It is continuity without any change under the new Congress boss.
You feel sorry for Rahul Gandhi, don’t you? Despite increasing evidence each passing day that he does not have what it takes to mature into a national leader, he feels obliged to try and play the part thrust on him by the Family. The fact is, in Karnataka, the people start walking away once Siddaramaiah has finished his divisive and abusive harangue, not waiting for his notional boss, the national president of the Congress Party, to deliver his pearly words of wisdom. This has belatedly forced a change in protocol. Now, Siddaramaiah speaks the last so that the crowd feels obliged to sit through the Great Leader’s deadpanned oration.
Which again underlines the fact that the battle in Karnataka is between Siddaramaiah and the BJP, with Deve Gowda’s JD(S) in contention in at least one-third of the total 224 constituencies. Not unlike in the Punjab Assembly poll last year, where Captain Amarinder Singh called the shots, the Congress in Karnataka is a one-man show, with other faction leaders such as Mallikarjun Kharge, Veerappa Moilly and Pradesh Congress chief G. Parameshwara sulking in their respective tents.
But we were on the long but as yet unfinished apprenticeship of the 47-year-old Congress president. His inability to pull in the crowds is compounded further by a lack of fresh thinking, as evidenced in the recent appointment of Kamal Nath as the head of the party in Madhya Pradesh. A key state scheduled to elect a new Assembly a few months ahead of the 2019 general election, Nath represents all that is wrong with the Congress.
He may have won his own parliamentary seat in all the elections since 1977, yet his influence outside Chhindwara is negligible. Besides, at 71, Nath brings no fresh blood to the leadership of a party which Rahul was expected to induct as the new party chief. A clumsy attempt at patchwork unity among various factions can hardly be the way to revive the old and jaded Congress. Rahul has only shown his weakness, his lack of imagination, by accommodating Nath as the MP boss. It will cost the party heavily in the coming Assembly elections.
Even otherwise, Rahul’s reluctance to drop the deadwood, to induct fresh blood, to constitute a new working committee with a fair mix of youthful leaders and successful professionals eager to enter politics for the larger public good, signals that he neither has the boldness of youth nor the courage to make a new beginning for a party which has come to be associated in the public mind with corruption, criminality and rank selfishness. More continuity than change informs Rahul’s stewardship of the Congress thus far. It is neither nai roshni, nor nai disha, as was touted, wrongly, as it eventually turned out, in the early days of his father’s anointment as the Congress chief back in the 1980s. Fear to strike against the vested interests controlling the party in the states cannot reverse the Congress slide. But Rahul is confused and buffeted by contradictory advice by new and old advisers, some of them totally clueless about the grassroots realities altogether.
Indeed, the only change visible under Rahul is the crude attempt to acquire a Hindu-friendly image through well-publicised visits to temples and other religious places of the majority community. The danger lies in the people sticking with the original and self-avowedly Hindu-friendly BJP, rather than their shifting loyalty to a spurious brand. Besides, the Rahul strategy risks alienation of Muslims who for want of a non-BJP alternative reluctantly voted for the Congress.
Meanwhile, the Salman Khurshid mea culpa at an event in the Aligarh Muslim University may not be as simple as it was being made out by the media. For all you know, this was a calculated move, a part of the same old strategy to shed the pro-Muslim tag and acquire a Hindu-friendly image. After all, what further proof do Hindus require of the Congress’ pro-Hindu credentials than an open confession by a leading Muslim member of the party that “there is blood of Muslims” on the hands of the Congress leaders? It might appear cynical but the way the questioner reeled off the names of all the riots and other events since Independence in which Muslims were at the receiving end, it appeared that the whole thing was staged for wider consumption.
That Rahul has no intention of cleaning the Congress’ Augean stables ought to be clear from the registration of a criminal case for illegal mining against the party’s candidate in an Assembly by-election in Punjab within hours of his filing his nomination papers. Or the fielding of notorious moneybags as party candidates in Karnataka. Pointing the finger at the BJP by the young leader would have carried some conviction had he shown a zeal to clean the accumulated mess in his own party. He obviously has no intention since he himself is a prime product of the corrupt and criminal Congress culture.
IGNORING LOG IN OWN EYE, BLAMING MODI FOR SPECK IN HIS EYE
The Prime Minister got his facts on General K.S. Thimyya and Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa mixed up, though there is no denying that the two much-decorated Coorgi soldiers were treated harshly at some stage in their careers by the Congress governments. But a television channel, which magnifies manifold the mistakes of the PM and the ruling party, felt obliged to mute the criticism when a Congress spokesman countered Modi with his own wrong “facts”.
But the same channel, whose owners are accused of laundering hundreds of crores through round-tripping of funds, showed its bias, headlining a Modi public meeting in Karnataka thus: “In Ballari, PM shares stage with corruption-charged Reddy Brother”.
However, the same channel owned by the grandiloquent couple who indulged in financial skulduggery but pretend to be upholders of the freedom of the press, had this headline when the Great Leader went and met Lalu Yadav in the hospital: “Rahul Gandhi checks on Lalu Yadav at AIIMS”
Will someone tell them that there is a huge difference between a corruption-charged and a corruption-convicted leader? Just as the promoters of the said channel have been found to be guilty by the tax authorities and slapped huge penalties for laundering black money, they are yet to be convicted by a court of law.
WISE SAYINGS OF BIPLAB DEB
And, finally, let us tell you with some authority that the Tripura government is not filing a case for the breach of intellectual property rights and for damages running into billions of dollars against Google and other tech behemoths. It seems the new and energetic Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb wanted to alleviate India’s poverty with one stroke, seeking huge fines and damages plus a revenue sharing arrangement for infinity. Since Deb had publicly claimed that there was internet and satellite broadcasting in ancient times, he thought the claim was justified, until his ardour for the extraordinarily outlandish, some will say, stupid, disappeared once he got a tongue-lashing from the central leadership.