Flanked by Azad (left) and Gundu Rao, Rajiv is led in a cheering procession to town: a reunion of old friendsIt was democracy – Congress style. The ‘decisions’ were all taken earlier, the ‘choice’ had really been made – it only needed a crowd to put a ritualistic seal of,Flanked by Azad (left) and Gundu Rao, Rajiv is led in a cheering procession to town: a reunion of old friendsIt was democracy – Congress style. The ‘decisions’ were all taken earlier, the ‘choice’ had really been made – it only needed a crowd to put a ritualistic seal of approval, to punctuate the pre-programmed computer-tape with a few ‘live’ cheers. No issue was at stake; no programme needed to be thrashed out.Of course it could not have been otherwise in the Congress(I), a party which is free to choose its leader only from one family. In a whole decade, the party had witnessed no internal election, no conference to sort out issues through open debates. It meets only to rubber-stamp decisions taken at the top.The eye-catching pageantry at Bangalore made debates and disagreements irrelevant. The 50-feet paper board cut-out of Sanjay flanked by those of his mother, brother and Man Friday Gundu Rao, the weighty Karnataka chief minister scowled hard at the busy traffic down Queen’s Circle. Along the 12-kilometre route from airport to city, loudspeakers blared forth taped greetings of ‘Rajiv Gandhi Zindabad’. By all reckoning political sycophancy had come of age.No Santa Claus could have offered so much allurement, loaded in one stocking, to the late Sanjay Gandhi’s pocket borough, the Indian Youth Congress(I). In one blockbuster national convention, the first in the ’80s so far, the long-forgotten ‘Sanjay brigade’ leapt back into the glare of the arc-lamps.To the 40,000 delegates who thronged the convention arena at the lavishly decorated Bangalore palace grounds, renamed Sanjay Nagar, it was like a reunion of old school buddies; the months in the wilderness, when they had drifted apart, could do nothing to undermine the school badge and the school colour. They only needed to sing ‘auld lang syne’ to the popping of champagne corks.Rajiv alighted at the airport to a flourish of the traditional Kerala drum, was greeted by a bevy of 11 Kannada beauties (the number is auspicious), donned a turban, sported a tilak and graciously waved away a float sent to fetch him by Rao’s alter ego F. M. Khan and decorated – thoughtfully – like an aircraft. “Making a leader to order”: the Indian Express headlined a stinging editorial-page article on the convention.advertisementSuccession Drama: For the faithful, it was yet another apostolic succession. Said Ghulam Nabi Azad, 33, the cherub-faced president of the organisation, and the party’s man of the times: “It is in the fitness of things that Rajivji has agreed to lead our organisation after Sanjayji. This will help us in fulfilling the unfinished tasks of Sanjayji.” -4 cut-out of Sanja) totrers over the delegates: return of the faithfulThe declared tasks include Sanjay’s Five-Point Programme with one rider piggybacking on the Boy Scout chore – blood donation camps. However, the undeclared task of the convention was to reactivate the nine-day wonder of youth power to launch Rajiv to a safe and high orbit.There was no dearth of men willing to play the chorus to the glittering succession drama. Nor was there any lack of nostalgic throw-backs to the 1976 Gauhati session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) where the younger ‘son’ rose, “stealing”, as the mother then said, the party’s “thunder”-or whatever was left of the thunder. At Bangalore, said Sitaram Kesri, the rubber-stamp AICC(I) treasurer: “Rajiv too has stolen the thunder.” Kesari might have run out of phrases, but still possessed the shrewdness of street-wise politicians which told him which way the wind blew.The business of stealing thunders dominated the Bangalore show. It certainly stole the thunder of the parent AICC(I). No function recently organised by the AICC(I), the Pradesh Congress Committees-I (PCC-I) or any of the front organisations attracted as much media interest and public attention as the Bangalore convention did.Rao established his credentials as a fund-grabber as he single-handedly helped the organisers raise nearly Rs 1.5 crore for the function. The VIPs present included 18 members of the Union council of ministers, over 60 state government ministers, three chief ministers besides Rao, four AICC(I) general secretaries, 200 MPs and over 900 ML As from all over the country.Big Arrangements: It was hard-sell all the way. Nine special trains converged on Bangalore with ferryloads of ‘delegates’. The heavyweights were all put up at five-star hotels and guest houses, where they ate six-course dinners after handing over free coupons. Others were kept at comfortable tents dotting 800 acres of the