By K. Raveendran
The Congress party has been reduced to being a confederation of leaders ever since president Rahul Gandhi announced he was stepping down following a near rout in the elections, with lack of homogeneity becoming a least common denominator. There is a palpable loss of the sense of balance, with each one pulling in a different direction.
Whether it is the inevitability of a member of the Gandhi family to lead the party out of the rut, or the desirability of having a young president or even the ‘rudderless’ effect of Rahul’s untimely decision to quit, there is no clear stand on the part of anyone.
Now the party cannot make out what would be an acceptable stand when it comes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his policies. Loose cannon Jairam Ramesh, after a certain forced hiatus, has fired one, saying it might not be wise to demonise Modi for whatever he does. The ‘outside’ politician thinks that the good things that Modi does, and he sees a number of them, must be appreciated. Ramesh was soon followed by Manu Abhishek Singhvi, a most unlikely name to align with whatever the former IAS officer has been saying and doing, and of course Shashi Tharoor, whose penchant for controversy needs no introduction.
But for many Congressmen, for whom a pathological hatred for Modi is the raison d’etre for their existence and survival, this is like committing suicide. Spokesperson Anand Sharma says if the opposition sings praise for the government, that is the end of democracy. But one does not know whether constructive criticism, the hallmark of a good opposition, implies blind opposition to whatever the government does. But at least for Anand Sharma, that seems to be the case.
Jairam Ramesh has since declared that he is stopping to give advice to party men, but Tharoor is showing no signs of giving in. When Kerala PCC chief Mullappally Ramachandran and Opposition Leader in the Assembly Ramesh Chennithala suggested that Tharoor must first join BJP and make the kind of comments he has done, the Thiruvananthapuram MP said he has nothing to learn from the Kerala Congress leaders, which prompted the PCC chief to seek an official explanation for his conduct. There is even a demand that Shashi Tharoor be expelled from the party.
It was the height of embarrassment when even on a crucial issue like the abrogation of article 370 on Jammu and Kashmir the party could not speak in one voice. Things came to such a pass that at one stage it appeared that the party was not even sure whether Kashmir was an internal, bilateral or an international issue. Thankfully, the Kashmir developments happened so abruptly that the party was spared the trouble of a prolonged period of confusion.
Anand Sharma has, however, said unlike the BJP, everyone has the right to express themselves in the Congress. There he cannot be more than right. For, Congress has always been a confluence of conflicting interests. True to its credentials as the oldest party of India, it had in its ranks people who stood for ideas as diverse as India itself.
In fact, some of their great leaders themselves were a bundle of contradictions. We have Jawaharlal Nehru, who, despite being a staunch nationalist, shared the imperial grandeur of his colonial friends, including a reported fancy for having his laundry done in Paris, though that has been clarified as pure fiction.
It also includes leaders like former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who became a political pensioner even before he reached his political youth. During his tenure, he exhibited a rare organic disability to say ‘no’ to anything, which he attributed to the compulsions of coalition politics and allowed a free run to all those who had placed personal money above all national duties as ministers.
We also have veteran leaders like A K Antony, whose commitment to principles is as intense as Romeo’s obsession with the romance of love, rather than his lady love. Antony’s principles have brought no good to either himself, his party or even the nation. And yet, he likes himself to be known for his devotion to his ideals.
The current crop of Congress leaders have made the difference between politics and business a very thin line and it is no wonder that most of them have landed in trouble over questionable deals. As Modi kept taunting, many of them are riding the ‘bail’ gadi, an obvious reference to the National Herald case involving Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
Former home and finance minister P Chidambaram, who has been dodging the investigating agencies for years, has finally landed up in the custody of CBI, but is challenging the government to produce evidence of his money-making. An eminent lawyer himself and a man well-versed with the ways of the world, it would rather be naïve to expect him to leave easy trails for the law enforcement agencies. That is probably what lends him the courage to challenge the government. It is a different matter that, given the privileged position he has enjoyed in the government for most of his political career, it should ideally be incumbent on him to come clean on his own for people to believe him. (IPA Service)