THE SUNDAY SENTIMENT October 27, 2013
How is shahzaada "undignified"?
Congress has taken exception to BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narinder Modi using the word "shahzaada" to refer to its Vice-President Mr. Rahul Gandhi. Calling upon him (Mr. Modi) to desist from using "undignified" language, Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi said their vice-president should be addressed in the same manner in which he addresses people.
The Congress reaction, on the face of it, displays over-sensitivity on the part of the party. The word "shahzaada" can, by no standards, be called or considered "undignified". On the use of word "shahzaada" Congress is fuming — and threatening Mr. Modi — the same Mr. Modi whom Mrs. Sonia Gandhi had no regrets to call "maut ka saudaagar". Shahzaada is an Urdu word meaning a "prince" which cannot be taken as "undignified".
It is true that the word "prince" or shahzaada is an antithesis to democracy. It revives in us the memories of a bygone era of monarchic governance. Yet, at the same time, we cannot deny the fact that since the times of late Mrs. Indira Gandhi in early seventies, even in Indian democracy the ruling Congress Party stands reduced to a dynastic entity where the crown prince is the apparent heir to the throne on relinquishing or death of the head of the ruling family. This transformation of Congress party into a dynastic organism has resulted in Indian democracy, in effective, turning into a dynastic democracy as for as the ruling party is concerned. First, Mrs. Gandhi groomed late Sanjay Gandhi and after his unfortunate death, made the reluctant Indian Airlines pilot, her elder son, Rajiv Gandhi as the heir apparent. This became a reality following her unfortunate assassination and the crown prince was elevated to the throne.
I am reminded of a prophetic comment by a journalist friend in Shimla. Following Mrs. Gandhi's death Doordarshan was giving live coverage to people queuing up before her body to pay their homage. Looking at Rajiv Gandhi and his son Rahul, then in early teens, my friend remarked, "We have a glimpse of three generations of our prime ministers — past (Mrs. Gandhi), present (Mr. Rajiv) and future (Mr. Rahul)".
Only exception to the rule during the last about 40 years was in 1991 when Mr. Rajiv was unfortunately killed. His widow, then, refused to take the reins of the party, then not in power but in opposition. Till then she had not thought it fit even to be an ordinary member of the Congress Party. In March 1996 she came out from her self-imposed political exile, joined the Congress and in just two months was catapulted into the position of national Presidentship of the party. She was, at one time, projected as the prime ministerial candidate and in what circumstances she renunciated her claim and brought in Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister is a matter of discussion and controversy.
In democracy, people are enrolled into party as ordinary members. They rise to be leaders through a long and tedious process of perseverance, strife and struggle. This is not true either of the three Gandhis — Mr. Sanjay or Mr. Rajiv Gandhi or Mrs. Sonia or now Mr. Rahul.
Since then in the ruling Congress Party dynasty has become the rule; democratic election of leader an exception. Like his father and in the present circumstances, how can calling Mr. Rahul as prince or shahzaada be irrelevant and wrong?
If Congress party, despite its claims to be a stickler to the principles of democracy, is not a political dynasty how is it that after some Congressmen entertained some doubts about the capability of Mr. Rahul Gandhi to steer the Congress boat out of the present turbulent times to the bank of power, some threw up the idea of Mrs. Priyanka Gandhi being made the leader instead of looking up to any person beyond the dynasty?
It is not only the Congress, the likes of Rashtriya Janata Dal of Bihar, National Conference in Kashmir, Samajwadi Party of Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav and the like, too are sailing in the same boat as far as dynastic politics is concerned.
The words shahzaada or sahibzaada we use in our day-to-day parlance. We call our friend or relation's son or daughter as "aapke shahzaade or shahzaadi or aapke sahibzaade or sahibzaadi". Nobody takes offence to such epithets.
We and our media are used to calling Mr. Amitabh Bacchan as shehanshah, Ms Lata Mangeshkar as "Melody Queen" and Mr. Shah Rukh Khan as "King