sprawling greens.At the main pandal, which covered 4,800 square metres, closed circuit TV sets added the right touch of “competence” and “effectiveness” to the scene-the things that Rajiv is known to value. The odd man out was Nar Bahadur Bhandari, the 37-year-old chief minister of Sikkim, who crossed two mountain ranges -the Himalayas and the Vindhyas to attend the convention because he felt it was “our duty”.The first ‘duty’ of the delegates was of course to Rajiv; the Youth Congress(I) and the AICC(I) came much later. The 18 speakers at the convention spoke in one voice about Rajiv; he was the Indian version of the “great helmsman” who was often referred to as the “only ray of hope”.advertisementRao, who has a perfect sense of melodrama, brought in his own variation when he first urged the crowd to shout ‘Rajiv Gandhi zindabad’ and then. after a pause, yelled into the microphone: “Now shout louder and still louder, till Mrs Gandhi can hear you sitting in New Delhi.”Nobody present at the convention had any doubt about Mrs Gandhi’s sole intention -to get an endorsement by the Youth Congress (I) of her son’s new political status. And nobody was in any apparent disagreement with her view on the subject.It was an army of robots, with their electronic brains pre-programmed to sing hosannas only to the Gandhis. Jagdish Tytler, the bearded president of the Delhi Pradesh Youth Congress Committee(I) who is lately working overtime to get rid of his Sanjay-man image and gain Rajiv’s favour, pronounced donnishly: “the Congress has a 100-year history of which 70 years belong to the Nehru family. We, therefore, support the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi who represents the saga of sacrifices made by the Nehru family.”Charade Repeated: The invocation of the “family’s sacrifices”, the inspired forays into the history of the Indian freedom movement in an attempt to blot all non-Nehrus out of it-these are but the unique features of the Youth Congress culture.At Gauhati, when Ambika Soni, as the then president of the organisation, invited Sanjay Gandhi to provide leadership to it, she mouthed the same shibboleth and was blessed with an identically gullible audience. It was the same charade in Bangalore: only the actors had changed.Gundu Rao and Azad share a joke while Rajiv listens to Union Minister A. P. Sharma: days are here againThe political resolution adopted at the convention itself set the tone of sycophancy. It read: “The Indian Youth Congress(I) unanimously calls upon Shri Rajiv Gandhi to come forward and accept its leadership in the implementation of its policies and programmes to build India as a self-reliant and strong nation in the world and assures him of its fullest determination and commitment to achieve these objectives.”It was of course a ritualistic invitation to leadership, like the city mayor handing over a symbolic key to a distinguished guest. But, quite regardless of the distinction between gesture and action, Tariq Anwar, a general secretary of the Youth Congress(l), rushed to the microphone to announce that Rajiv had “agreed to lead” the organisation.In fact, just as he had waved back Khan’s aircraft-shaped float, Rajiv declined to assume titular responsibility. “They have said they will follow whatever lead I give,” he later told newsmen. It was a neat way of saying neither ‘yes’ nor.’no’-not that an answer was really called for.Rajiv himself got into the spirit of the convention in right earnest when he took his earlier controversial remarks on the subject of corruption one slightly lurching step forward. Fresh from his view that Maharashtra Chief Minister A.R. Antulay’s antics did not “really qualify as corruption” but amounted to “misuse of official machinery”, he told the assembled legions at Sanjay Nagar that just as there had been a lot of propaganda about the Youth Congress and family planning during the Emergency, there was a similar propaganda – and “a lot of woolly talk” -about corruption.advertisementWoolly thinking apart, this was no less than a sort of self-anointing of the youthful Lok Sabha member from Amethi into the political morality of the ruling party. “Mr Clean, did you say,” remarked journalist and political critic Arun Shourie, “He is Mr Whitewash.”While that was a characteristically pointed remark, there was no doubt that Rajiv, from the moment he stepped on Karnataka soil, was very much the young leader in the making. Far from discouraging the sycophancy, he was completely at ease throughout the session, wearing his typically fresh, white khadi kurta pyjamas, a starched Gandhi cap perched on his head. But the dais was the closest the delegates got to him. Far from emulating his brother and mingling with the masses, Rajiv kept an aloof distance shuttling between Kumara Krupa, the Karnataka Government’s sprawling guest house where he