With Rahul in the Well, is All Well in the Congress?
In politics, like in life in general, desperate situations call for desperate measures. Rahul Gandhi, Vice President of the Congress party, which has been desperately trying to get the Leader of the Opposition status in Lok Sabha, took umbrage at being faulted for taking a power nap in the House during an important discussion on increasing prices of essential commodities. It did not take him long before he took what he apparently considered were appropriate damage control measures.
On a clear July day, when least expected, he sprang into action and jumped into the well of the Lok Sabha, making full use of his lung power, in protest against an alleged partisan attitude of the House towards Opposition members. He was followed by a band of loyal partymen. He had wanted a discussion on a subject which had always been an important, if not often the sole, political plank of his party viz. Secularism. The Congress party wanted a discussion on communal clashes which had been occuring in Uttar Pradesh and other states since May 2014 after the Modi government had captured power in Delhi. When denied permission by the Speaker, Rahul staged a walk out in apparent disgust. When confronted by a battery of Press, waiting outside the House, he complained in a hurt tone that the voice of only one man was being allowed to be heard in the House, in an obvious allusion to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When he was asked what he had wanted to say in the House, he promptly held his tongue and left the place in a huff. Apparently, either he did not deem it fit to tell the Press of his party's case in the matter or he had nothing much to say. His detractors flayed him for jumping into the well in a desperate act of unparliamentary behaviour for garnering cheap publicity. They were also quick to point out that before embarking on the act, he was seen huddled in a brief conference with his mother and President of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi. A quick approval obtained for enacting the highlight of the day! The media, on its part, went to town with its interpretation of Rahul's reticence on the occasion outside the Parliament as a sign of his unpreparedness for presenting his party's case on the subject on which they had been clamouring to have a debate!
From Spurt of Action to Sulk
This surely must have left the man who wanted to turn the table on the ruling party and capture the attention and imagination of the country as one who would be seen neither as a mute witness to the machinations of the ruling party nor as an out-dated political leader of a bygone era, bound by constraints of conventional forms of protest, miffed. When he had been silent, he was accused of neglecting his duties and indulging in a fitful slumber; when he burst into a spurt of vigorous action as a young leader of boundless energy, with his light brigade in tow, he was accused of indulging in an unseemly act and disrupting the activities of the House. Consequently, he seemed to have become thoroughly exasperated with the ways of the errant media and his specious detractors who would not let him be. Resultantly, he went into a royal sulk.
Sonia in the Lead
This led to Sonia taking the matter in her own hands and availing of every available opportunity and forum to pillory the Modi government for "engineering" communal clashes, in their hundreds, all over the country. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has scoffed at such allegations as a ploy of the Congress Party desperate to realign its vote bank politics. The people's response to such wild allegations based on nebulous theories and vague suppositions, against the backdrop of the track record of the various governments in the affected states and the previous governments at the Centre, remains to be seen, probably at the next round of state-level polls.
Sonia and Rahul Absolved
In the meanwhile, a party-panel, headed by former Defence Minister, A.K.Antony, set up to probe into the debacle of the Congress party in the May 2014 Lok Sabha polls, absolved the mother-son duo of responsibility for the party's poor showing at the hustings. The panel held that the Manmohan Singh government's poor performance was the contributing factor to the poll fiasco. By the same token of logic, should the United Progressive Alliance have, by a stroke of miracle - for nothing short of a miracle could have made this feasible - done exceedingly well in the poll and were returned to power, would anybody in the party have credited the Manmohan Singh government's "stellar" performance and not the Gandhi family's charisma and mass appeal across the wide spectrum of voters, for the victory, is a question which the Congress party would have conveniently dismissed as a hypothetical question of an idle brain! Come hell or high water, it is always a win-win situation for the Gandhi family! They get to wield power, always the centre of attraction, never the object of criticism, and forever the supreme leaders of the party, beyond rebuke!
