Rumblings and Ramblings
The Congress party is at sixes and sevens. Its mammoth defeat at the Lok Sabha elections has made it vulnerable to criticism from within and without like never before. There have been rumblings and ramblings within the party on which the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has had a stranglehold for decades. Indian Union Muslim League, key electoral ally of Congress in Kerala, has openly charged Rahul Gandhi with inept handling of United Progressive Alliances's(UPA) election campaign against Narendra Modi's brutal war machine in its inexorable march to power at the Centre.
Rahul Gandhi Under Attack
Milind Deora, the Face of Dissent
It is name-calling time in the party! Milind Deora and Priya Dutt fired the first salvo and spoke about the disconnect between the party leadership and the party cadre. They accused Rahul's coterie of advisers of giving him wrong advice and standing between him and the party cadre. They were, however,reminded by the party leadership that they had been in touch with Rahul all the time on phone, SMS etc and had, therefore, no locus standi to complain about Rahul's inaccessibility. In fact, Deora himself had been a member of Team Rahul. Deora and Dutt were also advised to refrain from washing dirty linen in the public. Milind Deora had been a minister in the UPA government and was not able to win the election. Priya Dutt, a sitting MP and beneficiary of Congress being in power at the Centre and Maharashtra, had lost out too. Both were reminded that the world had looked much different for them through rose-tinted spectacles when the going was good and that they were merely crying now over spilt milk now like the sore losers they were.
Priyanka for Family Glory
Following the rout of Congress in state after state, including those where the party had, and still has, its governments in position, like Assam, Maharashtra and Karnataka, the party cadre has been clamouring for bringing Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to the centre stage. What a spin to Rahul Gandhi's incessant pre-poll talk of empowerment of women! Shanker Sinh Vaghela has, however, queried on his part, the wisdom of foisting a reluctant Priyanka on the party. She had, after all, campaigned only in her mother's and brother's constituencies in the recent elections and in no other. Although she had made several disparaging remarks against Congress' arch enemy Narendra Modi, Priyanka did not campaign at Varanasi, one of the two constituencies from which Modi fought the election. Although Priyanka had spoken of an ideological war between UPA and NDA, her electioneering in the Congress pocket burrows turned out to be nothing more than a family tea party! "My mother, my brother and I", seemed to be her battle cry. The party and its allies were left to fend for themselves. Although it could be said to her credit that she was not interfering in party matters, her concern for the party's performance carried, in truth, a big question mark.
A reluctant Priyanka Gandhi Vadra
Despite the fact that Congress Party has had its post poll introspection meeting and both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi owned responsibility for the miserable performance of the party at the hustings, neither of them, has stepped down from his or her party post.
A dramatic admission of responsibility for failure is not in itself such a grand gesture as it is made out to be. Nor does it constitute a solution to the problem at hand unless it is followed by an act of atonement which, in this case, is resignation from the party post.
Need to Reinvent
Congress, the oldest political party in the country, is at a cross roads. The party needs to reinvent itself. This calls for sacrifices which, unfortunately for the party, nobody is prepared to make. Every one in the party is talking about collective responsibility for the party's debacle, without a single instance of abdication by anyone from party position in atonement. In his election campaign, Mr.Modi was so confident of receiving people's absolute support that he said that should he lose at the polls, he would go back to his original occupation of selling tea, despite the fact he was still the Chief Minister of Gujarat! Such a fearless and selfless stand has not been seen on the part of the Congress leaders like Sonia or Rahul.
The knee-jerk reaction of the Congress party's spokespersons after the announcement of the election results was that the party's downfall was on account of the UPA government's failure to carry across its successful implementation of the Congress party's progressive and pro-poor economic and social policies to the people of the country. To cut a long story short, the government had carried out a commendable job but maintained a deplorable silence. "Good product, bad marketing," they said. Kamal Nath held Manmohan Singh particularly responsible since the latter seemed to be vying with the Sphinx for holding the tongue. In other words, the people were not told by the government in catchy phrases at high enough decibels that they were the beneficiaries of never-before welfare policies! How would people know how they benefitted from any programme or policy unless it was drilled into them? Like, if I got a job, it was not because I deserved it or the job was due to me, but because of some leader's greatness or magnanimity! And I had to be reminded of this revelation time and again lest I should forget to be grateful to the leader and dutifully return him to power at the next election and, instead, had the temerity to hog all the credit myself!
With the failure of the government, to focus the spot lights on its achievements, the party had to pay a heavy price at the election. Was the silent Prime Minister's painful silence a wanton act, meant to bring about the downfall of the party?
Be that as it may, what was the party doing, if marketing the good product of the UPA government's performance was all that was required for it to gain the success which it richly deserved? Wasn't that what Rahul's campaign was all about? If not, were Mr.Modi and his party right when they accused Rahul and his family members of carrying out a vituperative and vitriolic personal attack on Mr. Modi? If, in any case, Team Rahul was at fault, giving out bad counselling, wasn't Rahul equally at fault, if not more, for blindly accepting the bad advice?
When the Congress spokespersons passed on the blame for the defeat to the UPA government, of which Congress is the principal party, were they castigating Congress' allies of not doing their bit in promoting the common cause of the alliance?
Whatever Congress or its allies think as to who was responsible for their collective defeat, what they have not thought or spoken about is the obvious: What did the people think about them, in the face of inflation which had shot through the roof, ever increasing prices of essential commodities, soaring fuel prices, stagnating economy, stunted job growth, never-ending series of corruption scandals, scam after scam of involvement of ministers and their family members in shoddy deals, and empty promises of the party's commitment to bring all those public figures who were guilty of corrupt practices to the book, whoever they were?
Truth of the Matter
The truth of the matter is that the Congress party had simply lost its political will to rule. After a ten-year period of mis-governance and bad administration, it was entrapped in its own image of a narcissistic non-performer which could do no wrong. Every time Mr.Modi proudly spoke about development in his state of Gujarat, somebody from the other side had to retort that Modi's claim was anything but a hogwash and that he was guilty of presiding over a communal riot. That the prople of Gujarat chose to return Mr.Modi to power four times in succession and that he had been given a clean chit by the Court was immaterial to his detractors. If he was held guilty by the people or the Court, he was doomed; if not, he was damned! Minds had been made up. The script was accordingly readied. When the show bombed, it was pay time, not for the script writer but for some lowest of the lowly scapegoat of a party functionary. How much more self-defeating could you get? While what any failed political party wants to do with itself is its own business, the electorate are left bemused over one's inability to read the writing on the wall!
The Moving Finger
Congress party should realize that it has been rejected by the same people who had given it any number of opportunities to serve them. It could regain its lost glory if it played its role as a responsible opposition party during the next five years and win the goodwill of the people. It should realize that the days of communal and secular politics are over once for all and the age of developmental politics has dawned. It should give up attacking Mr.Modi on a personal level as he has been overwhelmingly accepted by the people of the country. Any further personal attack on him would be tantamount to offending the sensibilities of the public and would be counterproductive. It should also make efforts to regenerate a massive popular movement as it once did, without having to count on the help of retrograde regional parties.
Congress has any number of worthy leaders, young and old, who could steer it through troubled waters. If it weeds out self-serving leaders and renew its commitment to serve the nation, it could rise to new levels of political glory in the service of the nation.
The Moving Finger
"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
- Omar Khayyam
© 2014 Kalyanaraman Raman