India After Gandhi’s famed author has a view on Congress After Sonia, and it seems pretty interesting, unless you consider it too fanciful. He does, but calls it his personal fantasy.
"Nitish Kumar is a country-level leader without a party while Congress is a national party without a country-level leader…the Congress should let Nitish Kumar do a friendly takeover (and) Rahul Gandhi will do his party the greatest favour if he chooses another profession,” said the master chronicler of contemporary Indian politics, Ramachandra Guha, describing the fanciful scenario as his personal fantasy.
Guha has appeared in various interviews, including one with Barkha Dutt at the India International Centre and another with NDTV, as part of a promotional exercise for his smashingly successful tome, 'India After Gandhi,' that hit Indian bookstores with a bang in an updated 10th anniversary edition avataar.
His summarised version of India after 70 years of Independence: "India is a 50-50 democracy.”
Guha called Prime Minister Narendra Modi "the most driven Indian politician" and a master practitioner of the statecraft of politics, but had much disdain for Modi's main challenger Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of the Congress and widely seen as the man waiting in the wings to take over the party.
"I think Rahul Gandhi will do himself, the Congress party and his country the greatest favour if he were to just choose another profession."
His admiration for Nitish Kumar seemed boundless.
"Like Modi, he (Nitish) has no family burden, but, unlike Modi, he is not a megalomaniac. He is not sectarian and focuses on gender, a rare quality among Indian politicians," he said at the event at India International Centre. If Guha’s use of the word ‘burden’ to describe someone with filial ties was problematic, Barkha Dutt did not buttonhole him on that one.
"I think Rahul Gandhi will do himself, the Congress party and his country the greatest favour if he were to just choose another profession," Guha said in response to a question about the future of Congress in his tv interview. Guha’s book is virtually the only one of its kind that provides a narrative political history of post-Independence India.
Guha, who has been of late very disparaging about Indian political parties currently in opposition, told NDTV’s Nidhi Razdan, "Too many people are deluding themselves about the Congress party (and in future) may be we do not need the Congress party, or may be a (French president Emmanuel) Macron like figure will emerge." To Barkha Dutt, he said the best that the Congress can do by 2019 was to progress from 44 seats in the Lok Sabha to 100.
Suggesting a lifeboat scenario for what he clearly saw as a drowning party, Guha said it would be a dream scenario solution if the Congress was to give Nitish a walkover for a "friendly takeover of the (Congress) party" since the latter desperately needs a leader, someone that the Gandhi scion is certainly not.
"Like Modi, he (Nitish) has no family burden, but, unlike Modi, he is not a megalomaniac. He is not sectarian and focuses on gender, a rare quality among Indian politicians"
Guha called Modi "the master of symbolism" and hailed him for his unparalleled energy, and said Modi and Amit Shah are leaders in who "you get what you see".
He said many people had voted for Modi thinking he will eventually move away from the hardline Hindutva forces, but that has not happened, and so they have been disappointed. On the other hand, those who thought Modi will turn out to be a great economic reformer have also been disappointed.
He termed certain actions of Modi, such as refusing to meet Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in the wake of stone pelting spree and instead fobbing her off to Home Minister Rajnath Singh as reflecting a lack of sagacity and statesmanship.
"Though he is supposed to be a master of symbolism, he got that one wrong. It shows lack of sagacity and statesmanship," Guha said, adding he has updated 'India After Gandhi' with an epilogue covering the developments in the last ten years, the rise of Modi, the latest twists in Kashmir and the slide in the democratic functioning of India's public institutions.
Guha also said the Indian Army remained largely a secular, apolitical, plural institutions though there are some worrying signs. "We should worry, but not too much,” he said, while singling out the Army chief for criticism over his remarks about Kashmir’s stonepelters.