stayed, and Sanjay Nagar, with occasional detours for meals with the chief minister-and one public procession and meeting.Among those basking in reflected glory was Bangalore’s Police Commissioner A. R. Nizamuddin who was seldom more than a whisper away from Rao and his distinguished guest. Delegates who hoped he would tour the encampment were disappointed, as were the crowds at the Kantheerava stadium public meeting.No audience sits still for long, and there was a distinct note of unease in Rajiv’s neat homily to emulate the spirit of the Independence movement in the fight against poverty, when he saw sections of the audience emptying out. No practised orator, Rajiv was handicapped by having to speak in English and have his words translated, point by point, into Kannada.The budding politician had a better rapport with the convention audience whom he addressed once -first in Hindi and then in English. The brunt of his message was no great revelation: apart from the customary invocation to emulate the struggle for Independence, Rajiv’s main concerns were to get the Youth Congress involved in Mrs Gandhi’s 20-point programme and Sanjay’s 5-point programme and to counter what he saw were the Opposition’s efforts to destroy the nation.Rajiv took the inherited programmes only one step forward when he told the Youth Congress(I) that the ’80s were the decade of rural development. It was, however, his press conference which showed Rajiv off at his somewhat controversial best. He was curt, arrogant, witty and even, on occasions, rude. A smile played constantly on his lips and he seemed to enjoy the banter and light digs at the press. And it was little surprise that except on a few occasions, the city’s newshounds were no match for his rapacious wit or his ability to leave everything unsaid.The fundamental question is, of course, why the Youth Congress(I) needs a messiah to deliver itself? Why does it bend over backward to enlist Rajiv as its supremo when it has its own national council and president to turn to for leadership? Or, is there something phoney about the authority supposedly enjoyed by Azad and his six-man secretariat? Is there a problem of identity which the organisation cannot solve without invoking the weighty name of a Gandhi?Debaprasad Roy, the articulate general secretary of the Indian Youth Congress(I) who speaks with a candour quite uncharacteristic of the Congressmen of the Sanjay-Rajiv era, admitted: “We’ve no identity without the Gandhi family.”His look suggested that it was a painful admission. almost a confession of failure. He gently added: “There’ve been rebels galore. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Ambika Soni, both former presidents, who thought that they could do without Mrs Gandhi and her family. Where are they now? They can reach, at best, a few thousand people. And that’s all. But you reach the millions only if you’re with the Gandhis.”Roy’s practical wisdom, though shared by almost everyone at the convention, was nevertheless buried under piles of obsequious phrases, such as desk ke naujavanon ke dil ki dharkan Rajiv Gandhi-the heartbeat of the nation’s youth, Rajiv Gandhi. And Rajiv’s own reaction to such blatant acts of toadyism was nonchalant, verging on a practised acceptance, in sharp contrast to the diffidence of his political weaning.A view of the ornately decorated dais: safe platform for RajivBack-slide: For the Youth Congress(I) hard core, which was handpicked by Sanjay, being consecrated again by Rajiv was something like receiving manna from the heavens. After Sanjay’s death in June 1980, many of his cronies-often ridiculed as ‘Sanjay’s orphans’-slid back into backwaters of politics. One of them, Sarabjeet Singh, a former Youth Congress(I) general secretary, now runs a small printing press in New Delhi’s Connaught Circus. Another luminary of the Youth Congress(I), Akbar Ahmed, who was regarded as Sanjay’s closest ‘personal friend’, now spends his time looking after his family farm in Nainital.Right from the beginning, Rajiv – the Mr Clean – sought to surround himself with a cordon sanitaire against the Sanjay-men who carried a lot of baggage with them from the Emergency days. Some of these men-like Ahmed-were indeed banished into the wilderness. Even Tytler, who had been charged with many an excess during the Emergency, was bluntly sent packing by Rajiv’s men from the prime minister’s house, where he held office.Ram Chandra Rath, MP, and a Sanjay-appointee as the organisation’s president, was suddenly found to have crossed the upper age ceiling of 35 years and was asked to leave. Kamal Nath, once Sanjay’s right hand man, was reduced to the role of a supporting actor on the Madhya Pradesh stage. Though there was hardly any ‘purge’, the organisation as a whole came under a cloud. It was-for purposes of hygiene -tucked away from the living