Congress leaders are walking out of the party, speaking against the official line, and the top leadership is behaving like an ostrich.
The ingenuity of the Narendra Modi government’s masterstroke on Article 370 can be matched only by the dumbness of the Congress. This is the reason that its leaders are walking out of the party, speaking against the official line, and the top leadership is behaving like an ostrich. As if nothing has happened in the last few years, as if Manmohan Singh is still Prime Minister, public discourse is still dominated by Left-liberals, and the political agenda set by professional revolutionaries.
The top Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi, woke up over 24 hours after Home Minister Amit Shah’s announcement on Article 370. Gandhi opposed the Centre’s move to end the special status to Jammu & Kashmir without the consent of the state Assembly. He tweeted: “National integration isn’t furthered by unilaterally tearing apart J&K, imprisoning elected representatives and violating our Constitution. This nation is made by its people, not plots of land. This abuse of executive power has grave implications for our national security.”
He obviously doesn’t know what a large number of his party members (including the family faithful) think and feel, let alone what the people of India think and feel. Party stalwart and loyalist Janardan Dwivedi openly went against the party line. He told a news agency, “My mentor Ram Manohar Lohia was against Article 370 from the start… My personal view is that this is a matter of national satisfaction. A mistake made during Independence has been corrected, even if belatedly.”
Congress leader Deepender Hooda tweeted, “My personal view is that there isn’t a need to have Article 370 in the 21st century.” This despite the fact that the son of former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is widely regarded as close to Rahul. “The move is not only in the interest of the country but also for the benefit of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. It is the responsibility of the government to implement the move in a peaceful environment,” Hooda said.
Congress leader and former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia also supported the government on revoking the powers of Article 370 and J&K bifurcation. Another Congress leader, Jaiveer Shergill, who eloquently defends his party on television channels, also supported the government on Article 370.
The most poignant illustration of the family’s alienation was the resignation by the Congress’ chief whip Bhubaneswar Kalita. He not only refused to issue the party whip but also quit it. In a statement, he said, “The Congress has asked me to issue a whip on the Kashmir issue. But the truth is that the mood of the nation has completely changed and this whip is against the public sentiment across the country… It seems the Congress is committing suicide with this ideology and I don’t want to be part of this.”
While the GOP may not be keen on suicide, its fetish for the most hazardous parts of its ideology and policy seems close to a death wish. In the last two decades, it got so pally with the Left-liberals that the law of induction got operationalised: perhaps involuntarily, the top leadership got infected with the outlandish ideas of salon socialists, eco-nuts, and jihad-compliant activists. Remember the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC)? These radicals infested the NAC when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in office (2004-14).
The party’s honeymoon with pinkish intellectuals cost it dear, for the policies they suggested derailed reforms, burdened the exchequer, introduced distortions in the economy, and thus dampened investor sentiment, resulting in jobless growth during the 10 years of UPA rule; its unsavoury after effects are still felt. Unfortunately for the Congress, the NAC mindset still rules the roost—that is, within party.
To make the matters worse for the Congress, its leadership also went along with the political agenda of NAC-types, further hurting its electoral prospects. The consequences are for all to see: the crushing defeats in general elections in 2014 and 2019, and countless losses in state Assembly polls. To be precise, all save the Congress bosses.
The family persists with the ideas and persons that brought it on the verge of extinction. Hence former Home Minister P. Chidambaram was given the responsibility of drafting the party’s manifesto for the recently held general elections. Among other things, he promised to review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA. At a time when nationalism is the dominant sentiment, the inclusion of such Left-inspired pledges proved expensive for the GOP.
Like the Bourbons of yore, the Nehru-Gandhi family has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. That it continues with the pro-370 stand at a time when the entire country is celebrating its neutralisation speaks volumes about its alienation. Apparently, Chidambaram spoke for the family when he said, “The worst day in the Constitutional history of India…which could lead to the dismemberment of the country.”
That will surely not happen; but with leaders like Chidambaram around, this may be the fate of the country’s oldest party. Along with Rahul, they may beat Modi for once—making India Congress-mukt!
Ravi Shanker Kapoor is Editor, www.thehinduchronicle.com