By Arun Srivastava
We usually come to listen to one simple refrain that Congress is gradually getting deviated from its ideology and it needs a major reform keeping conformity to the changing times. The leaders deserting the party often come out with the allegation that they have not been provided with the right opportunity and avenue to serve the party and the party is directionless.
Like any other leader who blames the leadership for creating a mess and pushing the party in dark alley, the young turk Jitin Prasada, son of Jeetendra Prasada, former adviser to Sonia Gandhi, had blamed the party’s inability to protect the interest of the rank and file. He said; “I felt the party I was in was not able to help the people. What is the relevance of remaining in a party if you can’t protect the interests of your people?” He even described the Congress a “person-oriented party”. Jitin claimed he had not been able to work for his people while in the Congress. In contrast, he hailed Narendra Modi and claimed that the BJP was the “only national party”. He also praised Amit Shah as “karmyogi (worshipper of work)”.
His words make it explicit that he had no right word to justify his shifting of loyalty. It is a paradox that most of the people hailing from the rich and aristocrat families, are not aware of the true political lineage of the party. Unfortunately the sons and daughters of such families have been worst victim of this psyche. Any one desirous of doing good to the people can render his services even without holding any office. But this is not the case with these people. They treat the Congress as their fiefdom and naturally desire that they should get a princely honour.
Practicing the centrist and liberal politics has been commitment of the Congress. The Congress never had any set ideological orientation obviously it would be wrong to claim that the party should promote only those leaders who are ideologically committed and should rethink and re-strategise some of these things and then only the party can come up. It is a historical fact that Congress has been a platform for rightist, capitalist, socialist, leftist and centrist leaders. If there were leaders who were committed to secular values, the party had rightist leaders strongly believing in Hinduism.
With Jitin Prasada switching to the BJP, the issue of adherence to the ideology of the party has emerged in a loud manner. At a time when the parties which have strong ideological base and line are faced with the crisis of survival, how could Congress which does not have an firm ideological base, imagine to stage a comeback on the strength of ideology. Congress symbolised the changing socio economic and political contour of the time. It never had the rigid frame work.
Many of the leaders who formed either the Communist Party or the Socialist Party were with the Congress and operated within its political parameters. Jitin Prasada’s journey of deliverance must not be seen in the backdrop of ideological commitment. Jitin moved to the BJP only for the sake of enjoying power. As the representative of the Indian Express in 1994 I had the occasion to interact with his father Jeetendra Prasada who was the chief of the state Congress. The political scenario was more frightening and scaring during those years than it is now. New political and caste equations were emerging and taking shape. He tried to win over the trust of the traditional support base of the party but the guest house case in which Mayawati was humiliated by the Samajwadi Party cadres, completely changed the political structure.
Though Jitin was the blue eyed boy of Gandhi family, he never tried to identify himself or his party with the aspirations of the 16 per cent of the Brahmin voters, who have always played the decisive role in ensuring the victory of a party in the state. Mayawati could win the assembly election by riding on the support of the Brahmins.
The notion that Congress gradually turned obsolete as the people came to perceive it as the pocket borough of Gandhi-Nehru family is highly skewed. The Congress had started losing the ground in late sixties. India had witnessed the emergence of backward caste aspirations. In 1967 almost all the north Indian states were ruled by the SVD of regional forces. India was witnessing the emergence and consolidation of backward caste aspirations
Naturally the Congress which primarily banked on the upper caste and dalit support started losing ground. No doubt Indira Gandhi managed to resurrect the Congress, but it was not based on the revival of the old support base or creation of a new political hegemony. The upper caste people who formed the support base for congress deserted it once they came to realise that it would not enter into direct violent clash with the backward castes who formed the core of the regional parties.
In the present political background in Uttar Pradesh politics, how far Jitin would prove to an asset for the BJP remains a mystery. The only plausible reason for BJP accepting him is the party intended to give a shock to the Gandhis and nothing else. The BJP leadership has not been quite enthused at his entry is also manifest in not a single leader of national stature was present to welcome him in the party. The task was performed by Pijush Goyal. The fact cannot be denied that his ideological commitment was suspect from the beginning and the party winning zero seats in West Bengal under his charge showed that he was incompetent. He talks of ideology but he is not aware of the proper implication of ideology. He as the observer in West Bengal has been responsible for allowing the party to enter into alliance with the a party led by muslim clerics.
Nonetheless BJP meeting its waterloo in Bengal sends a strong message that Congress should strive to bring together the anti BJP forces on a common platform and pursue the centrist political line. The disillusionment of the upper caste to the Congress is clearly manifest in the upper caste reluctance to repose their faith in the Congress notwithstanding Priyanka Gandhi spearheading the revival efforts. The Congress must readjust and prepare for competitive politics played by Modi. Mamata has shown that Modi is not undefeatable, he can be defeated by putting the party back on track.
Instead of relying on the English speaking aristocrat youths, the party must encourage and patronise the local satraps. Congress needs mass leaders who can speak the language of the masses. Jitin followed in the footsteps of his former Congress colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia who quit the party to join the BJP in March last year. One thing is clear that Jitin Prasada’s switch to BJP a symbolic loss for Congress. It has no potential to inflict severe damage. There is no need for the Congress to see the exit of Jitin Prasada as a substantial political loss.
Jitin had since last year been leading an effort to woo Brahmins away from the BJP by floating a “Brahmin Chetna Parishad”. This has caught the BJP leadership’s attention as the traditional Thakur-Brahmin rivalry in Uttar Pradesh has become more tangible under Adityanath, who has been accused of patronising the Thakurs. By inducting Jitin, the BJP is trying to balance the centre of power.
Only in October last year Jitin had termed the Adityanath government “autocratic” for manhandling Rahul and Priyanka and not allowing them to meet the Hathras gang rape and murder victim’s family. Only last month Jitin had re-tweeted Rahul’s statement slamming the Centre’s vaccine policy.
Jitin Prasada’s defection to the BJP has done more good to Samajwadi Party than to the BJP. Jitin’s claim of sticking to ideology is incongruous. He has narrowed down ideology to the level of non-existent object. He says; “in today’s new India, the only ideology is national interest. And I firmly believe that India’s national interests within the country and abroad are firmly secured in the hands of Narendra Modi and the BJP, which is a truly national party today and works on an institutional pattern. It does not revolve around any individual.” IN his euphoria to eulogise Modi he forgot that no leader except Modi matters in the BJP.
With the influence of the BSP shrinking, and with Prasada’s exit signalling the continuing weakening of the Congress, the electoral choice for Muslims — who are believed to be influential in 40 per cent of seats — can be expected to have a narrower focus. KapilSibal is scared of people losing trust in elected representatives. He emphasises: “People join the BJP for prasada (rewards); you have seen it in Bengal. Those who defected from Trinamool want to come back. We have seen how MLAs joined the BJP for prasada in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka. People joining another political ideology for posts, position, money poses a threat to democracy.” (IPA Service)