However, by design or otherwise, another member of the young brigade, central minister and Congressman Milind Deora has taken up cudgels against corruption and gone public with his demand that the Adarsh Housing Society scam must be effectively investigated and the guilty punished. The other interesting development in the struggle between the old guard and the young brigade is an attempt by the old guard to reverse the decision of the Congress, possibly taken at the behest of Rahul Gandhi and the young brigade, to unconditionally support the AAP in forming a government in Delhi.
It is natural for the old guard in political parties, bureaucracy and the police to be alarmed by the anti corruption election plank of the AAP and its adoption by the young brigade in the Congress. For decades, they have thrived from the Congress Party’s benign tolerance of corruption and amassed hundreds of millions, thousands of acres, tons of gold and lucrative benami properties.
They hold esteemed position in society and have started political dynasties, which they hope will last forever. They are aghast that their own scions are questioning their wisdom of turning a firm blind eye to corruption. The fear of being exposed and being held accountable by the long arm of law have unnerved them to rebel against the party policies.
History of Struggle
The history of struggle between the old guard and the young brigade is nothing new. Indira Gandhi, in her early days as Prime Minister, faced opposition from the ''Syndicate'' of old guards to her policies. She was bold enough to take them on in selection of the presidential candidate, preferring V V Giri to Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, backed by the “Syndicate.” Her candidate won and she packed off the old guards and established a new order.
Rajiv Gandhi was confronted by the old guards (his mother’s confidants or new order) on his attempts to clean up corruption and to introduce the Muslim Women’s Maintenance Bill in line of the Supreme Court judgment on the “Shah Bano” case. But he lacked the guts and political acumen of his mother.
He lamented that only 25 paise of each Rupee earmarked for development reached the poor but did nothing to check the leaks. The old guard made merry and ferried their spoils to undisclosed stashes and foreign tax havens. Only a few unfortunate ones like Sukh Ram were caught and convicted.
The battle between the old guards and the young brigade in the Congress has started again. The young brigade has rightly recognized that India and the Indian electorate are changing. One third of the Indian electorate is below 35 and in another five years, almost half of Indian electorate will be under 35, literate and social media savvy.
An army of RTI activists and investigating journalists are constantly unearthing instances of corruption. With media coverage of corruption reaching every corner of the country almost instantly, it is not possible to hide corruption the way it could be in the good old days. The stunning electoral victories of the poor man’s AAP and the Congress’ electoral rout in Delhi, Rajasthan and MP elections was proof enough for the skeptics to admit that honest politicians could win elections and that young India was fed up of the two timing dishonest and criminally oriented politicians and ready to throw them out. The young brigade therefore wants to opt for probity in public life to survive.
For the old guards, the stakes are too high. The Lok Pal Bill (whether adequate or inadequate) has been passed. Rahul Gandhi is pushing for four or five other anti corruption bills to be passed. AAP and BJP are promising to re-investigate closed cases. The old guard will therefore employ every trick in the trade to stall investigations and prevent the young brigade of the party to sideline them and take over the Congress party.
It will be interesting to see whether Rahul Gandhi has the guts of his grandmother to take on the old guard and rid the grand old Congress of its corrupt and criminal elements, bring transparency and probity in functioning of Congress governments and take the wind out of the sails of AAP and BJP and win back the confidence of the electorate before the Lok Sabha elections.
A lot will depend on whether he has the support of his mother in his endeavour. If he fails, it is curtains for the Congress in the next election.