Do corporate values of individual efficiency and managerial acumen sit well in organised political life within a democratic constitutional structure?

I have heard Sachin Pilot say, more than once, how much his party has bestowed upon him, both in terms of responsibility and reward, through a young life.

World history may offer few parallels indeed: a member of parliament at 26, a member of the Union cabinet at 31, party president and deputy chief minister in Rajasthan at 40 odd.

Yet, he clearly thought he needed to go further in double quick time. Actually, not in double quick time, but now.

There is no question that his rewards, thus far, have come from proven individual merit and dedication to the tasks at hand.

Many media persons and political pundits feel that these corporate values of individual efficiency and managerial acumen should be inducted into political organisations as well.

Such a view sits well with an advancing capitalism that wishes to brook no hindrance from popular sentiments or democratic sanctities.

Sadly, it does seem that many young politicians of the day share these corporate instincts, Sachin Pilot among them. One recalls what Jyotiraditya Scindia had said when he broke with the party: “It is time to move on”— a rather quintessential terminology that belongs to corporate executives who seek better value for their expertise in competitor outfits.

The question to consider is how well this depoliticised and depoliticising perspective sits with organised political life within a democratic constitutional structure of the legitimation of power.

In that context, Sachin Pilot might well have asked himself that if indeed he was solely responsible for bringing the Congress back to power in Rajasthan, why could he not command the political allegiance of the elected legislators of the party?

Another poser might have been this: How would the party cadres and canny pundits have reacted had he been parachuted into the chief minister’s chair lacking the majority support of the elected legislators? Indeed, the same “high command” which is today predictably again being reviled for its inability to resolve the regional problem may have come in for greater denunciation for running rough-shod over the democratic will of the elected legislators. And, most of all, how may Gehlot have responded to such an imposition, given that he commanded a majority within the legislature party?

The fact is that many among the younger politicians no longer feel the same sense of accountability to the electorate as older ones do. For many of them, the electoral process seems just a necessary nuisance to underwrite the assumption of authority, after which managerial merit must eject democratic answerability and allegiance.

It is therefore sad and disturbing that someone as intelligent as Sachin Pilot should have wished to be installed as chief minister without the endorsement of the Rajasthan legislature party.

And the results of his “vaulting ambition” seem to have scarred this outstanding young worker on a long-term basis within his party.

What must be said in his praise is that, unlike Scindia of Madhya Pradesh, his ideological commitment to secular and modernist values may be too strong for him to pass over to the Hindutva camp. Thus far, this seems a warranted conclusion when one assesses both his public and private life.

But here is the catch: Is Ashok Gehlot factually on sound grounds to accuse him of having hobnobbed with the Bharatiya Janata Party for horse-trading? That Gehlot claims to have proof is worrying, since, if established to be correct, this may cause Pilot even greater loss of political and personal credibility. One hopes that such will not be the case.

For his part, Gehlot must acknowledge that he has failed over the last year and a half to accommodate and appreciate Pilot as Nehru did Patel. And such failure of imagination and recognition from a sworn votary of Nehru must be counted a grievous fault of leadership qualities and democratic sharing. If Nehru could at all times acknowledge Patel’s merits and indispensability, so should Gehlot have, vis-à-vis Sachin Pilot.

Meanwhile, the impugned “high command”— or what is left of it — must find itself in an unlovely dilemma. Does it overlook the Pilot revolt in a hurry and restore him without penitence, thereby alienating Gehlot who commands the loyalty of the legislators, or does it persuade Pilot to cool his damaged heels for a while, do some hard introspection, count his many blessings, and work politically to find his place in the order of things?

And, will Pilot in turn be successfully able to disprove his alleged complicity in seeking to bring down the Gehlot government, or will this shadow hang over him to his certain detriment?

The worst thing he can do, of course, is to go over to the saffron camp; not that floating his own outfit will be any the easier option. Rarely have those flourished who have taken that route out of the grand old party.

In a larger context of current history, what he might commit to the Congress is that he will initiate a movement among the marginalised minorities of India, and turn this George Floyd moment of global history to produce a new people’s thrust for justice and correction.

Such a course could yield both for him and the party a direction that has been wanting, and that is most needed by the polity.

Badri Raina
The Writer has taught at Delhi University

Courtesy The Wire