Makarand Paranjape, your paeans to Nehru-Gandhi family remain unconvincing: Mayur Didolkar's open letter

First Published 31, Jan 2019, 5:30 PM IST
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Makarand Paranjape Nehru-Gandhi family unconvincing Mayur Didolkar open letter
Highlights

Here is my question- Who is more likely to become the Prime Minister? The son of a Shiv Sena leader or the son/daughter of the Gandhi dynasty? If we are not asking these questions to the national parties, what moral right do we have to hold the regional parties to these standards? 

Dear Makarand, 

I read your response to my rebuttal to your article about Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into active politics. While I had never expected you to change your opinion and agree with me, I was taken aback by the general tone of bitterness in your response towards me. Therefore, in this short response, I will address your faulty pigeon-holing of me, as well as some of your arguments about dynasty politics. 

To start with, your counter question about why BJP is no longer talking about Congress-mukt Bharat, I really don’t have an answer. I am not a BJP spokesperson. However, I have definitely seen the Congress lose an enormous amount of power over last ten years or so (last month’s Assembly wins notwithstanding) and so off-hand, I would say the jury is still out on that one. 

I also must point out the false equivalence you have drawn between Bushes-Kennedy-Treaudes with the Gandhi dynasty. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, therefore it is not sufficient to merely point at families from other countries (like Rahul Gandhi did in an interaction a couple of years back). For example, George W Bush’s political career began in 1978 with a failed bid to win a seat to the Congress. He worked on two presidential campaigns with his father, and then went on to win the governorship of Texas twice, the second time with a landslide 69% votes. 

Even while seeking Republican presidential nomination in 2000, he had to go through an 18-month primary campaign where 13 other candidates were vying for the same spot and had to fight nationwide primaries and caucuses with seven other candidates in order to earn his right to be the Republican candidate. His brother Jeb Bush, who had won two terms as Governor of Florida, contested for the Republican nomination in 2016 and lost to Donald Trump. Nobody in the Republican Party argued that he should be chosen unopposed because he was a president’s kid and another president’s brother. Do you still think Rahul Gandhi’s path to pre-eminence in his party is similar to the Bush brothers?

Your argument of the family as a primary transmitting unit of values is not without its merit. That said, I think even someone much less experienced than you will readily point out that the opposing family-based politics is not the same as opposing the structure of family itself. More power to Gandhi siblings if they share a close bond, but excuse me, if as a voter, I refuse to assign any importance to it in my assessment of their ideas. 

The argument about similar power structures being present in other parties including NDA is a fairly common one. 

But here is my question- Who is more likely to become the Prime Minister? The son of a Shiv Sena leader or the son/daughter of the Gandhi dynasty? If we are not asking these questions to the national parties, what moral right do we have to hold the regional parties to these standards? 

Two personal notes before we close. I do object to you referring to the RW while rebutting my article as I, by any measurable standards, am not a right-winger. First of all, I don’t think these labels have even marginal applicability in the context of Indian politics. Equally importantly, from RTE to temple control and from high taxes for rich to UBI, I have expressed my disagreements on more occasions than perhaps you have.  While I see the convenience if it was so, but my criticism of your article has absolutely nothing to do with the political ideology I follow. 

Equally objectionable is lumping my respectfully-worded rebuttal with the mocking and slandering that you might have been subjected to. Not only have I mentioned the purpose of this article was to take the debate away from a referendum of your motivations behind this article (the source of most of personal criticism that came your way) but I have actually defended your right to have a different opinion in a public discussion about your article. 

You have mentioned respecting the diversity of opinions, and yet by terming my objective criticism and fair questions as slandering and mocking, you have shown your own utter lack of respect for a view different than your own. You have lamented about people not respecting argument and deliberation and yet you have deemed a point by point rebuttal of my article as counter-productive. 

I painstakingly keep away from speculations of motives as that is the ugam-sthan of a lot of ad-hominem in today’s bitter and polarised discourse. That said, I must admit to the feeling that lumping me with those bullying and trolling you is a rather convenient exit out of a fact-based argument. 

Warm regards,

Mayur Didolkar 

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