The Congress vice-president and the worst prime minister India will never have (hopefully), Rahul Gandhi, had earlier talked about “two Indias”—India Shining and India whining. His much talked-about speech on January 17 at the AICC session in New Delhi also has another set of two Indias as subtext: the anointed souls, led by the Divine Family, that are incessantly striving to redeem the suffering masses of India, the ‘we’ and ‘us’; and the hoi polloi, the riffraff who lack intelligence and enterprise to survive, who look askance at the personages of the grand old party for succor, even survival, the ‘them.’ The subtext reeks of condescension, yet it has gone unnoticed by political commentators.
Let’s look at the big steps that we took to increase your power, the people’s power, in India. The single biggest attack on the closed system of governance is the RTI [the Right To Information]. Information is power. We restored this power to you where it rightfully belongs. The RTI has forever altered the politics of this country. We enacted this revolutionary law to hand you power, knowing fully well that it would place our own government under severe scrutiny.
Rahul said (emphasis added).
Notice how we increased your power, how we restored power to you, and so on. Notice the duality between us and them. Also notice the great sacrifice the divine leadership has made in the process of “to hand you power.” Of course, Rahul did not mention why and how this very power was snatched away from the people in the first place; after all, the preamble of our Constitution talks about securing to all citizens “social, economic, and political” justice, the “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship,” and the “equality of status and of opportunity.” Rahul’s party has mostly ruled in India after Independence. So, who is responsible for “the closed system of governance?” Besides, the RTI, despite its salutary effects, has not been able to prevent or even curb the humongous scams that the Congress regime has occasioned. In short, the GOP leader is talking like a bully who robs a poor man, returns part of the booty, and expects the victim to be grateful!
The Congress prince went on to say, “What is NREGA and the Right to Food, if it is not handing you power? Decisions that were once in the hand of a few government officials are today firmly in the hands of all our people.” This is the apogee of dirigisme: people get work and food not because they are diligent but because of bureaucrats; before NREGA and the Right to Food, babus made sustenance of the poor difficult but now they are bound by the new legislation. It is always netas and babus who provide livelihood to the people. One has to be dumb to believe these myths, but then the Congress does believe the people are dumb.
Addressing women, he said, “Now, the Congress will fight your war and empower you. The Congress will get you respect and your rights.” Well, Rahulji, what has your party been doing since 1947 if women still have to fight for respect and their rights? The tone and tenor anyway remains same: we will fight for you, ladies; don’t worry, be happy.
It would be simplistic to accuse Rahul Gandhi of arrogance. Many people have pointed out that his heart is in the right place, that his intentions are good though his ideas are a problem, that he genuinely wants democratization, that he has done some good work in that direction in his own party though it has not gone very far. I think there is some truth in these observations, so I don’t think that it is the man’s superciliousness that makes him believe in the us/them dichotomy; instead it is the hubris of his party’s ideology, Nehruvian socialism, that is to blame.
Socialism is predicated on the belief that the state is the fount of not only all rights but also of legitimacy and all wisdom humanly possible; it is the wise men and women at the helm of affairs who know what is good for the polity, economy, society, and citizens; in their infinite wisdom, they decide which rights are to be given to the people and when. The premises and principles of socialism are, therefore, diametrically opposite to the essence of democracy and liberalism, which is best expressed in the first sentence of the United States Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
“Unalienable rights”— that is the moot point. Certain rights are “unalienable” because they are given by God—or, from the perspective of the atheist and the agnostic, by nature. At any rate, the rights are not given by governments—or even by constitutions, in which the rights are mentioned but from which they do not emanate.
The Indian Constitution also resonates with the same principles. According to its preamble, “We, the people of India… adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution.” So, my rights are secured because the people of India had “solemnly resolved” to do so; the resolve remains in place because the country is run—even if nominally—by the Constitution.
This also means that Rahul Gandhi has been indulging in baloney for quite some time. It is not because of his or his party’s benevolence that we enjoy our rights. Rahul may want us to forget that it was his party’s government in office in 1975 when the very right to life was abrogated. The then Attorney General, Niren De, announced in the Supreme Court on December 14, 1975, “Even if life was taken away illegally, courts are helpless.” So much for Congress-style empowerment.
The more things change, they say, the more they remain the same. On the face of it, much has changed in the GOP, but its soul—that is, the Dynasty and the coterie surrounding it—remains the same. The wise men and women at one point had thought that anybody from the riffraff, the ‘them,’ is dispensable. Today, the wise men and women believe that ‘they’ also deserve some rights, so we give ‘them’ those rights.
The us-them chasm continues.
Ravi Shanker Kapoor is a journalist and author. He upholds freedom of expression, individual liberty, free market, and open society. He is an uncompromising opponent of Islamism, communism, and other totalitarian ideologies. He is also a critic of intellectuals, as evident from his third book, How India’s Intellectuals Spread Lies (Vision Books).