The eminent Marxist economist and intellectual Ashok Mitra, who is reputed to take a view different from the official left line, has penned an article titled- For the Nation’s Sake- The Congress Deserves To Give Itself A Second Chance– that appeared on December 05, 2013, in The Telegraph newspaper from Kolkata. The writer is of the opinion that in the current political scenario when a non-Congress and non-BJP alternative is not visible, India’s democratic and secular polity has no other choice but to go for the Congress.
He has projected a view that the Taliban will further consolidate in Pakistan in the event of the BJP forming a government in India. Hostilities would grow between India and Taliban influenced Pakistan and a spate, which may continue for a few decades even, of unrest, would ensue. He then underlines importance of finding ways and means to decrease the possibility of the BJP, and to increase the chances of the Congress, that is otherwise down due to large scale corruption and virulent inflation, of coming into power.
To quote him, “In any event, the coming of power by a party that propagates religious activism in the world’s largest democracy is bound to attract some international attention. The Islamic world, the Taliban in particular, would sit up…. It is, therefore, not altogether unreasonable to think of ways and means whereby the possibility of a relatively easy BJP success in the coming Lok Sabha polls can be reduced. Whether one likes it or not, the feasible alternative appears to be to launch efforts that might enhance the prospects of the Congress, which, reports suggest, is, at the moment, in a somewhat demoralized state.”
He then proceeds to suggest what can be done at this moment of time to realize his project. Judging that nothing can be done at the policy level that could tilt the situation in favor of the Congress in four months of time between now and the parliamentary elections, he turns to point out individuals who can prove a match to the BJP prime minister candidate. First of all, he dismisses the name of Rahul Gandhi as the Congress prime minister candidate who according to him cannot meet the challenges posed by the BJP prime minister candidate.
The Congress leaders Digvijay Singh and A K Antony, the Defence Minister, are the two politicians who if anointed the prime minister candidate by the Congress party can brighten up the prospects of the Congress in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Digvijay Singh is not only aggressive and experienced but also has the added quality of being a ‘fierce family loyalist’. But Digvijay is ruled out as he has many enemies within the Congress. Lastly he has pinned hopes on A K Antony ‘who was such a combative Congress chief minister in a state like Kerala for long years, has an extraordinary reputation for probity, is altogether non-controversial and acceptable to all sections of the party’ to take on the BJP prime minister candidate.
This is where his imagination can be said to have faltered and failed him to go a little further in taking names of some other individuals who can suit his line of thinking. Call it caste prejudices or caste blindness that makes him unable to see the importance of the names of Dalit Congress leaders such as Sushil Kumar Shinde or Meera Kumar or for that matter anyone else of a lower caste background. His caste blindness does not allow him to appreciate how the lower caste background of BJP prime minister candidate has caught the attention and imagination of lower caste people of this country and, thus, has made him a formidable candidate. If only his imagination had not been limited by his caste blind approach he could have gone on arguing on the line of: if BJP can make a lower caste leader its prime minister candidate, why cannot the Congress, with the same social character as the BJP, do the same?
Ashok Yadav, is an author and is associated with the All India Federation of OBC Employees Welfare Association.