Some prominent members of the Congress Party are now advising colleagues and political fellow travellers to come to terms with reality
At last, we are now hearing some voices of sanity in the Congress! After practising politics of abuse for months and years and being in denial ever since they were reduced to a rump in the Lok Sabha after the parliamentary election in 2014, some prominent members of the Congress Party are now advising party members and political fellow travellers to come to terms with reality. Jairam Ramesh, one of the saner voices in the party, who has often tried to ensure that his political loyalty does not cloud his judgement, has recently said that demonising Prime Minister Narendra Modi all the time is not going to help the Congress because Mr Modi’s governance model is not a “complete negative story”.
He seemed to be particularly impressed by Mr Modi’s “economics of governance” and the Ujjwala Scheme to provide cooking gas connections to women in poor households across the country, which has given the Prime Minister political traction. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, another senior member of the party, soon joined the chorus to say that “demonising Modi was wrong.” The decisions of the Modi Government “must be judged issue wise and not person wise.” He even went further to say that “the Ujjwala scheme is only one amongst other good deeds.”
This is quite in contrast to the constant criticism of the Prime Minister by the party’s top leadership, including Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi on every issue. In fact, though the Modi Government has taken many significant decisions, which have won acclaim all round the country, there is not a single instance when Mr Modi’s work has been acknowledged by members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
As regards abrogation of Article 370, the decisive move made by the Modi-Shah combine has stunned the Congress Party and made its leaders run hither and thither. The utter confusion among the party brass is rooted in the party’s loud commitments to “protect” 370 at any cost. Only last April, the Congress declared in its manifesto for the Lok Sabha election that “nothing will be done or allowed to change the constitutional position.”
Having thus dug itself in on this issue, the party had nowhere to go but to plug this moth-eaten line, which has been a drag on India’s unity and integrity. So, we had Rahul Gandhi declare loftily that national integration cannot be achieved by “unilaterally tearing the state apart.” Priyanka Gandhi tweeted and asked “Does the Modi-Shah Govt believe India is still a democracy?”
Sadly, the Congress does not appear to have a mind of its own on such critical national issues. Since the late 1960s, when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi needed Communist crutches to run her government, the party has been nose-led by Left-wing politicians and intellectuals, resulting in the complete abandonment of its nationalist ideology. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now comfortably ensconced in this space and the Congress does not know which way to turn. As a result, you will find that invariably the Congress and the Communists sing the same tune on all issues. After Rahul Gandhi, P Chidambaram has accused the government of dismembering the state.
This is in line with the approach of Left leaders, including Sitaram Yechury, who have demanded that Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) be restored to its earlier status. However, the party’s response to the 370 issue is not to be seen in isolation. It is in line with the scepticism and distrust it has displayed even in regard to the daring surgical strike carried out by the Indian Army to eliminate several terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control in J&K on September 29, 2016.
While the entire country hailed the bravery and commitment of our soldiers and the surgical precision with which the Army had targeted terrorist hide-outs across the border, the Congress claimed that many such “surgical strikes” had been carried out when it was in power.
However, there were few takers for this story. While one leader of his party in Maharashtra said the surgical strike was “fake”, Mr Chidambaram demanded “proof” that the strike was carried out. Rahul Gandhi accused the Prime Minister of trying to make “political capital” out of surgical strikes. The disrespect it showed towards the Indian Air Force (IAF) after its daring airstrike on Jaish-e-Mohammad Training Camps in Balakot on February 26, 2019 was even more shocking. Chidambaram criticised the government’s claim about the number of terrorists who had been killed in the IAF strike. Another Congress leader, Navjot Singh Sidhu, seemed to debunk the purpose of the strike by asking “Were you uprooting terrorists or trees? Was this an election gimmick?”
Finally, what about the phenomenal success of several social sector schemes launched and delivered by the Modi Government? The Ujjwala Scheme, which proved to be a game-changer, has ensured domestic cooking gas connections to 60 million households with another 20 million in the pipeline over the next year or so.
Similarly, the medical insurance scheme that provides a cover of Rs 5 lakh per poor household per year is the biggest health insurance scheme in the world. Similarly, the Jan Dhan Yojana, which ensured that all people below the poverty line opened bank accounts, has been a spectacular success, resulting in the opening of over 360 million new bank accounts. This, too, is a global record. There are many more such schemes which have been planned and executed by the Modi Government but members of the Nehru-Gandhi family have never ever acknowledged the efficacy of any one of them. Taking a cue from them, members of the Congress Party have spent their time pooh-poohing these schemes and thus losing support of the millions of citizens who have benefitted from them.
The intolerance of the Nehru-Gandhis to the achievements of other national leaders from the days of Sardar Patel and Dr BR Ambedkar is now a well-established truth and has been adequately chronicled in recent years. The family got away with this for many decades, but the people have now begun to see through the pettiness and jealousy that permeates the family’s responses in this regard. More importantly, public awareness has resulted in diminishing electoral dividends for this family. If the Congress Party is to cut its losses, its responses to government decisions and schemes will have to be more credible. Jairam Ramesh has shown the way. Hope others will follow!
(The writer is an author specialising in democracy studies. Views expressed are personal)
Writer: A Surya Prakash
Courtesy: The Pioneer