Those in the party who imagine Congress will reinvent itself shortly are under perilous delusion.

 

Whether Rahul Gandhi remains Congress president or not, he will continue to be de-facto head of the party. Whoever the successor, he or she will not take even a minor decision without consulting or informing Rahul Gandhi. Who will be Rahul Gandhi’s successor? I can’t think of a name. Can you? I have been a Congress insider. I know how the party functions, or does not function.

Congress, at the moment, is in the midst of an acute crisis. Let us put down the names of states where the party is in disarray. Rajasthan, Haryana, Telangana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal (it hardly exists here). In each of these states the top leaders are indulging in open and unseemly mudslinging. The Chief Minister of Rajasthan blames the party president for the defeat of his son from the Jodhpur Lok Sabha seat. The Chief Minister is no spring chicken. He has been in the game all his adult life. The party president’s grievance is well known. He genuinely feels that he was unfairly done out of the Chief Ministership through low level intrigues at the AICC. He will of course deny this publicly. Nobody will buy his denial. He has one very substantial advantage over his adversary. He has age on his side. More importantly, he is now attracting attention throughout the country.

Those in the party who imagine that the Congress will reinvent and renew itself in a short period of time are under the spell of a perilous delusion. The party should sooner, rather than later, get rid of its hypochondria. Otherwise, it will become an eviscerated outfit.

Indian democracy needs a strong Opposition in Parliament. Only Congress can be so. From 44 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, the tally went up to 52 in 2019. Rahul Gandhi has announced that his party will not let the government get its way in Parliament. Fifty-two against 303-plus! Yes, the Congress can disrupt both Houses. However, beyond a point this futile activity will not invite national approbation, but national disapproval.

 

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When the world renowned mountaineer, Edmund Hillary, was New Zealand’s High Commissioner in India in the 1980s, I got to know him well. He would have been horrified and deeply saddened by what has been happening on Mount Everest. The government of Nepal is issuing hundreds of permits, for Rs 11,000 to each mountaineer wishing to get to the top of Everest. Why has the government of Prime Minister K.P. Oli not restricted the indiscriminate issue of permits? Lives are being lost. More will fall to their deaths if Kathmandu does not wake up to the gravity. With due respect, it must be said the government of our very beloved and closest neighbour functions in slow motion.

 

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No serious upheaval occurred in the Punjab on the 35th anniversary of Operation Blue Star. In Amritsar too the fracas was handled with steady nerves, tact and patience by the authorities.

P.V. Narasimha Rao and I were in Indonesia when Major-General Sunderji, disobeying Indira Gandhi’s instructions, defiled and destroyed parts of the Golden Temple complex. I cannot forget the comment of the chronically taciturn P.V.: “We will pay a very heavy price for this act.” We did. We lost Indira Gandhi four months later.

 

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I am reading, Containing the China Onslaught by Pradip Baijal. He was Joint Secretary when I was Minister of State for Steel in the Rajiv Gandhi government. I quote from a revealing paragraph exposing the outrages committed during 200 years of British rule.

In an interview to Live Mint, economist Utsa Patnaik said, “In the colonial era, most of India’s sizeable foreign exchange earnings went straight to London, severely hampering the country’s ability to import machinery and technology in order to embark on a modernising path similar to what Japan did in the 1870s.” She estimated that over 200 years, Britain plundered at least £9.2 trillion. The scars of imperialism are still fresh.

 

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