There are many tales, stories and sayings in Indian society which have become aphorisms after the experience of hundreds and thousands of years. I’ll relate a story to you. There were two neighbours. One neighbour was very jealous of the other neighbour and his jealousy was such that to harm his neighbour he could take help from anyone. He suddenly thought, ‘let me arrange for some bad portents or omens for my neighbour every morning’. There are many ways and types of bad portents in Indian society, like if a cat walk’s across one’s path, it is considered a bad portent or omen. Similarly, if a person sees a one-eyed person, then the beholder considers it to be a bad omen. So the jealous neighbour thought I can’t arrange for a cat to cross his path every day, but I can show him the face of a one-eyed person everyday. He searched for a one-eyed person, but could not find one. So then he pierced his own eye and took a decision to show his own one-eyed face to his neighbor every morning so that it would serve as a bad omen.
In Indian politics, this story aptly fits the Congress. At this time, in place of jealousy the Congress party seems to be making a plan to pierce its eye with idle words as a bad portent for its neighbour. Where the Congress should be seen taking the people along with it and fighting the ruling party, there it is spending its entire time in in-fighting. Who to remove, who to be made to sit at home, who to be put in ice, not to go amongst the people. This story of four phrases has become the story of the Congress. Neither does the Congress have enmity with anyone, nor does the Congress have any friendship with anyone. But it certainly seems that the Congress has forgotten the importance of democracy. If in a democracy the Congress has found the place of the Opposition, it means that it has got five years of time to take up the questions of the public and make people stand with it, to enthuse the public and to fight disappointment. But perhaps the Congress does not understand the meaning of the word ‘Opposition’, which is why it made even the post of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha into something to be taken to court and when the Supreme Court did not pay attention, created an atmosphere as if it was begging for the post of Leader of the Opposition. Is it only by getting the post of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha that the role of Opposition can be fulfilled? Perhaps not.
The Congress forgot a lesson from its last ten years rule. In the last ten years, the Bharatiya Janata Party formed the Opposition and Leader of the Opposition and Sushma Swaraj held the post of Leader of the Opposition, and before that it was Lal Krishna Advani. Despite having such heavy weight leaders, the Bharatiya Janata Party did not fulfill any meaningful role as the Opposition and it cannot be forgiven for that, because it raised for the first time a question mark over the dignity of the Opposition. But despite this, the wrong policies of the Government, wrong decisions by the Government, and the anger at the problems created by the Congress did not allow it to get even the numbers to enable it to capture the post of the Leader of the Opposition, and it handed over power to an Opposition which did not fulfill a competent or a meaningful role.
Who to remove, who to be made to sit at home, who to be put in ice, not to go amongst the people. This story of four phrases has become the story of the Congress. Neither does the Congress have enmity with anyone, nor does the Congress have any friendship with anyone. But it certainly seems that the Congress has forgotten the importance of democracy.
Perhaps the Congress wants to walk along the same path. Now, in the Congress there can be seen either an absence of leaders who can think and understand politically or those who can thinking and understand politically consider it a waste to state what they want to say. During the time of the Bihar Assembly elections, Rahul Gandhi applied his full strength, but he applied that power to such an organisation which he or his colleagues never allowed to evolve. As a result, in Bihar only four Congress MLA’s were elected. One-and-a-half years later there were the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, but the Congress did not learn any lesson and did not make any programme to strengthen the organisation in Uttar Pradesh. The party MPs were not ‘used’ in Uttar Pradesh, nor were the MLAs and nor were those leaders who were neither MPs nor MLAs, but who had a standing in society. An idle-inanimate organisation remained there in Uttar Pradesh and sitting in Delhi the exercise of trying to make this lame duck organisation move was carried out.