area to be left in a corner. But modern technology, mercifully, knows how to recycle garbage.Come-back: As the Youth Congress(I) needed Rajiv Gandhi (or “any of the Gandhis”, to go by Roy’s lament of despair), so did Rajiv need the Youth Congress(I): it had to be recycled. For one thing, as a former minister put it, “The Youth Congress has to be given a role, otherwise it will become a forum for bickering and careerism.” For another, here was the suppressed energy of a large number of young men who had tasted power -and could not be expected to acquiese to their eclipse.However, the eclipse of the organisation as a whole was brief; from June 1980 till April of the next year. In April, when Rajiv decided to join politics, the first step he took was to disinfect the youth organisation. At his advice, and Mrs Gandhi’s command, the 48-member national council of the organisation was reconstituted. As many as 20 MPs were inducted into it, including Arun Nehru, executive-turned-politician and’ Rajiv’s close confidante.Soon after, Rajiv donned the khadi cap, was elected MP and nominated a member of the national council. The set-up’s crucial future importance was recognised at last; it was destined to become Rajiv’s, and Mrs Gandhi’s, commando battalion to be unleashed in times of need, just as Sanjay used it after his mother’s electoral debacle in 1977.Little Change: Even during its temporary eclipse immediately after Sanjay’s death, the organisational structure of the Youth Congress(I) was disturbed but little. Ofthe nine state and union territory units of the Youth Congress(I) in India, which furnished the sinews of the organisation, the president of only one-the Rajasthan unit-was replaced. At lower levels, there was hardly any change. It served two purposes: first, it made the change of guard at the top an unobtrusive affair; and, it did not shake the faith of the common workers.Since April last year, when the national council was reconstituted, Azad, as the new president, took heed of Rajiv’s advice to make the organisation go through all the motions of an active body. The Youth Congress(I) hardly played any meaningful political role during this period; in fact, it fell back on its pre-1977 social-worker image, thus keeping a profile too low to cause worry to the parent body but, at the same time, high enough to occupy a corner in public memory.Though never hotly publicised in the media, throughout last year the Youth Congress(I) observed programmes such as:holding a Sanjay Gandhi fortnight all over the country during June 23-July 7, in which 11,000 rallies were organised, 35,000 volunteers donated 8 million cubic centimetres of blood, and an impressive 2 million posters were stuck in a campaign against dowry;organising over 1,000 blood donation camps on August 15;celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on October 2 at 200 places in the country, again accompanied by workers donating blood;holding, on October 12, a two-day zonal convention of the units in the north-eastern states-not particularly hospitable ground for any Congress(I) outfit-at Shillong, with Rajiv inaugurating it;observing, dutifully, Mrs Gandhi’s birthday on November 19 as the National Integration Day with 260 big and small meetings to mobilise support for her 20-Point Programme; andorganising over 1,000 rallies on December 14 to celebrate Sanjay’s 35th birthday as the Youth Day.Final Act: The culminating act was of course the national convention at Bangalore last month where the Youth Congress(I) was officially acknowledged as the safe platform for Rajiv to embark upon his conquest of the party – and. in return, be given a much-needed public shot in the arm. Rajiv himself exhorted new initiatives from his cadres when he told them: “Recently there has been a lot of talk within the Youth Congress that we are not given recognition and responsibility. But recognition is not given from the top, it is won by hard work from below.”However, some Congress(I) insiders who are watching the show from a distance believe Rajiv needs the Youth Congress(I) now more than the Youth Congress(I) needs him. As it is, he entered politics rather late, at least much later than his brother Sanjay. Moreover Sanjay had a head start having come to prominence with several years of behind the scenes activity. Temperamentally, he was most suited to the political bazaar: quick and decisive, able to give as good as he got, inspire fierce loyalty and cut corners where necessary. His hold on the party was becoming unshakeable. Rajiv, who prefers persuasion, will find it increasingly more difficult to keep the party together.Initially Rajiv tried to make his presence felt in the party by reposing his entire trust in the Congress(l) chief ministers and the AICC(I) general secretaries. But he could not control the infighting. The fiasco over