The Congress, the Gandhis and a historian’s queer logic

Ramchandra Guha’s argument that the presence of Rahul and Priyanka in the Congress causes Modi to deflect people’s attention from the real issues, and hence they should quit, is strange

(L-R) Priyanka and Rahul with mother Sonia Gandhi.
(L-R) Priyanka and Rahul with mother Sonia Gandhi.

Arun Sharma

In an interview given to Karan Thapar for The Wire on March 11 and in an article written for The Telegraph, which also appeared in the on the same day, historian Ramachandra Guha made a suggestion that the three Gandhis should quit the Congress party and also politics.

“I believe that for the good of the party, as well as for the good of Indian democracy,” Guha says, “the Gandhi’s must not just exit from the party’s leadership but retire from politics altogether.”

Apparently, Guha believes that the only impediment to Indian democracy is the Gandhi family. This ironically, is also the opinion of Narendra Modi whose authoritarianism troubles Guha.

Guha’s argument might probably contain good intention but it suffers from bad logic. Nearly all his statements beg the question. Some even border on to allegations.

I was surprised to find that in one instance at least, the noted historian has not checked his facts correctly. For example, Guha writes, “These were (meaning Priyanka Gandhi’s visits) met with breathless excitement by those sections of the media (and social media) that still haven’t stopped seeing the Nehru-Gandhis as an Indian version of the House of Windsor. Every visit, every press conference, every announcement was reported by these dynasty-worshippers as presaging an electoral resurgence of the party in Uttar Pradesh.”

This is certainly not true. The mainstream TV channels, comprising mostly pliant media hardly gave any coverage to the Congress campaign. Several media houses even gave negative coverage. Whatever coverage Priyanka got was provided by the Youtube videos prepared by the Congress party and some other Youtubers, of course.

It amounts to allegations on the part of Guha to suggest that the very few who covered Congress campaign by Priyanka were dynasty-worshippers.

It is nobody’s case to suggest that all is well with the Congress party and no introspection is required to improve its functioning. However, to put the blame for whatever is allegedly wrong with the party on the Nehru-Gandhi family is unacceptable.

The election campaign of the Congress in the five states that went to the polls recently, resulting in losses for the party had been entrusted to several senior party leaders, notably P. Chidambaram in Goa, Jairam Ramesh in Manipur, Harish Rawat and others in Uttarakhand and Punjab and of course to Priyanka in UP. The responsibility for defeat has to be shared by all these leaders, not by the Gandhi family alone.

It can be conceded that Priyanka was not able to revive the fortunes of the party in UP. It was too tall an order for Priyanka to execute, as the problems of the party in that state are too deep-rooted to be solved overnight.

One reason for the Congress losing out in UP since the late sixties and in Bihar since late seventies is the rise of caste-based and individual-controlled parties, like the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh and Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar that ate into the vote share of the Congress. This is a problem that will require serious introspection by Congress.

Political parties do lose out to others and Congress is no exception. It is pertinent to recall that the now powerful BJP and its former avatar the Jan Sangh remained with barely three or four seats in the Parliament for half a century.

In 1984, the BJP came out with just two seats in the Lok Sabha. Yet, Nehru or Indira Gandhi never vowed to see a Jan Sangh or BJP-mukt Bharat. Neither did any Ram Guha then call for the resignation of Advani or Atal Bihari Vajpayee. These facts should be kept in mind with humility by the BJP leaders.


One is witnessing a strange phenomenon in India that the media and some intellectuals are blaming the opposition parties, chiefly the Congress for the transgressions of the ruling party. Guha’s article proves this thesis adequately. It is like the apothecary blaming the physician for the condition of the patient.

It speaks volumes about the success of the vile and sinister campaign led by the BJP and RSS against the Nehru-Gandhi family for the last 70 years, which became even abusive under Modi, that even intellectuals like Guha have also been taken in by it.

No wonder Guha can say, “It is also that their presence in the Congress makes it easy for Narendra Modi and the BJP to deflect the attention from the government’s failures in the present by resorting to debates about the past.” Queer logic this to claim that the presence of Rahul and Priyanka causes Modi to deflect the people’s attention from the present, and hence they should quit!

If Modi deflects from the present, it is because he has nothing worthwhile to talk about and also, may be, he suffers from a pathological hatred for Nehru-Gandhi family, borne perhaps of envy of their grand stature.

Guha also refers to a piece by Aatish Taseer where the latter calls Rahul Gandhi an “unteachable mediocrity”. Writers often use phrases that look catchy. However, a person’s character has be tested on the touchstone of cold logic.

Suffice it to say that a person who has been on the wrong end of abusive language from no less a person than the prime minister; a person who has heard his great grandfather, his grandmother and his parents--one dead--by being called names, again by the prime minister; a person who has been targeted by thousands of abusive social media forwards; such a person, who has endured this for nearly 15 years and has still kept his self-esteem high, cannot be a mediocre.

One may, incidentally remind Guha, that Aatish Taseer also said certain things about Modi, including calling him “India’s Divider-in-Chief” in that piece he refers to, which was published in the TIME magazine, in May 2019.

Those things robbed Taseer of his OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) status within a few months. It is these things we would feign ignorance to at our own peril.

(Views are personal)

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