Priyanka and the Palace Coup
With Rahul alternating between fitful slumbers and royal sulk, the Congress men, who never care to be far from positions of power, can't bear to be left in the political wilderness, that too for five long years. For them, the rarified air, emitted by their leaders in power, is the source of sustenance. Congress party, out of power, is like a fish out of water. It is simply unthinkable and unbearable for its leaders, big or small, to be without power. With or without Rahul, they must think fast and usher in some dynamic leadership from the Gandhi family to steer their castaway vessel to the safe shores of political power. Viola! How about Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who has till now been only testing the political waters and is yet to take the plunge? Yes, that's the obvious thing to do. Once again, the Family comes to save the oldest political party in the country! Priyanka, on her part, has scotched all talks of her assuming a post in the party as rumours. Despite the provoking statement of the senior BJP leader and Minister, Arun Jaitley, that the talks of Priyanka taking charge of the Congress party were indicative of a "palace coup", she has till now kept herself away from the trappings of party leadership. Her reluctance, if not downright dislike, to become the leader of the party is probably on account of the following:
● Why should she take charge of the leadership of the party at the party's weakest moment in its history? Why should she soil her well-manicured hands by doing all the dirty work to resuscitate life into the moribund party?
● She has enough problems on hand, with her husband facing legal troubles on account of land-grab scams; her, and in turn her husband's, entitlement to high- level security cover has been the butt of wide criticism. Besides, she had made certain pungeant and uncharitable remarks, interpreted as below the belt variety in political circles, during the May 2014 elections, against Mr.Narendra Modi. The shrewd politician that he was, Mr.Modi went to town with those remarks, and made political capital out of it. Although he stood Priyanka's diatribe on its head to his advantage, it is noteworthy that he is not reputed to banish such unsavoury remarks altogether to their ignominious graves of political stupidity! In these unfavourable circumstances, why would Priyanka rock the boat of relative security of political oblivion by undertaking an unenviable task?
● Besides, more and more scams of the UPA-II government of Manmohan Singh, like coal bloc allocations, controversial appointments of judges, etc are being unearthed, with alarming regularity, for the discomfiture of the Congress party which is finding it increasingly difficult to defend itself and the Manmohan Singh government.
Gandhi Family Not to Campaign
In these bleak circumstances, the Congress party has omitted the names of members of the Gandhi family from the list of its star speakers who are expected to campaign during the by polls in Uttar Pradesh which are round the corner, without a plausible reason. That the Gandhi family does not campaign during by-polls is both a laughable and ludicrous excuse which is not taken seriously by anyone! With both Rahul and Sonia mounting so much criticism against the Modi-government for the communal clashes in UP, it is unbelievable that they should condescend to let go of a wonderful opportunity to lay bare the Bharatiya Janata Party's "evil designs to polarize the Indian politics." Now, what are the possible grounds for the Gandhi family to do so?
● Maybe they have realised that a rout is facing their party squarely in the face and don't want to be held responsible.
● Rahul has not yet realized that to be taken seriously by the people, you have to be a politician 24x7. During the UPA rule, he used to put up a cameo role at party meetings and conclaves and no more. He is obviously not a quintessential politician and easily gets tired of the dynamics of real-time politics. He epitomises the dynastic family rule which is all for garnering the trappings of power, pomp and show, without an iota of responsibility. He considers himself the brand Ambassador and lucky mascot of his party and is not required to do a hard day's labour. It is a bit late in the day for him to even think of becoming a people's leader like his arc detractor, Narendra Modi.
● In a nutshell, Rahul lacks the courage to fight elections the hard way.
Shift in Ground Realities
Vigorously shaking your hand to greet the people who have come to hear you at political meetings and rallies or making brave noises in the name of speeches is not going to fetch you votes any longer. Development is the key issue on which today's elections are fought. Communalism as a political issue is passe. People expect communal clashes to be put down tooth and nail by law-enforcing agencies like any other criminal activity. Never should Secularism and Communalism occupy political space. Indian politicians have already played havoc in the name of fighting Communalism or promoting Secularism. They should rule the hearts of the people and not try to rule their lives. They should learn to accept defeat gracefully and, given a chance, govern sensibly and not merely shoot their mouths off by saying specious and meaningless things like "empowering women", "empowering youth" etc. Give women and the youth education, jobs and the safety and security they require to grow. That is what they need and not meaningless phrases. Such a shift in the ground realities has made it frighteningly impossible for the Gandhi family to reach out to the poor. As regards Congress, it seems to be a foregone conclusion on the part of the party to hitch its fortunes to the Family rather than the service of the nation. One for all and all for one. And no one for the nation!
© 2014 Kalyanaraman Raman