By K Raveendran
When Congress MP Shashi Tharoor complained about his party being ‘rudderless’ after the resignation of Rahul Gandhi as the party president, it was taken as another manifestation of his penchant for the using the ‘right’ words. Tharoor himself has claimed that he chooses his words “because they are the best ones for the idea” he wanted to convey.
He may not have sounded very convincing, at least to those of who take language essentially as a tool to communicate in the most straight forward manner, but his use of the word ‘rudderless’ for the state of affairs of Congress sans Rahul hit the nail right on its head. It is a different matter that it did not make much sense to his colleagues.
It was this ‘rudderless’ state of affairs that prompted the Modi government to bring the bills that it always wanted but could not do due to lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha. But to the great relief of the ruling alliance, they could not only bring the bills, but get them passed in parliament with the ease of plucking a flower. These laws, which involved life and death issues for the Congress party and the rest of the opposition, failed to create even a whimper as the floor strategy of Modi-Amit Shah caught them completely off-guard. They had the opposition running helter-skelter as the treasury benches launched a relentless onslaught on their capacity to resist.
It was a pity that even on an issue like Kashmir, where the relations between Indian Union and the strategic Jammu-Kashmir state were a legacy of Congress politics, the grand old party could not put up a credible resistance. There was so much confusion over the party’s response to the Modi government’s meticulously planned move to abrogate Article 370 conferring special status on the trouble-torn state that the leader of the party in Lok Sabha went on a tangent. In his desperation to discredit the government, Adhir Ranjan Choudhury questioned the right of the government to legislate on an ‘international’ issue like Kashmir, which left leaders like Sonia Gandhi red-faced and they had to intervene to set the record straight on the issue.
Chaudhury’s faux pas may be attributed to a certain lack of seasoning in such a crucial role, but it also indicated a complete sense of disorientation that the party has been suffering from ever since it was routed in the election. If the outburst caused such embarrassment, there was more trouble in store as leaders such as general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia openly supported the government move in a tweet ahead of a Congress Working Committee meeting that was supposed to consider the party’s stand on the issue.
He was joined by former Sonia Gandhi aide Janardhan Dwivedi, who welcomed the Modi government decision saying it amounted to correcting a ‘mistake’. Even the generally aggressive Manu Abhishek Singhvi was seen to be on the defensive when he admitted that the Modi-Shah dispensation had outwitted the party.
That the party did not have the sense of conviction required to stand up to the challenge thrown by the Modi government was clear from Sonia Gandhi’s own approach when she sought to base the party’s opposition to the lack of consultation with the stakeholders of Kashmir in deciding their fate. The stand somewhat betrayed a feeling that it may not be possible to oppose the move on its own merit.
It goes to the credit of Modi-Shah duo that they succeeded to read the situation of the opposition parties to the extent of succeeding to exploit their vulnerabilities. Opposition parties have been facing a rare process of attrition in their ranks as the saffron onslaught appeared increasingly invincible. These parties have been suffering desertions almost on a daily basis, denoting an overbearing feeling of helplessness. So, Modi and Shah were convinced that the parties were not in a position to stop the government from enacting whatever it wanted.
Even Mamata Banerjee’s party, despite a spirited performance by its star campaigner Derek O’Brien in the Rajya Sabha on the first day of the introduction of the J&K bills, was mostly complaining about the faulty procedure adopted by the government in bringing the legislation, suggesting that she was not questioning the intent behind the move. This is how she reacted: “The government could have taken the decision after consulting all the political parties and Kashmiris. There was no vote or discussion on the Kashmir issue. This is not democratic. We will oppose it tooth and nail.”
BSP leader Mayawati even praised the Modi government for its bold move and said that the removal of article 370 was long overdue and that the decision will ultimately help the state’s people to embrace sustainable development. That Modi’s most bitter critic and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also endorsed the central move showed that the decision to withdraw the special protection to J&K enjoyed support cutting across party affiliations.