Bluff is not course correction

Bluff is not course correction

By M.J. Akbar | 12 December, 2015
Rahul Gandhi has not bothered to explain how government is playing ‘100% vendetta politics’ , because there is no explanation

The bizarre is not as distant from our political discourse as we might wish it to be. There are times, however, when a party’s defense-offense explanation becomes so overstretched that it can only be considered contempt — not of the court, but of the people.
This morning [I write this column on Saturdays] the Times of India carried an extraordinary story on its front page. It quoted two heavyweight Congress leaders as saying that the continuous disruption of both Houses of Parliament for four days had nothing to do with the fact that the courts had served notice for the trial of Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for alleged manipulation of funds in order to acquire properties currently in the possession of a defunct newspaper, the National Herald, worth an estimated Rs 2,000 crore for the rather paltry sum of Rs 50 lakh. They had, they claimed, permitted their MPs to warble and hoot [earning rebuke upon rebuke from the Chair] because of much older issues.
I do not mention the names of these senior Congress leaders out of sympathy for their plight. They cannot possibly actually believe what they said. They were speaking on orders from the palace. They know as well as anyone else that there was order in Parliament before a judge in the National Herald case deemed the case worthy of trial and summoned the principal accused to appear before court. In fact there was an excellent debate in the Rajya Sabha on Nepal which made the House nostalgic for what it should be doing as a matter of course. The opposition stung with all the force at its command, and External Affairs Minister Mrs Sushma Swaraj’s reply not only answered each point but set at rest speculation about our position on a crucial problem. This is what Parliament is meant for. This is democracy as it should be practised. The Congress participated in this debate.
The bold headline in Goa’s newspapers this morning said all that needed to be said: “National Herald: Cong stalls RS for 4th day”. The man who has repeatedly made it clear that his party’s problem was the newspaper case was none other than Rahul Gandhi, who has repeatedly accused the government of playing “100% vendetta” politics, jabbing the air with anger each time he used the immortal phrase.

A week, as has been famously noted, is a long time in politics. In this week Congress took the national debate back to highest-level corruption and subversion of a national party to the whims and needs of dynasty.

Naturally he has not bothered to explain how, because there is no explanation. As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pointed out in a blog, as well as at a press conference, the government had not sent a single notice on this case to anyone. It was the court that had seen merit in a private complaint by Dr Subramanian Swamy, and indeed made some sharp remarks in the process. It should be noted that the courts have not always responded to Dr Swamy’s complaints with equal force. They deal, as they should, with each case on its merits. For Rahul Gandhi to imply that the courts are biased, as he has done repeatedly, is to challenge the integrity of the judicial system.
Congress should have understood that it would be isolated on what is a straightforward corruption allegation from the very first day on which it used vocal bullying to stall Parliament. Not a single Opposition party came to its support. Even its allies in Bihar, JD(U) and RJD, kept their distance. The Trinamool Congress, which is at the moment trying to win brownie points in the hope that Congress will not enter into an alliance with the Left parties in the forthcoming Bengal Assembly elections, kept its ears open and head down. No one is going to be seen defending apparent or alleged corruption.
Political parties succeed when they gauge public response accurately. Everyone realised that the people were not buying the Congress argument. Congress took longer to recognise this because it is trapped in dynasty loyalty. A week, as has been famously noted, is a long time in politics. In this week Congress took the national debate back to highest-level corruption and subversion of a national party to the whims and needs of dynasty.
One has no idea how Congress will behave when Parliament resumes on Monday. It is possible that hardliners will argue that Parliament disruption should continue, this time over other older charges. But the age of Alice in Wonderland politics is long gone: you cannot, like the Queen in that brilliant fable, make words mean only what you want them to mean. The court of public opinion is the most powerful judiciary in a democracy, and Congress has lost the argument there. Voters know that the party has sabotaged important bills that would help the poor, the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and the salaried because it has taken an untenable position on a matter that is best left to the legal system, rather than the political class.
Bluff is not course correction.

There are 12 Comments

Isn't it time for a matured democratic country like India to find a remedy to this non sense disruption of parliament, irrespective of the party and save time and money?

NDA government will have to find ways of (1) carrying out reforms without "help" from opposition and (2) punishing parties/MPs who routinely disrupt the proceedings in both the houses with ulteriro motives - argument that BJP did the same when UPA I & II were in power is not valid. Like BJP has published a book let about NH case,it will have to go back to people in cities and towns to convey the damage that Congress was causing to the matters related to economy and governance.

A thug will obviously say that what he has done is absolutely kosher and above board. It is only the police playing its vandetta games. however, a thug is a thug or is he?

If I remember correctly, the cong members actually did say they were protesting vendetta politics, and mentioned NH case. It is astounding that it has taken a week for someone to spell out why they were holding up parliament.. surely if tabled agenda is not discussed, in their wisdom they must have found something not only more important but urgent as well. statements from Mr Chidambaram seem to suggest this wasn't the case. it begs a question if such people deserve to be in parliament. politics of blackmail and rent seeking cannot be allowed to continue if democracy is to be taken with any seriousness. secondly if government gets the information that some crime has been committed, why is no action being taken? Why no notices? Not being prompt in holding up rule of law in fear of being accused of vindictivness will mean than no one is even held accountable.

Not a single Tamil tv channel covered this sordid corruption case in T Nadu. why...? TN people ( and Media) don't have any interest? And we know the Lone Crusader Dr Swamy hails from TN !! Are we in 21st century? what 's happening in TN?

Disruption of parliament by the members of the parliament is nothing short of refusal by the members to perform their duty for which they are elected. Such members shall not forget that they are paid for their presence to attend the parliament. Any action of the members of the parliament to disrupt the proceedings of the house shall be punishable , may be even leading to disqualification of the membership with fine to meet the expenses for conduct of re-election to fill such disqualified member of the house. There is no justification for any member to disrupt the proceedings , instead of actively participating in the deliberations

Long and short of the whole story is that congress has decided not to allow Narendra Modi government to deliver on its promises to the people of this country as a strategy for 2019 because if it does succeed, congress will be completely wiped out from the political landscape of the country. I think people know this. Congress is exposed. But public will not forgive Narendra Modi government if it is convinced that it will not be able to overcome these hurdles and deliver. Congress and other opposition parties know this. Crux of the mater is to find a way to deliver on a few important promises which touch the day to day lives of ordinary people in spite of these hurdles, such that the people are motivated to give the government a second chance.

The behaviour of Congress President and VP has been far from desirable in recent days. Yes, BJP / NDA too had stalled parliament on several occasion during UPA rule from 2004-2014, but then two wrongs don't make a right. As M J Akbar rightly states, people can see through such tactics by political parties, and no one believes the Court summoning Sonia and Rahul Gandhi on a private complaint by Dr. Swamy has anything to do with govt pressuring the judiciary. In this day and age, when "the law will take its own course" is an oft-mentioned remark by all politicians, they are the first ones who cry foul when it indeed comes true. Moreover, politically speaking, the BJP was in the back-foot after disastrous results in recent Bihar polls, where surprisingly Congress did better. With such histrionics, and wasting precious legislative time in parliament, the Congress is only giving away its temporary "upper hand' over BJP. It's high time Congress behaves in a mature way to be seen as a 128 year old party, which had many illustrious leaders over the years. That its behaviour both in and outside legislatures has come to such a state speaks volumes about its present leadership. Perhaps it's time for the party to look beyond the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to steer it back to numero uno position, else its present President, and its VP in particular, will only push it into oblivion.

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