Antulay’s trusts, and the consequent confusion in the Maharashtra unit of the party. further shook Rajiv’s confidence in the chief ministers. “These days Rajiv is getting cynical about the senior leaders,” said a close aide.There is not much time at Rajiv’s disposal either. “He must make his mark in the 1985 elections”: says almost everyone in Rajiv’s personal outfit. But, if he has to run for the number two position in the Union Cabinet, and give it a veneer of legitimacy, he has to pack the next Parliament with a large number of his loyal supporters. “The existing Congress(I) chief ministers cannot deliver the goods for Rajiv,” said a former Union minister, weighing the possibilities.Naturally, Rajiv has to lean on the Youth Congress(I) more and more, giving it. by doses, the political edge that it had enjoyed when Sanjay was fighting the courts and the commissions of enquiry almost entirely with its support. It is, all said and done, a perfect shock brigade, a private panzer division with its own reserve of small-time fund-raisers, local bullies, political workers and resourceful go-getters.From Calcutta to Bombay, and Srinagar to Madras, the Youth Congress(I) represents a particular social phenomenon which is essentially a product of the ’70s. Inhabiting the rather wide twilight world between neighbourhood toughs and organised political force, the boys in their starched khadi kurta-pajamas were called out whenever the parent party fell in trouble.In West Bengal, it is the same lumpen army which fought the Naxalites on the streets, and. later on, joined hands with them to rig the assembly polls and defeat the Marxists in 1972. In Andhra Pradesh, it is the same Youth Congress that enabled the chief minister, Vengala Rao, to hunt down peasant revolutionaries.In Delhi, the same boys stormed the courts to torpedo the legal process started by the Janata government to bring Sanjay to book. Azad was hinting at this omnipresence when he mused: “Name one district where we don’t have a unit? We’re everywhere. Our office bearers alone are 150,000 in number.”Fighting Band: Like ants crawling out from woodwork, the Youth Congress legions are always ready to respond to the distress signals from the parent party.Rajiv’s decision to play ‘Mr Whitewash’ with the Youth Congress(I) was meant to sprinkle cologne water on this wild bunch and keep it ready for use. He will need its help more and more in the future months, in the by-elections, the coming state elections, and, finally, when the drums roll for the 1985 general elections. Even the immediate tasks are quite daunting. Elections will be due this year in Jammu and Kashmir, where SheikhAbdullah’s National Conference reigns supreme; in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi-where the Congress(I) base is fast eroding; in West Bengal and Tripura, the Marxist bastions. There is a distinct possibility of a mid-term election in Kerala where the Congress(I) has just succeeded in toppling an enemy government but may not have won the hearts of the people.In 1971, the Congress was able to turn the tables on a strong opposition only because the youth force had come to its rescue. It is only in 1977 that even the Youth Congress could not save the party from defeat, so monumental were its lapses and excesses.But, again, in 1980, Sanjay managed to deploy the Youth lobby again, this time with devastating effect, on the opposition parties. Said Sanjay Singh who found himself transformed from an outcast to a Rajiv vote-getter in Amethi: “Youth Congress is the backbone of the party.” The idea moved Azad to poetry: inaugurating the session, he reached for a line from Words-worth to say, “The child is father of the man.”Big Faction: Sanjay established his vicelike grip on the party in the 1980 parliamentary and assembly elections simply by ensuring the nomination of large groups of Youth Congress workers. In the bargain, 180 of the 352 Congress(I) MPs turned out to be Youth Congressmen; in the state assemblies, every fourth Congress(I) MLA is from the youth organisation.Rajiv has to follow in his brother’s footmarks if he wants to achieve the same objective, that is, of first stuffing the state assemblies and, later, the Parliament with his followers; and, then, using their support to pack the Union and state cabinets with his chosen minions.Azad (left) and Rajiv : vague ideologyAn AICC(I) general secretary possibly had this scenario worked out in mind when he glanced into his crystal ball and said: “After Mrs Gandhi Rajiv will surely become the chief executive” of the State; but this will happen through democratic process.”However, the parent organisation is too riven with tension and squabbles to provide even a semblance of support to Rajiv at this moment. Of the 18 Congress(I) chief ministers, only three – in Orissa. