Originally Published 2013-04-06 00:00:00 Published on Apr 06, 2013
It were thousands of village pradhans who had to be "empowered" as the nodal points most in contact with the people. Legislators and policy makers have to develop institutional mechanisms to liaise with the Pradhans who implement policy at the village level.
Empowering village pradhans for good governance
Not more than 200 people select the 5000 or so candidates who are elected as members of Parliament and State Assemblies. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, in his 75-minute talk, walking up and down the stage, at the Confederation of Indian Industries, on Thursday, was trying to make a simple point: an abysmal gap exists between the elected representatives and the country's one billion people.

As opposed to the Parliament and State Legislatures, there were 2.4 hundred thousand village Panchayats. It were these that had to be "empowered" as the nodal points most in contact with the people. Legislators and policy makers have to develop institutional mechanisms to liaise with the Pradhans who implement policy at the village level.

Sensible thought, you would say. But this was not why the Captains of Industry had packed the hall. They had come for hints of economic reforms, his prime ministerial intentions. On both these counts they drew a blank. But none of this distracted the evening show hosts from their fixation: a Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi showdown in the May 2014 General Elections!

The Indian middle class has been encouraged by the media to dream up a falsehood, that the country has miraculously acquired a two party system. This makes for lazy TV shows. Panels on these shows exhaust their lung power on Modi vs Rahul, when neither is a declared Prime Ministerial candidate.

There is, after all, the Karnataka state election next month. These will be followed by elections to Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh. If either Rahul or Modi (or both) are launched as star campaigners in these contests, pundits will have some data to legitimately gauge what is going on in the two main political parties. That still leaves out all the regional parties without whose support no government at the centre can be given shape.

It would not be too reckless to assume that the 2014 elections will yield a UPA III or an NDA II. An inversion of these formations is also possible, that is, coalitions supported from the outside by either of the two main parties. The tremendous sense of purpose with which Mamata Bannerjee has set about destroying her own image, opens up the possibility of the Left Front resuming a balancing role. Winning of 49 seats by the CPM out of 60 in Tripura Assembly last month should not be ignored.

Congress General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi's touching endorsement of a dual power centre flies straight into Digvijay Singh's belief in Rahul Gandhi being projected as the next Prime Minister. This has been his position since 2009.

How does one explain this open tiff? Expectations were low in the Congress prior to the 2009 elections. Manmohan Singh had asked his handpicked economic experts to look for pastures outside the government. He was himself surprised to find himself in harness post 2009.

At this time a three way tussle began between three coteries. Since the Congress's quantum leap from 145 seats in 2004 to 206 in 2009 was attributed to the Rahul factor, the PM's men by way of tactic reached out to absorb him in the cabinet. If Rahul were thus contained in the cabinet system, a third power centre would be obviated. This would also be less bothersome to the coterie around Sonia Gandhi. Despite machinations on all sides, the triangle could not be rubbed out.

And now that the post 2014 power structure is being contemplated, the Congress is once again examining various options. Manmohan Singh, not given to rash statements, has himself encouraged a line of speculation in which the "dual power structure" is not ruled out for the third time. This is where Janardan Dwivedi derives his confidence to endorse the Sonia-Manmohan duet.

What does Digvijay Singh do in these circumstances? Rahul Gandhi, just 43, has time enough to design the "Beehive" (as he told the CII) where a billion Indians will busy themselves. He will undertake countless train journeys like the one from Gorakhpur to Mumbai where Girish the carpenter opened his eyes to Indian optimism. This will be the material for his Discovery of India. Remember the Duke in As You Like It? In his idyllic life "exempt from public haunt", the Duke found "tongues in trees" books in the running brooks and sermons in stones.

Rahul will likewise not waste his time chatting up the media but build structures of governance reaching the last of the billion Indians in the remotest hamlet.

He will be 48 during the 2019 elections and only 53 for the 2024 election. By that time all other parties will have exposed themselves as rotten. Only the structures Rahul will have built will deliver unto him the absolute majority without which Prime Ministership is a crown of thorns.

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