Ramachandra Guha, renowned historian and biographer, has said that the Congress does not have the “mantle” to take on the BJP under the leadership of the Gandhi family, insisting, an alternative to the saffron party can only emerge if the party is taken over by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who has “vision, credibility, integrity and focuses on growth.”
Advising Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi “to invite Nitish to become the President of the Congress”, Guha says, as of today, the party is surrounded by “chamchas” like Mani Shankar Aiyar who are “worshipping Rahul Gandhi.”
According to Guha, “Even the few state leaders like Siddaramiah in Karnataka who came up on their own are now continuously undercut by the Congress High Command, he doesn’t even have the autonomy to appoint his own Rajya Sabha MPs.”
Stating that “the Congress’s role in this cacophony of voices is definitely not a dominant one”, Guha says, “In the present day inside the Congress there’s no credible leader even if you leave the family aside, there’s no one who strikes you like a Kamaraj, a Shastri or even a Narasimha Rao.”
Published in Washington DC’s “India Ink”, Guha, who was in the US to deliver a lecture hosted by the Georgetown University, said, one should remember, just as in the past, when the Congress was dominant system, “the BJP is now dominant.”
The interview acquires importance, as it was published of Nitish’s meeting with Sonia Gandhi on Thursday.
“Even in the Congress’s prime (50s and 60s) the ideals of the Congress were vigorously contested, be it Shyama Prasad Mukherjee from Jana Sangh, Acharya Kripalani or Lohia among Socialists or communists like AK Gopalan”, he says, adding, in the same way, “today the BJP will also be contested” whether it is Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal or Nitish Kumar in Bihar or Communists in Kerala, or intellectuals and civil society.
Calling Narendra Modi “a conflicted person”, Guha says, “One part of Narendra Modi wants to leave a positive legacy, he’s a phenomenally intelligent man. He knows if he’s going to build a Ram Temple, history’s not going to judge him well. But if he can help generate economic growth, reduce poverty, and skill Indian citizens he will leave a positive legacy. ”
Guha advises Modi to “take less advice from Amit Shah, because he has a very ruthless approach to politics”, adding, He needs Amit Shah, who’s a masterful organiser, but Amit Shah’s whole approach to politics is instrumental and vindictive.”
Comparing Modi with Shah, Guha says, Modi’s remark about Shamshan Ghat and Kabristan were not as dangerous as Amit Shah’s “Kasab remark, wherein he tried to be clever and say the opposing parties were like the 26/11 terrorist.”
He adds, “The benchmark for viciousness, vendetta politics and name calling is being set by Amit Shah. This is his style of politics and in my opinion it isn’t good, even people and senior ministers in the party fear him. He inspires respect through fear not through achievement.”
Guha regrets, “It seems Modi has increasingly capitulated to the Hindutva hardliners both intellectually and ideologically. Adityanath’s appointment is recent, but from 2014 if you look at the kind of appointments that were made, people who were sent as university vice-chancellors or the above examples you’ll see a clear trend.”
According to Guha, “On assuming office, Modi may have thought he will strike a deal with them wherein economic policy and foreign policy he would keep to himself but give the RSS a say in education and culture.”
“But”, he says, “Education and culture took over the national headlines, given all the absurd appointments to educational institutions such as Sudershan Rao and Gajendra Chauhan by Smriti Irani. So at the outset that was the kind of bargain he thought he could strike with the RSS.”