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh – have been able to keep their respective PCC(I) on a tight leash.At the headquarters of the AICC(I) in New Delhi, five of the six general secretaries have made it their sole mission to needle chief ministers in their home states, or states under their charge. The sparring game between Antulay and the powerful general secretary Vasantrao Dada Patil, has already become a legend. In Karnataka, where the Youth Congress(I) convention was held, the chief minister and the state Congress(I) chief, K. P. Rathod, are locked in a long war of attrition.Total Paralysis: The infighting has kept the party in a state of near-coma. So total was its paralysis that weeks after the carnage at Dehuli and Sadhupur in Uttar Pradesh, where 34 people were massacred by dacoits, the Congress(I) could hold not a single procession or peace march. The leadership repeatedly had to postpone its decision to hold party elections; so complete has been the effect of internal bickering.While the PCC(I)s lapsed into inaction, the Opposition was slowly inching ahead. 1981 was of course a bad year for the Opposition when it lost nearly all by-elections except in the Marxist citadels of West Bengal and Tripura.But as the year rolled out, there were signs of scale-tipping. At Sagar in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress(I) conceded defeat to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) even though Rajiv spent three days there campaigning for the party candidate.Veteran AICC(I) leaders too admit that there is a subtle change in the direction of the wind; they attribute it to the appalling extent of infighting in the party. Said Antulay: “I can take care of the opposition parties because they make no impact on the people. But I am helpless when some of my own colleagues in the high command are actively colluding with these forces.” vRajiv is obviously on the right track now, which is to short-circuit the main party and rely on the Youth Congress(I). Here again comparison with Sanjay becomes unavoidable, because Sanjay did the same thing with a rare panache, so far unmatched by his brother.The first thing that Sanjay did was to dab out the last trace of ideology from the organisation. “The youth should be neither left nor right,” said the departed guru. It helped him in many ways: giving legitimacy to hisfight against alleged crypto-communists within the organisation and, at the same time, it provided him with a bulwark against infiltration from the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).Vague Ideology: The Youth Congress(I) under Rajiv is yet to strike such a posture of opportunistic nihilism, though the ideological content of the political resolution adopted at Bangalore is vague to the point of bankruptcy. In Sanjay’s case, the ideology of no-ideology was a political ploy; in the case of the Youth Congress(I) in transition, it was plain illiteracy.It is no wonder, therefore, that Rajiv himself railed at intellectuals (because ideology begins with them) at his press conference, observing that “it is only in India that intellectuals call themselves intellectuals”. This, in itself, was a faint echo of Sanjay who remarked in Calcutta in 1976 with his characteristic bluntness: “Intellectuals are bad.”However, the political resolution at Bangalore talks of adopting “constitutional procedures” and pays lip-service to well-known cliches of the day. It dutifully tilted at the Opposition wind-mill, but when it came to defining the role of the youth, it only listed objectives that are highly laudable for organisations like the Rotary Club but of dubious political value. The resolution called upon the youth, with due solemnity, to work for improvement of women’s life, to plant more trees, to fight corruption and to eradicate illiteracy.There was hardly a word on the political system the Youth Congress(I) wanted to initiate. In an interview, Azad talked vaguely about ‘socialism’ but hastened to add that all he meant was its purely desi and undefined variant. So little value was attached to the political resolution by the organisers themselves that copies of it were hardly distributed outside the press enclosure. Said Amarjeet Singh, a delegate from Punjab, with charming simplicity: “Nothing was distributed apart from the meal coupons. No, I certainly haven’t received this resolution that you mention.”Resolution: However, the convention still went through the motions of a political meet. The I3-paragraph economic resolution – equally soft-pedalled – sang bhajans to the various economic measures lately taken by the Government to lift the nation’s economy out of “stagnation as a result of the Janata mis-management”. It commended the Government on every score; from efforts to set up bio-gas plants to measures undertaken for family planning. It rounded oil with plaudits to 