Why I think Tom Vadakkan leaving the Congress is good riddance

Young India is looking forward to a jeans and T-shirt-wearing political leader. The Congress also needs alliances of a bold new kind. The old guard must therefore make way for the new.

 |  6-minute read |   15-03-2019
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When the news broke that former Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan had joined the BJP, my only concern was whether he had deleted all his previous tweets.

By the time the thought came to my mind though, Twitter was already flooded with the now famous 'Vadakkan tweet':

Merely seeing his tweets all over again, and the unforgiving target of jokes he had now become, made me feel sorry for him. As I see it, be a turncoat by all means, no big deal, but at least cover your tracks before you make the big announcement. Save yourself from the humiliation.

Before Vadakkan, there were a few other MPs in Gujarat and Karnataka who also joined the BJP. In Maharashtra, Sujay Vikhe Patil, the son of senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, also joined the BJP.

Each such event is being described by the media as a “setback for Congress” and the BJP is celebrating all such developments.

But there is nothing to celebrate.

The BJP is picking up stale crumbs fallen off others’ platters — and they have no choice because their own platter is empty. 

For all their allegations of lack of internal democracy, opportunity and dynastic politics in the Congress, it is the BJP which now lacks strong leaders and is reportedly being run like a personal fiefdom of two people — the king and his minister. The rest are just nodding heads.

The party's second-rung leaders, like Smriti Irani, Sambit Patra, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal and Ananth Hegde, offer nothing beyond theatrics and zero substance. To my mind, they lack wisdom, statesmanship and often, dignity. Their standards of attacks on Rahul Gandhi, for instance, are as low as that of the trolls. I'd say the whole bunch represents just the kind of politics we no longer need in India.  

Young India is looking forward to a jeans-and-T-shirt-wearing political leader who can strike up a fun conversation with anybody, and who remains civil and well-mannered in all circumstances.

Rahul Gandhi recently visited a women’s college in Chennai in a jeans and T-shirt ensemble, looking just like the heartthrob young girls are likely to swoon over. Later that day, Priyanka Gandhi put up a Twitter display picture where she's wearing jeans and a simple shirt, giving out a strong message to those raising questions over her clothing — 'We are the alternatives, and we would stay this way,' was the big statement.

priyanka-690_031519115443.jpgPriyanka Gandhi's Twitter display photo is proof the party is ready to provide the country a politics of change. (Source: Twitter/@priyankagandhi)

There is a massive churning going on — both within the Congress party and in Indian politics.

The 2019 election is not any other election, many are seeing it as a do-or-die election, as the last battle to save democracy and the idea of India. Nation-wide, millions of youth have plunged into politics. Artists, writers, engineers, doctors and so on are all ready to volunteer and do their bit to prevent fascist forces from winning again.

This churning is disruptive and chaotic — and cases like that of Tom Vadakkan might be sad but a necessary fallout.

Let them see this as a sign of the party being cleansed from within. When in difficult waters, the boat often has to be made lighter by off-loading a few things. Replace the entire political machinery with new and young leaders. Let talent and enthusiasm be the deciding factor and not how many years one may have spent in the party.

tome-690_031519115626.jpgTom Vadakkan was not of much use in the Congress' new scheme of things. (Source: India Today)

It is understandable that senior leaders who have given 20 or 30 years suddenly feel they have become redundant and are not given enough importance — and certainly not a party ticket — but that is not the party’s problem. Of the many things this election is also going to change, the way we do politics and the same old-same old have no place here. Let them pursue whatever suits them, as per their heart’s calling or career growth.

The BJP tries to see these as defeats and setbacks for the Congress — but, as I see it, they are the probable side-effects of a successful political chemotherapy.

Maybe I am being idealistic — maybe these developments are nothing but petty politics where leaders have no principles and integrity. But then, politics is not so petty anymore. The 2019 elections are showing us that for millions of youth, politics is a serious matter in which they feel invested because they care about the future of this nation. They have chosen their political ideologies and are ready to fight for it.

It is time for these young leaders to take over leadership roles rather than those who have been there for long, but couldn’t achieve anything dramatic.

All said and done, Mr Tom Vadakkan is not exactly known for his ability to win a lot of votes — he has never contested elections but was reportedly inclined to contest this time. Whether he had winnability is for the Congress president to judge — and perhaps, he had to take a tough decision.

The Congress president himself is required to put up with a lot of these internal churnings and chaos. He has been trying to do a fine balancing between the old guard and their egos and the new dynamic leaders like Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani and Savitri Bai Phule, all of whom have recently become part of the Congress party.

phule-690_031519115344.jpgFriendships that matter — Savitri Bai Phule recently joined the Congress. (Source: Twitter)

These young leaders bring immense strength to the party at the grassroots — and the party president should be commended for being able to forge these relations.

It is easy for media pundits to claim that Rahul Gandhi doesn’t know how to form alliances with the likes of, say, Mayawati. They see the model of alliance as one phone call made, one ED/CBI raid conducted, one suitcase handed over — and yay, you have an alliance.

Perhaps the Congress president is in the business of forming stronger relationships.

How strong? We may not know that in 2019 maybe, we would only know it in the long run perhaps. But, as Rahul Gandhi said, “This battle will be won.”

Perception-wise, no, it does not look good when a senior leader comes out and says, “Workers with self-respect have no place in the party.” It might be demoralising for the young cadre that if a senior leader feels this way, what chances do they have?

But one could also see it as the old making way for the new.

Tom Vadakkan on his part has been civil and maintained decency in not bad-mouthing Rahul Gandhi as soon as he left the party. One only wishes him well in life, but, perhaps to put it very rudely, it is good riddance.

Also read: Tom Vadakkan Joins BJP: Can the Congress hand hold back any more leaders from toeing the saffron line?


Sanjukta Basu Sanjukta Basu @sanjukta

Freelance writer, photographer and women studies scholar, and a part of the Karwan E Mohabbat group. She writes on social marginalisation, minority rights and women issues.

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