SEEMA MUSTAFA | 1 APRIL, 2019
The Congress Party Has Lost the Plot, Or Has It?
Perhaps there is a new plot
The Congress has lost the plot. And while one is not shedding tears over that, what is worrying is that this short sighted policy that is driving the party might ensure losses that India will not easily recover from.
This is now apparent to even Congress die-hard sympathisers, a constituency that had grown over the past five years within the Delhi intelligentsia. The BJP and RSS butchering of democracy had actually made fence sitters hop into the Congress fold, with even Left intellectuals picking a fight in Delhi’s famous drawing rooms if there was even so much as a hint of criticism against the Congress party. And from those who claimed to have some reason left in their intellectual bones the response would be, “oh it's all right, first let's get the BJP out then talk.”
So desperate had everyone become with the rise of the BJP, the hate, the divisiveness, the violence that even the Congress had started appearing kosher. And realising that the Congress worked to expand through this desperation, presenting itself as the alternative to the BJP mess.
The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) tie up in Karnataka worked to enforce this “Congress is the only alternative we have’ image, and for a while it seemed that the main opposition party had shed its arrogance to stitch together a coalition for the Lok Sabha elections.
Rahul Gandhi, with a good political make over seemed to be rapidly discarding the ‘pappu’ affix that his own colleagues used against him. And in talks with the regional parties the Congress seemed to be stretching out.
The BJP was getting hit, as was evident from the increased attack on the Congress and Rahul Gandhi in particular. So desperate was the ruling party that it started proceedings in various cases against the First Family’s allegedly dubious son-in-law Robert Vadra. But before the ink could dry on this news, hey presto, his wife and the Indira Gandhi look alike Priyanka Gandhi Vadra jumped into the fray, announcing her decision to enter politics just a few weeks before the elections. She is here to revive the grand old party in Uttar Pradesh, said the advisors with some glee, she will turn it all around for the Congress party in the state that counts.
It was clear from the onset that she was there to fight the mahagathbandhan, with the BSP her specific target. In fact even a rough study of the candidates fielded by the Congress party in western UP shows that one, the BSP and not the BJP is its target; and two, the beef of the Congress first family is with Bahujan Samaj party chief Mayawati. She is being specifically attacked with the Congress supporters answering the question WHY with, “she was refusing to give us the seats, we only wanted a handful, she will join the BJP, she is with the BJP, she is not going to stay with the secular coalition.” Really? And how does the Congress party know that?
Most regional parties have been in alliance with the BJP at some point or the other, and as all their leaders have now said, they are coming together as they understand they will be subsumed by the BJP-RSS if they do not protect themselves and their constituencies at this stage. Of course there is this larger ‘save the nation’ talk that even the Congress has been indulging in, but coming from the politicians mouth this can at best be disregarded, if not completely ridiculed.
Priyanka Gandhi and the Congress party thus jumped into UP with the sole task of destroying--- or at least trying to--- a coalition that was set to almost sweep the state at the expense of the BJP. Every political novice knows that the BJP, without UP, will find it difficult to form the government at the centre but the Congress party’s over night decision to ‘revive’ at the expense of the nation that it had been talking about all this time, has done tremendous damage already in UP.
In a state where the margins will be close, and the contest hard and tough, the Congress has ensured advantage BJP by making it a three cornered fight, instead of swallowing its baseless pride, and accepting the four or five seats it would have then won. Instead it is now faced with the prospect of losing Amethi, with the party president looking for safer pastures in the south.
And where does he choose to go? Not to Karnataka, where if he had contested one of the seats being offered by the Congress party and Janata Dal-S he would have given a huge boost to the entire campaign, but to Kerala. To fight the BJP? No not at all. To fight the Left front in Wayanad. In fact the CPI has been most supportive of the Congress till now but then for Rahul Gandhi and the first Family, these elections are to protect themselves and not the nation.
As the Kerala Chief Minister has said, this decision is a fight against the Left. Just like Mayawati has said that the Congress is fighting the secular coalition.
Is this being done because the Congress is stupid as its now worried sympathisers would have us believe? No, it is not. Even if the First Family is, the Congress leaders around it are certainly not. And know better than political commentators what signals are being sent out with Priyanka Vadra’s leap into UP, and now Rahul Gandhi’s into Kerala. And what this will mean in the long run in a fight where the Left, after Sabarimala,is bringing all its resources together to keep the BJP out of Kerala. And could have done without the Congress call to war against it.
And where two arch rivals like BSP and Samajwadi party have buried the hatchet to defeat the BJP in UP, despite all the odds, made now even more difficult by a Congress party that is fighting the coalition directly. More so, as in UP the Congress does not exist as an organisation. Has no vote bank except the minorities. And hence its candidates are being set up with an eye to splitting the Muslim vote and in that process helping the BJP candidates in each and every seat. To get an idea of the work that Priyanka Gandhi is doing for the BJP one has only to look at the television channels who are rah rah about the Indira Gandhi look alike giving her huge air time. This from a sold media that does not give a second to the Opposition leaders or to the issues that the citizens of India are grappling with in the villages and districts far removed from the metropols.
So the Congress party is certainly not stupid. And the advise is deliberate, and being taken for reasons that will become clear with time. The worry is that by then it could be too late, and the answers meaningless. The mindless briefings at AICC headquarters are not intended to shed light, but to further confuse the pre-poll scenario. The Congress spokespersons sound as rabid nowadays as the BJP, although with a little more intellect perhaps.
In the process, the Rahul Gandhi who had started the process of assimilation has morphed into a Rahul Gandhi without direction. This has coincided with the entry of his sister into politics on the very eve of the elections. They should answer the following questions with clarity, and without slinging mud at others:
1. Why did Priyanka Gandhi Vadra not jump into politics in 2014, or for that matter even 2017, when she was most needed and could have made a difference?
2. What does the Congress hope to achieve less than a month before the elections?
3. Is the Congress fighting the opposition or the BJP? If the BJP, where?
4. What is the party’s strategy in states where it is directly contesting the BJP such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra where the ground is slipping?
There is a long string of questions but perhaps the one will suffice:
Is an election as crucial as this really the platform to revive? Or is it necessary first to survive, to revive?
This is what Rahul Gandhi had been saying. That it was imperative for all to come together to save the nation. What has changed now?
This is not arrogance, this is not stupidity. It is quite something else. And perhaps the point of reference for the answer can be the survival of the Nehru-Gandhi family, over and above the rest.