Constructive Criticism

Break out of old patronage networks

The Congress’ coming to power on such a large wave of victory signals the need for a shift to a new kind of politics, says Suhit Sen, in the Indian Express. It’s made a good start but to contribute to the modernisation of politics, it needs to do more than change dynastic rule.

So how does it go about it? One point needs to first be gotten out of the way — the issue of dynastic rule within the party. The preponderance of one family within a party is not, of course, a healthy proposition, never mind the fact that outside of the BJP and the Left all parties suffer from this failing. There are signs that within the party the Gandhis are now no longer taking their ‘patrimony’ for granted, but working for it — Rahul Gandhi’s refusal to be pitchforked to power is a good sign and if that continues to happen the charge of dynastic rule will be somewhat blunted.

But that is just one part of it. What the Congress desperately needs to do is build or reactivate organisational networks in these states that work not on the basis of patronage, wherever that happens to flow from, but on the basis of a programme of mass contact and mass mobilisation. This year’s general elections seem to indicate that voters have been less impressed by sectarian appeals for mobilisation as opposed to more rational appeals based on considerations of material self-interest — which is why social welfare issues have been so important. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) has thus been a more potent electoral issue than the Ram temple and Nitish Kumar’s development plank has trumped the communitarian, caste-based appeals made by Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan.

Read the article here.

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