All this was happening under Rahul Gandhi’s eye, in that party which has as its President his mother Sonia Gandhi herself. The result was that the party lost badly in Uttar Pradesh. The Lok Sabha elections were due two years after this, but even in regard to the Lok Sabha elections neither was the organisation made competent all over the country, nor were party MPs-MLAs given any responsibility and nor were they told what direction the party organisation was to take or stand. On the other side, the Government kept taking decisions in an arbitrary manner and Rahul Gandhi kept taking the cues for his approach and attitude from those PR companies which did not understand Indian society. Within the party, there developed such a vacuum of political advice and political steps that it can be described only in one word and that word is ‘nothingness’.
It was generally believed and accepted that Government decisions were not taken by the Government, they were taken from 10 Janpath. Even till today 10 Janpath has not denied that decisions were taken from there. But if there was one centre of power, then the positive outcomes that should have emerged from it did not emerge. Scam after scam kept emerging and the party was continually encircled by them. In spite of this, no plan to fight the Lok Sabha elections could be seen being formed in the Congress party. And all this can be considered to be an outcome of Rahul Gandhi’s sluggishness and inertia and Sonia Gandhi apolitical knowledge. The Congress party could never answer the questions raised by Narendra Modi and it was perceived to be fighting in wrestling arenas made by Narendra Modi. The Congress forgot that it is easy to win in its own arenas, whereas in fighting in a competitor’s arena there are more chances of losing.
The Lok Sabha elections ended, the Congress party came down to 44 seats. Despite this, non political questions became more important for it, for instance, the post of Leader of the Opposition. What should have happened was that Rahul Gandhi or the formal President of the Congress party, his mother Sonia Gandhi, should have called separately all the groups in the party, all the senior leaders of the party, and taken their advice on how the party should be made to stand again in such a big country. But in its stead, responsibilities began to be fixed to save themselves, and as usual, to analyse the defeat an Antony committee was formed. In all the party committees that have been formed so, Antony Sahib has been in most of them. Antony absolved Rahul Gandhi of all responsibility for the defeat and said that the party lost because of Manmohan Singh. No discussion on this took place in the party, instead people in the party people made fun of it, because it was 10 Janpath itself that had given directions to Manmohan Singh and whenever Rahul Gandhi made demands, Manmohan Singh had fulfilled the demands. Never mind if it was the Opposition that gave it the description of licking one’s spit.
Rahul Gandhi, instead of doing a fresh critical appraisal and organising the party in a new way in the States, is still not clear. Every year one or two Assemblies are due to take place continuously till the next Lok Sabha elections. And, in the States a Congress win is very important. In Bihar, somehow he forged an alliance with Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar, but in the rest of the States what the organization will do and with whose support the party will search for the prospects of winning one or two or five seats, is not clear so far.
Now the Secretaries of the Congress, who have no role in the Assemblies, have stood up against all the leaders of the Congress. Most of these Secretaries come from the new emerging rich class. They have no understanding of politics, or of the tactics of the Opposition. Most of them have got Degrees in ‘yes-yes’ and flattery. They have unlimited money and they want to stand with Rahul Gandhi and practice a new kind of politics in the country. This new politics should also be welcomed, because the Congress will get the answer to it in the upcoming Haryana assembly elections, in the Bihar assembly elections. Before that, the answer will be given in the Maharashtra assembly elections and this answer will be given not by the Bharatiya Janata Party but the people. The same people, who
for a long time, made the Congress hold on to power
in the country. The sole cause for an adverse answer would be complete disillusionment of the people with the Congress.
Rahul Gandhi is Sonia Gandhi’s son, this goes in his favour, but if there is any argument that can go in his favour even more than this in the future, it will be his understanding. If he can understand Indian problems, if he can become a spokesperson of the sufferings of the people of India, then perhaps people will look towards him again. But at the moment it seems that Rahul Gandhi is engaged in piercing his own eye so that he can become a bad portent or omen for the Bharatiya Janata Party. It seems to me that the Opposition has a very strong role in Indian democracy. That role the Congress party should not allow to go to anyone else, but should take on the responsibility of fulfilling it on its own, otherwise to fulfill the Opposition’s role, leaders like Nitish Kumar, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav and Deve Gowda are sitting ready. It seems to me in the next five years, a new text can be written in the history of the Opposition.