Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Balbir Punj Article: Are there any great leaders beyond Gandhi family?

This article is very interesting as it points that there are many great leaders beyond Nehru-Gandhi Family. Why Congress blatantly keeps showering accolades on this one family. It has ignored many of its own leaders beyond this family and many others in their party. Surprisingly, the author forgets Vajpayee as one of the greatest leaders

Read it

The article is also pasted here as is:

The importance of being a Gandhi-Nehru
23 Apr, 2008, 1635 hrs IST,

BY: Balbir K Punj

Two recent developments – repeated references to Rahul Gandhi as “Yuvraj” (the heir to the throne) by a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and an innocuous recent press advertisement – have underlined the malice of dynastic politics that continues to plague the Congress, India’s oldest political party.

Last Monday, Dr E. M. Sudarsana Natchipan was participating in a discussion on the Rural Development Ministry in Rajya Sabha. In the true tradition of his party, he reduced the entire issue of rural development to singing paeans of Rahul Gandhi. Calling Rahul a “Yuvraj” a number of times in his discourse, he compared him to Lord Buddha. Dr Natchipan conveniently forgot that in a democracy, there is no “Yuvraj” or “Yuvrani”. And if there is a “Yuvraj”, logically there will be a “Rajmata” as well. And who is the “Rajmata”? No prizes for guessing.

In another development, several newspapers recently carried an advertisement from the government mouthpiece Prasar Bharati. The advertisement says that the Prasar Bharati will "soon be coming out with a comprehensive website on the great leaders of India". It has sought audio-video material on these great leaders from those who may be having such material in their possession. The public has been asked to send these to the Doordarshan archives.

The advertisement also carries the photographs of these "great leaders of India" – Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Now, I have no quarrel that the first three contributed to the greatness of pre-independence and post-independence India. Most historians would have reservations about Rajiv Gandhi being included in this list. But even that could be ignored.

However, can we ignore the underlying insult to this great country by a government body’s decision to recognise only these four people as "great leaders"? What about Subhash Chandra Bose? Or Bhagat Singh? Or Rajaji? Dr Rajendra Prasad? Veer Savarkar? Dr. K B Hedgewar? Lal Bahadur Shastri, under whose leadership India was able to recover its prestige in 1965 after Nehru's disastrous policy allowed China to slap India across the face? Is he not among the "great leaders of India?" Or is it that this tiny man with no aristocratic blood to flaunt or Cambridge degree to distinguish him has no place among the "great" of post-independence India?

What about Jayaprakash Narayan whose tremendous power of moral force toppled a dictatorship in 1977 even though he and his followers were jailed for 19 months? Is Rajiv Gandhi who came to power on the strength of his family connection — without having to sacrifice anything — greater than JP, a hero of not only 1975-77 but also of the 1942 movement, the entire independence struggle and the Bhoodan movement? Rajiv Gandhi came to power on a sympathy wave but his massive two-thirds majority could not help him avoid an electoral defeat five years later.

This insult to India is carrying on unchecked because we have "leaders" who do not have the guts to tell the “royals” the truth. Emasculated by years of slavish underdog-ism, these leaders not only genuflect but also cower and crawl before the party's royal family. One angry look from 10 Janpath is enough to send these "leaders" to Tirupati to beg the Lord of the Seven Hills to spare them from this royal rage.


In that respect, I would any day give the thumbs up to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati. At least she has the guts to take on the “prince”.

