USS passe rani hai, iss passe Gandhi!”
(“On that side is the Queen, on this is Gandhi)
Nawan Punjab Party’s candidate ex MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi’s election campaign and the way he projected his appeal as ‘battle against the royals’ had rightly evoked interest in a section of the media as well as pro-people circles.(https://www.newsclick.in/electoral-mobilisation-vehicle-rainbow-social-coalition)
It is of interest to know that in this era of money and muscle power politics the campaign was largely run on support generated by people. What is also notable (-do-) that the campaign was successful in building a social coalition – cutting across various fissures in our society – and could challenge “populist fascism of the Bharatiya Janata Party, patronage-based populism of the Congress, and a fractious identity politics of SAD which cannot see beyond its narrow aims. “.
Those who know Dharamvira Gandhi cannot but have admiration for his selfless dedication to the people, for his long and committed association with the revolutionary left movement, for his lifelong struggle for social justice, and for his love for the masses. Those who would have seen his election campaign would see it as a model for how election campaigns should be run. Given the kind of politicians we have around and the kind of election campaign we have suffered at the national level, it says a lot about Dharamvira. There is much to learn for proponents and supporters of alternative politics from his work as a popular doctor and a social-political activist.
And yet questions remain. Serious questions remain. Can it be that a good politics at the local level goes against a desirable politics at the national or larger level? Can it be that a good fight at the local level weakens the fight that must be fought against the monstrous enemy at the national level?
The example of Dharamvira’s close comrade in the AAP days, Yogendra Yadav, sheds light on the kind of politics that this stream enunciated in 2012-13. Of course Kejriwal has shown his true colours in the interim years and there is disillusionment about his brand of politics even among large sections of his erstwhile followers. But has lessons been learnt? Yogendra Yadav promoted the NOTA option in these elections and now he wants Congress to be dead. One desirable death that should be obvious to any right thinking Indian should be that of the BJP. Win or lose, Congress has been the main electoral Party challenging the fascistic forces of whom Modi is the political embodiment. It should be clear that no regional party or movement, no social movement or none of the existing left forces can defeat BJP while fighting Congress at the same time. Maintaining equal distance from both Congress and BJP cannot be a sane politics in the current electoral arena. To wish death to Congress at this moment – who will be the ultimate beneficiary?
This example is not unconnected with Gandhi’s political predicament. The political path he chose six years ago has led him to less than desirable choices. On the surface there is recognition that Kejriwal represents a malignant brand of politics. But the deeper logic is still not recognized. His original choice has tied him to a politics where opposition to BJP and the Sangh Parivar is far less operative than opposition to Congress. This does not fit with what should be the politics of someone like Dharamvira Gandhi who undoubtedly has an impeccable record of service to the people.
Emphasis on federative structure of the Indian republic, ( https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/will-fight-for-punjabs-autonomy-within-the-union-pda/article26695687.ece), on demands of Punjab as a state, on honestly serving the people of a given parliamentary constituency – all fade in political insignificance when compared with what must be the central political task and central political strategy of any progressive politician who has decided to operate in the electoral arena.
This, then, is the predicament of Dharamvira Gandhi. He does all the desirable and laudable things at the local level. And yet, all this does not add up to or contribute to that one good thing that must be accomplished at the national, at the ideological, and at the strategic level.