Nurturing Young Minds

Nurturing Young Minds

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Word for Aspiring Political Reformers of India

What is the most effective tool for rapid socio-economic transformation of the country?
The answers are many, but the one on which most people tend to agree, ispolitics and governance.
For joining politics and government, unless one happens to be in Pakistan where one can first become a President and then get elected, one has to either himself contest an election, as an independent, or join an existing  political party, or set up a new political outfit.
By one person entering a legislative Assembly,  or the cabinet of ministers, no great change at the macro level can be expected. If he joins an existing political party, it has to be one of the main political parties, that has some proven strength, and some following among the people. All these major political parties have some established leaders, some party culture, and some ideology, partly stated and partly unstated. When an ‘outsider’ enters the party, he is least likely to be given a say, or a formal position, which would threaten the views or positions of the seniors and older veterans. If the new entrant is an extraordinary fellow, like Mohandas was when he entered the Congress party on return from South Africa, he would gradually make a place for himself in the party by cleaning toilets or other such exemplary work without seeking a formal position, which in any case the party will thrust upon him, when it is realized that the party would survive or advance only if this extraordinary fellow led the party. If the fellow is so strange that he wishes to remain away form formal positions of power in the party or government, in order to remain more faithful to God and His people, the party would be left curious, confused and helpless, and may decide to benefit from his presence and guidance, or even to be led informally by him.
It is much easier to join an existing political party and then transform the party, like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi did by totally changing its elitist culture, and turning it into a mass platform. Joining an existing party gives one some immediate logistical support, some ready workers and helpers, and, possibly, some financial support, unless the entrant is identified as one who is very rich and therefore would himself support the party financially.
Why don’t the aspiring political activist-reformers, now outside active politics, do what Mohandas did? Or why shouldn’t they do it? Why do they want to create a new political outfit?
For finding an answer to this question, we will have to know a few facts, and understand a few things.
When Mohandas joined the Indian National Congress party, Congress was in a formative and fluid state. Its ideas and ideology were  not firmly shaped. It was a motley group. It had no immediate need for comprehensive programs for governance, and its immediate objective was to win partial or full independence from the British Rule. It was relatively easier to mold the party, if a great visionary entered it backed by a  lifetime commitment and passion to turn the currents of history.
The situation is not the same with the BJP and the Congress of today. BJP cannot sever its umbilical cord with the RSS, and cannot survive without its support. The RSS  has a completely firmed up ideology of having a Hindu Rashtra, and it created a political outfit essentially to achieve the objective. It would be very naive to believe that at this stage of Indian civilization, any leader of either the BJP or the RSS truly believes that a Hindu Rashtra could be really established in India or Bharat. But if they drop this agenda, RSS would get extinct. All their committed workers and Pracharaks have worked all their life nurturing the dream of a Hindu Rashtra. They would all drop out. Clinging to this ideology, therefore, is a  survival need for the RSS.  The RSS, and therefore its political arm the BJP, are an  ideologically highly firmed up party, which it is very difficult, if not impossible, to mold into a new cast.
The Congress party, led essentially by people whose surname resembles that of Mohandas, is not perceived as having a die-hard ideology like the RSS and the communist parties. Accommodating diverse ideologies  and people – leftists and rightists – has been a great strength of Congress party in the past, and before Independence. But it is very rigid in another manner: the leader must be having a surname exactly resembling that of Mohandas. This makes it problematic for a new great visionary reformer leader to enter the Congress party, where, quirks of history permitting,  you can perhaps become the Prime Minister, but not the leader. The party finally remains a family concern. If the family disappears from the scene for some reason, the party would collapse soon because it has no person who could be accepted as the leader by other leaders.This is the firm official culture now of the Congress – united in paying obeisance to a Gandhi, though ‘Gandhi’ does not  signify here Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, or any of his descendants - genetic or ideological.
Thus, at the present juncture, if there is an aspiring political activist-cum-reformer who wants to join politics and government for rebuilding India, or rapidly transforming India, and not just for becoming an MLA  or MP, or a minister, he or she has to set up, or be a part of, a new political outfit.  However, setting up a new political party is very difficult, because politics is an extremely expensive activity today. In addition, there are other apparently unsurmountable problems. Therefore, this is no easy option.
In fact Mohandas, who later became Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, having changed history, could read the future trajectory of the Indian history. He could see where the Indian National Congress would finally end up, and he wanted it to be dismantled soon after Independence. Obviously, he felt the need for a new political outfit. Many political outfits came, but the one that should have come, did not. Let us go into the issue of whether such a political outfit will emerge in India now. The issue, along with many related political issues, which are entangled with each other like links in a chain, may be discussed in my future articles on the subject.


  1. You have raised some very relevant points here Siddharth Ji.

    Existing vs New is a key question facing aspiring political reformers. I am increasingly convinced that it is easier to join/form new ethical political formations. Reforming established parties looks extremely difficult as the rot runs very deep. It is a well known fact that almost all established parties in almost all seats spend 10-20 times of legal expense limit (Rs 25 l for parliamentary elections; actual expenses Rs 2-5 Cr+), most of which has to be in black. One needs to earn it back while in office (in black!) etc. So ALMOST EVERY MP elected in Lok Sasbha is corrupt. It is difficult to reform a system built on such foundations!

    Ref: for a live online debate we had on (Indian) "Why is it important for Youth to engage in Politics?"


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  4. I think about the ideology of any nation based on people from a single religion (Pakistan being a Muslim nation, and the RSS dream of the Hindu Rashtra) as essentially flawed, as it is based in religious intolerance and extremism, and fosters it too. It implies that people from different religions cannot coexist peacefully and be a part of a society, and that for the creation of a peaceful social coexistence, the people should essentially belong to the same religion worshiping the same God. The ideology is either prejudiced in its thinking that brotherly bonds between people should be based on religious bondings, or it underestimates the social cohesion between people based on humanitarian bondings (the age is also seeing the rise of economic bondings as the strongest cohesive forces!), or is a leftover remnant of the days when the Church used to have power over the State. Whatever may be the case, that growth of human civilization with time is rendering it outdated, proving it to be false in the current scenario, and a hindrance to the civilizational growth and world peace as well! I won't go on commenting with certainty that I notice the roots of all 'religious extremism' based terrorism worldwide easily traceable to the source nations that are chiefly nonsecular and strongly endorse a religious body or creed, as I lack the concerned gamut of information to nail my point at this moment. But all this does make me a strong believer in the disestablishment process, clear-cut separation of Church from State, and the people having a freedom of religion or freedom from religion altogether (not spirituality) as their fundamental right, if I may say so!

  5. As regards Sri Dipiner's comments, I wish to clarify that I have nowhere suggested that one should join an existing party. I am only trying to give the pros and cons on all options so that they develop some mental clarity. Those who know world history, know that the BJP can be transformed, the Congress can be transformed. There is practically nothing that cannot happen. But it seems improbable if not impossible. Similarly a new political outfit can emerge. But those wishing to exercise tis option should be aware what are they up to; what challenges they are going to face, so that they are mentally prepared. In my future write-ups I wish to discuss how the BJP can transform itself; and how Congress can. At the end I wish to discuss how a new political force can emerge.