Coming back to the advertisement, Prasar Bharti is not to be blamed in the prevailing environment of sycophancy. Enough care has been taken to stamp out all other great names that participated in the freedom struggle and afterwards lent their shoulder to shepherd the country through tough times. For instance, behind the seat of the Prime Minister in the Lok Sabha there is a list of his predecessors. When Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister, it fell to the Opposition to raise a howl over Shastri's omission from this list. This could not have been a simple mistake because the Lok Sabha records cannot be trifled with and any writing therein is checked 20 times. The conclusion is obvious: no other name was to come up before the public except those belonging to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Across the country, almost every government institution is named after members of only this family. Only in Kolkata has the local sentiment ensured that the airport is named after Netaji; the same has happened in Mumbai. But in Hyderabad, the new airport was not named after the tallest Andhra leader, N.T. Rama Rao or any other Telugu leader — one can think of many like T. Prakasam a fiery freedom fighter and a chief minister afterwards. Once again, it is Rajiv Gandhi’s name that has won out.

Such devotion to one family may please Congressmen but it is a national shame that this country of over 100 crore people with a civilization that is thousands of years old is being made to ignore its past and the string of great leaders it produced in every field. For instance, would it not have been more appropriate to name the government-funded culture and fine art centre coming up at Rajendra Prasad Road in Delhi after Rabindranath Tagore rather than Indira Gandhi? We can cite a number of other instances where Bharatiya men of eminence in arts, sciences, philosophy, etc have been ignored and the institution carries the name of one of the Congress' "royal family".

A nation whose top and middle level leaders are placed in the straitjacket of a single family loyalty is only damaging its own leadership mettle. This is like a mighty tree drawing on only one root and letting all other roots wither. Sometimes we are unhappy over Mayawati making a fetish of Dr Ambedkar and putting her own statues along with that of the architect of the Indian Constitution. But that counterweight is at least preferable to the refrain Congressmen have and are seeking to impose on the country. In 1975 we came across the slogan "One Country, One Leader, One Agenda" which was a precursor to the darkness that followed.

Before Dr Natchiappan declared Baba Rahul as the “Yuvraj” of independent India, another Congress stalwart Arjun Singh had referred to him as the next Prime Minister. But poor Arjun Singh. For telling the truth regarding the monarchy that rules his party he has been administered a public rebuke by the queen herself.


The rebuke also conveys to the hoi polloi Congressmen that the royalty frowns upon commoners playing with the number one family. The question of succession and when it will be announced will be the privilege of the family alone.

But is that really so? Was Arjun Singh being prompted or did he slip up while trying to score brownie points over Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh? It is difficult to believe that a seasoned leader like Arjun Singh — former chief minister, governor, party vice-president and Nehru-Gandhi loyalist — would slip up especially as he has no need to demonstrate his loyalty. Also when a Congressman is asked by the media if he would like Rahul Gandhi to lead the government after the coming elections, can he dare say anything that could be interpreted as disguised disloyalty? The political calculations lead to the only explanation for the mystery of Arjun Singh being pulled up for stating the obvious: this is all a stage-managed affair to underline the importance of the royalty that rules the Congress.

It is a matter of pride for India to assert that India is not Indira (forgive poor Debkant Barooha) or the Gandhis but India is multi-faceted, with many streams, many names, rich beyond the reach of all the words in any language. It belongs to you as well as to me and all Indians have the right to aspire to be its Prime Minister and elected to that top spot.

(Author is a BJP MP, National Secretary and convenor of the party's think tank)

1 comment:

vivek said...

I appreciate the ideas of the author. I also understand the fact that author has deliberately not tried to mention Mr. Vajpayee since he belongs to same party to prove his unbiased views. I have always wondered why greatness of a leader like Lal Bahadur Shastri has been ignored by the congress. Current lot of congress leaders' servitude attitude towards Gandhis have led to a situation where no congressmen can dare to rate Shastri as a great leader of the category of Gandhis if not greater. Though the matter of fact is he is the greatest Prime minister ever. If you see what he achieved in his short span of 18 months and what kind of problems India was facing, you would realize that. he not only won the war for India when the odds were heavily against us but could also motivate people to fast on every Monday. I do not think any Gandhi's would ever have or ever had such a mass appeal. I think Mr. Punj is right to express his concern that can ever a common Indian aspire to become a PM of India given the trends of dynastic politics?