Gandhis as Fevicol keeping party united no longer valid after serial poll reverses.

 

For the first time we find that there are still some Congressmen around who are ready to contemplate life without a Gandhi at the helm. Don’t think Shashi Tharoor and Sandeep Dikshit are crying in the wilderness when they demand that the leadership issue be sorted out at the earliest to pull the party out of the ICU. They demand the party elect a new leader after Rahul Gandhi resigned last year following rejection in the Lok Sabha elections, saying there were other “capable leaders” in the party to lead it. This is the beginning to find a resonance at all levels of the party organisation.

A party which till only a few months ago believed that it would disintegrate without a member of the Family at its helm, is now ready to be led by a non-Gandhi. The common belief that the Gandhis alone can keep the party together, acting as some sort of a glue, has yielded to a realisation that under them the party is headed for electoral doom. The Gandhis as Fevicol argument seems to have come unstuck after the woeful failure of the Congress to return a half-decent result in the just-concluded Delhi Assembly elections. The Congress drew a duck on the trot, having failed to win a single seat in the 2015 polls as well.

All said and done, Congress-men are a pragmatic lot. If the Gandhis can no longer win elections for them, why persist with them? In that case, goes the argument, why not experiment with a leader directly elected by the bona fide members of the All India Congress Committee? Yes, why not? But you think the vested interests who hover around 10 Janpath will countenance a situation where they become non-entities? No, never. That even after the drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, the Gandhis nominated a half-wit Adhir Ranjan Chaudhury as the leader of the party in the House in preference to someone like, say, a young and bright Manish Tewari or even Tharoor, reinforces the stranglehold of the family.

Fear of the Crown Prince being overshadowed by a lesser Congressman has crippled whatever little talent there might be left in the party. But, then, as the saying goes, third raters only promote fourth and fifth raters… (In sharp contrast, consider how Narendra Modi spotlights the young ones in his party, allowing a Jamyang Tsering Namgyal from Ladakh or a Tejasvi Surya from Bengaluru to hold forth confidently in the recent parliamentary session.)

The other day, one happened to meet a senior Congress leader who has held key Cabinet posts in the UPA government. On being asked if Rahul could soon return as party chief, he shot back, “If it happens, we will resist openly. There will be a revolt…you don’t know how disgusted ordinary Congress workers are with the Family…” The rest of what he said was a vicious diatribe against the Gandhis and need not be mentioned here. But suffice to say in his view the single-most important reason for the present plight of the Congress was the Gandhi family.

Both Tharoor and Dikshit, son of the former Delhi Chief Minister, the late Sheila Dikshit, have accused the senior leaders of being scared in failing to raise the leadership question—the same old who will bell the cat syndrome. Most courageously, they already have. Tharoor has called for election to 12 of the 23 seats in the Congress Working Committee which, the party Constitution provides, ought to be elected by the AICC members. Not since the time Sitaram Kesari was the party chief in the late 90s has there been an election for the CWC, with the party chief nominating all members to the top decision-making forum.

Expectedly, the party spokesman, Randeep Surjewala, the Gandhis’ dedicated mouthpiece, pooh-poohed Tharoor and Dikshit: “…it was the CWC which had elected the Congress president…instead of pontificating to the whole country, first they (that is, Tharoor and Dikshit) should look after their respective constituencies…” Surjewala did not say that the CWC, which elected Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi as party chief, was in fact nominated by them in the first place. And, by the way, Sonia Gandhi currently is supposed to be a provisional or working president, not elected by anyone. Surjewal should at least be factually correct about the party he speaks for.

 

OPTIONS FOR ­SHAHEEN BAGH

Now, they scold the Supreme Court for suggesting that a way be found to lift the traffic blockade at Shaheen Bagh. It is argued that instead of showing concern about the free movement of traffic, the Apex Court ought to have prioritized hearing on the constitutionality or otherwise of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The audacity of the surrogate Shaheen Bagh voices in the media is such that saner voices of reason and common sense tend to fall on deaf ears.

That the two court-appointed intermediaries are supporters of the Shaheen Bagh charade is a public secret. But that should not matter for the limited task they have been asked by the Apex Court to accomplish in a half-decent manner. Yet, even they cannot commend a course of action which fails to resolve the immediate problem of lifting the more than two-month long-blockade of a major arterial road in the capital. A partisan political protest cannot be allowed to become a great nuisance for ordinary, law-abiding citizens. If the protesters have the right to protest, ordinary citizens have the right to move about freely without obstruction. And we believe that the latter should take precedence over the former. Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, while hearing the PIL last week, did point out the sensible course to the protesters moving to a designated place for continuing their business there.

Lawfulness of CAA can be agitated both inside and outside judicial forums in an orderly manner so long as peace-loving citizens are not troubled by the disorderliness of the protesters. Squatting 24×7 on a thoroughfare is an act of intimidation and bullying of the aam aadmi and must be ordered to be cleared by the Apex Court at the next hearing of the Shaheen Bagh-related PIL. Any failure to do so can only encourage other groups, say, those vociferously supporting CAA to occupy yet another major arterial road to counter the constant static in the media emanating from Shaheen Bagh.

Recall how in the early 1990s the jumma namazis had blocked some of the main thoroughfares in Mumbai until, that is, Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sainiks gathered in strength every Tuesday to perform aarti outside major temples with the devotees squatting on the roads in front. Soon both sets of people stopped blocking roads in the name of offering prayers.

Because the police has shown no inclination to clear the traffic, may be a counter Shaheen Bagh dharna by CAA-supporters would move the authorities. For, a large number of people cannot be put to daily trouble by Shaheen Bagh. If they have to protest, let them by all means. But relocate to, say, a ground or a park in Jamia Nagar or nearby colonies from where most of them come. However, newspaper reports suggest that the protesters are adamant on sitting at the same site. This virtually leaves the Supreme Court with little option than to order the Shaheen Bagh shindig to be cleared at the pain of forcible removal by the police. Otherwise, their example will prove contagious, triggering many counter protests all over the country.