Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sycophancy is reigning Currency of the Congress

Vivek Gumaste

(Courtesy trail mail)

It is not the exponential expansion of Robert Vadra’s fiscal fortunes that skyrocketed from a paltry Rs 50 lakh to an astounding Rs 300 crore in an incredibly brief span of five years that I find most revolting. In a world of scams that run into hundreds and thousands of crores, Vadra’s profiteering is negligible. Neither is it the alleged tacit quid pro quo of the Vadra-DLF-Haryana nexus that raises my hackles. Not even Vadra’s disparaging comment of ‘mango men in a banana republic’ provokes me to express my bile. It is something else.
The l’affaire Vadra brings to the fore a far more serious malady than the ostensible crony capitalism that it suggests; a rot that strikes at the very heart of our democracy; an ugly affliction that portends disastrous consequences for the nation’s long-term stability: namely, the extent and depth of sycophancy that pervades India’s premier political party.  Sycophancy is the reigning currency of the Congress party.  

The scene was reminiscent of medieval times with bumbling court jesters rushing in to outdo one another in their demonstration of loyalty to their master, or mistress to be precise. No sooner had Arvind Kejriwal listed his charges against Vadra that a posse of apologists sprung to Vadra’s defence; a defence team that comprised top-ranking members of the Union Cabinet such as Corporate Affairs Minister M Veerappa Moily and Finance Minister P Chidambaram; even the governor of a state far removed from New Delhi chimed in to join this chorus of bootlicking flattery. 

In an exercise that depicted the worst of toadying behaviour, these self-appointed guardians of Vadra’s virtue hurled vicious counter-accusations at members of India Against Corruption, and hallucinated about dark conspiracies in a fit of indignant rage. But the basic premise was clear: how could anyone dare target the son-in-law of the Congress’s First Family. To drive home this point further, the upright IAS officer Ashok Khemka probing the matter was promptly transferred.  

Sadly, what was missing in this entire defence operation was what mattered most: a fact-based rebuttal. Allegations cannot be countered by merely ratcheting up the decibel of refutation; they warrant a direct logical response. By this knee-jerk response, the Congress party bared itself to reveal its true persona: the fiefdom of a single family; a polity that places a premium on the interests of its First Family than on the principles germane to the well-being of the country.  

Sonia Gandhi’s uninterrupted, election-free 14-year tenure as the President of the Indian National Congress is a unique achievement—one that is unmatched by even past stalwarts. Jawaharlal Nehru was a giant who strode the Indian political scene like a colossus, yet his tenure as Congress party president included three terms of one year and two terms of two years for a cumulative total of seven years. Even Indira Gandhi, despite her dictatorial streak, found it prudent to restrict herself to two terms—one lasting five years and the other two. From 1885 to the late 1960s, it was the norm for party presidents to have a term not exceeding one year with rare exceptions. An entrenched leadership not subject to internal elections thrives on and sustains servility.  

Sycophancy is a tool that seeks illegitimate ascendancy by pandering to the ego of insecure weak leaders, thwarting ethical values and displacing merit in the process. These two entities feed into each other to engender a warped culture of debased values. A ruling party afflicted with this canker spells disaster for the country. The gubernatorial deficiencies of the Congress-led UPA government is testimony to the ill-effects of this scourge.  

The party that was built up by the likes of Lokmanya Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru needs to be restored to its former self to fulfil its role as one of two national parties. 

Gumaste is a US-based commentator and academic

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