling. Or does party alignment destroy the possibility of friendship? There is something unsaid which makes the event empty.

Scindia too suddenly seems to be robotic and someone susceptible to family pressure. If he was tired of Rahul’s somnolence, why did he not raise it publically? He would have performed a deep public service not just to democracy in India but even to his other suffering colleagues by opening the black box called the Congress Party. One has to recognise that rivalry and ambition are natural things in politics. Yet, is politics only a tactical game, a musical chair for power, or does it have a value frame which allows for emotions, dissent, difference, loyalty, sacrifice.

Frustrating game

Scindia’s resignation is too wooden an act. He pretends to be a political robot. One wishes he had been more emotional, more open about his resignation. There were two ritual acts in his drama. The first was his move away from the Congress, the second was his move towards the BJP. There is little about the first in his script. Also, one is tempted to ask was there no other alternative? Could he play the gadfly in the Congress or even set up a party? These questions haunt one and make politics seem a bit empty.

Watching politics is more than frustrating as these questions lie unanswered. Scindia, at the end of the story, appears like a presentable cog in the wheel twice over. First, in the Congress and now, in the BJP. Surely, one should expect more from him. One almost feels tempted to ask: will the real Jyotiraditya Scindia stand up or is a tacit cynicism the order of the day?

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: How will Congress survive the contagion spreading in its ranks

Writer

Shiv Visvanathan Shiv Visvanathan @shivvisvanathan

The writer is a social nomad

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