By Seema Mustafa
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been re-elected for the fourth successive term. “Election” is a misnomer here as there is not a soul in the Congress Party, who would dare file a nomination against her. He or she will be purged into oblivion within seconds of the act. As in 60 years the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has been ensconced as never before in the seat of power.
Dynasties have overtaken the political spectrum with the sons and daughters of most politicians holding sway. It is a family business now, as the lucrative proceeds of power are protected and nurtured by the political leaders. Except for the cadre-based parties, the Left and the BJP, all others are completely consumed by the dynastic disease where the tricks learnt by the fathers are passed on as recipes for power to the next generation.
The result is that serious and senior politicians have either been sidelined, or have joined the business by cutting off their tongues and like the three wise monkeys learning not to speak, hear or see. The veteran Congressman has disappeared from view, with Pranab Mukherjee perhaps the one surviving face in government. But he too has made his peace with the dynasty. While a recognized troubleshooter, he is not trusted enough to be given a Ministry that could catapult him into a position of unbridled authority, such as the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Congress’ contribution to tackling issues bedeviling the country has been zilch, for want of a more effective term. The National Advisory Council has been revived under Sonia Gandhi and right now handpicked intellectuals are battling with the food security and communal violence legislations in a bid to influence government policy. It is too early to predict what will come of this, but going by past record there will be a compromise with essential concerns about these legislations dealt with, at best marginally.
In terms of the Maoist issue, Kashmir, poverty, price rise, inflation, farmers rights, tribal exploitation, increasing corruption both the party and the government appear indifferent. A visit by Rahul Gandhi to a tribal area in Orissa or a call with the Prime Minister with a few farmers in tow will not really resolve any issues. The decision taken by the Congress managers is to ensure that neither Sonia Gandhi nor her son intervene in any controversial matter. So there is no Congress presence when hundreds of tribals are killed and displaced in Kandhamal, when the victims of Gujarat were reeling under the impact of the violence, in Kashmir where the unrest has assumed new proportions, on Pakistan, on China, on acute poverty and farmers suicides, on starvation and death, and of course on the spiraling corruption that is visible now through the Commonwealth Games. The top leaders remain silent and now even the Prime Minister is reluctant to speak, until and unless pressured by the Opposition.
In fact the Congress leadership is skilled at trimming the wings of those it feels are riding too high for comfort. It was Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in the first two terms in office, where her popularity in the capital had become a matter of discomfort within the Congress. So the party unit was unleashed to make life difficult for her to a point where she was willing to quit. The BJP was never tired of saying that the Chief Minister’s worst enemy was her party itself. Nowadays the target is Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who is publicly humiliated every now and then by party functionaries known to be close to 10 Janpath. For instance a remark where he referred to right wing extremism as “saffron terror” had leaders like Janardhan Dwivedi and Digvijay Singh publicly rebuking him. To a point where the Minister was compelled to spend time clarifying his position, instead of focusing on the very pressing tasks at hand.
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has chewed the other end of the bullet any number of times, and now hesitates to speak unless authorized to in Parliament or elsewhere. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal after a very vocal start has realized that this does not win him friends in the party, and makes the Congress president uncomfortable. So he has reduced his media interactions. Urban Affairs Minister Jaipal Reddy, fresh into the Congress from his vocal Janata Dal days, realized pretty early on that silence was the best policy and the articulate politician has virtually gagged himself. Congress veterans like A.K. Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kamal Nath know that it is best to be seen and not heard, and follow this policy rigidly.
The result is that the party is not heard or seen. If Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi do not visit a trouble spot no one really does either. The instructions are not to take away from 10 Janpath’s sheen so the Congress leaders focus on their turf and make sure they do not stray to a point where they have to be publicly reined in by the party managers. After all it is pretty humiliating for a Union Home Minister to accept barbs from Congress functionaries through the media. This is a policy of public humiliation that has been launched as the party president does not believe in picking up the telephone and speaking directly to her colleagues. The Prime Minister, of course cannot, as he has long since lost the authority.
Debate and discussion in the party is dead. Or one should say it is controlled. Speak when you are allowed to; keep your counsel when you notice a frown on the leadership’s brow. The result is that decisions are not taken, or are taken after a long delay. The government is in a state of drift as the party has decided that the Prime Minister cannot deal with his Cabinet colleagues directly, or with the regional parties that are in the Council of Ministers as this is a political relationship that the Congress will manage directly. So corrupt Ministers continue in office, despite evidence against them. Colleagues take pot shots at each other, in public, with Manmohan Singh completely out of the loop. Or at least, unable to bring back cohesion and cooperation in government.
The result is a party that is left with no card except Rahul Gandhi to revive it in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where the organization continues to be in shambles. As a senior Uttar Pradesh leader, who is totally opposed to the BSP, pointed out, Rahul Gandhi visited a Dalit hut but when others went inside later to ask if she would vote for the Congress, they found a photograph of Mayawati inside. And a government that finds refuge in drift.
Courtesy: Express Buzz