20-plus-5 point programmes.The common thread that meandered through all resolutions and speeches was the bogey of the Opposition. The overture was sung by Mrs Gandhi herself when she said in a message to the convention: “It is a jnatter of- regret that the opposition parties, in following their sectarian objectives and their policies of opportunism and vindictiveness, are unmindful of the harm they cause to the national unity, cohesion and interest. The task of the Youth Congress now is to support the forces of cohesion. They must resist the wreckers; only then they can build.”Taking the cue from her, rows of speakers hurled the choicest of abuses at the Opposition; one of them – perhaps in an autobiographical mood – described the entire Opposition in one sweep as “buffoons”. Said Anand Sharma, the newly appointed general secretary of the organisation: ‘Opposition parties are subverting the economy. By giving calls for Bharat Bandh at :his critical moment, they’re destroying the economic fabric of the country.”Blank Cheque: The anti-Opposition tirade and the small talks about economics and politics were but mere trivialities com-tared to the future scenario of the Youth Congress(I) politics. The organisation, as its present mood suggests, is definitely willing to give Rajiv a blank cheque as far as its support goes. But it is going to ask its price.Maganbhai Barot, Union deputy minis-er for finance, who addressed the conention, announced that “the Central Government, under the dynamic leadership if Shrimati Gandhi, has decided to bring 1.5 rore families above the poverty line by 985 by providing them loans and grants. Who will select these families? I request Rajiv Gandhi to direct the Youth Congress Yorkers to identify these poor people…”One cannot but offer sympathy to Barot or his plight. In a country like India, where half the people live below the poverty line, Jarot cannot locate the poor, and needs the help of Rajiv and the Youth Congress(I). Catch-22 strikes there, because Barot wants he Youth Congress(I) to find the poor istead of the poor finding the channels of government grants themselves.In a speech hat left many a Youth Congress(I) mouth watering, Barot listed various schemes by banks through which the poor could be-helped, and the organisation’s political clout strengthened. However, only in last November, a similar attempt to distribute loans from Punjab and Sind Bank, a nationalised bank, to unemployed youths of Kanpur through the local Youth Congress(I) created a hot controversy.More Demands: Apart from bank loans, there is a wide pasture of licences, permits and government contracts lying fallow for the Youth Congress(I) fortune-seeker to tap. And, in addition, the organisation will seek legitimacy for its traditionally unruly conduct, just as Sanjay had given it to them by inducting Youth Congress(I) members in large numbers into his panel of election nominees.Portraits of Mrs Gandhi and Rajiv are caried across a Bangalore street: hero-worship unlimitedSaid Anwar: “In the coming elections we will demand more representation for the youth as was given by Sanjayji. We will also insist that the vacant posts in the various PCC(I)s be filled by those retiring from the Youth Congress.”However, a clash of interests is inevitable between the garden variety of Youth Congressmen and Rajiv’s inner circle of confidants many of who are well-groomed public school-educated types. Some of them are well-intentioned and are bubbling with enthusiasm to “help Rajiv”, and maybe to help the country in the process.Rajiv’s dazzling Praetorian guards shut him off from the hoi polloi but are unable to bring him face to face with the basic problems of society. Nobody knows how Rajiv reacts to issues like poverty, injustice, bad management and inefficiency.In contrast, Sanjay left nobody in doubt about his intentions and preferences. He created leaders out of obscure men and women, and dropped even the weightiest of politicians out of sight whenever the need arose. He appeared in public with backstreet goons and pulled no punches when it served his own interest to hit at established institutions.But, in his six months in politics, Rajiv has only flip-flopped, swaying between statements and actions which can hardly be called consistent. His image as “neither riff nor raff’ gradually obscured the popular hope that he would give his party a direction.It remains to be seen how Rajiv wins an identity for himself: by stepping into the Youth Congress(I) milieu on a catapult, or by pulling the Congress(I) machinery by its bootstraps to the democratic qualities with which it was credited in the pre-Mrs Gandhi era. Will he sink into the rising cacophony of sycophancy, or will he swim against the tide. setting new standards of political behaviour? As a litmus test, the convention points in the wrong direction.