The Congress’s crown prince does not seem to be in a hurry to become king. Where is the hurry since I am already calling the shots, he may well ask. But we suspect the reluctance might stem from a genuine fear: what if the party’s fortunes dwindle further? Like they had soon after Sonia Gandhi took over as party chief after the late Sitaram Kesri was physically dragged out of the party office. The Congress tally in the 1999 general election, the first with Sonia Gandhi as party boss, had come down from 144 to 114.
Reports that Rahul was to be anointed the Congress President ahead of the Gujarat election were clearly unfounded. Now, the formalization of his de facto status as the party boss would have to await the outcome in Himachal and Gujarat. While the former is as good as lost for the party, contrary to the hype being whipped up in a section of the media, Gujarat too is all set to stay with the BJP.
And in that eventuality, it would be rather odd for a beaten Rahul Gandhi to take command of a defeated and disheartened party. Therefore, aside from toning down the hype about wresting Gujarat from the Modi-Shah duo, the Crown Prince should see percentage in hurriedly formalizing his own status so that the reverses in Himachal and Gujarat do not further delay the inevitable.
The fact that the BJP has had nine presidents since Sonia Gandhi grabbed the Congress President’s post from Kesri in 1998, and has remained the sole party boss since, underlines the obvious about the GOP: it is now a family firm with place for only those who are willing to serve the cause of the owners above all else.
Self-respect and dignity must not get precedence over loyalty to the family, a major factor for the flight of strong regional leaders from the Congress.
That said, reports from Gujarat also speak of the Patels ditching the Patidar leader Hardik Patel in droves for the latter’s inability to steer clear of partisan politics. A good section of the Patel youth, it seems, is angry with Hardik for seeking to support the Congress or any other party, for that matter. Aware that reservations in government jobs and educational seats for Patels is a pipe-dream under the current constitutional order, a large section of the Patidar youth would like to contest the election on its own separate platform. Anyway, there is a strong anti-Congress mood within the community for having deprived it for decades of the benefit of reservations.
The belated attempt to fob off the Patels with lawyerly arguments about a Tamil Nadu-like formula is fraught. One, an attempt to breach of the 49 per cent Lakshman Rekha has not worked in a few other States when under pressure from other castes and communities they tried to exceed the apex court-mandated limit on reservations. Two, any fresh reservations in government jobs and educational seats will have to necessarily come at the cost of the OBCs, SCs, STs or some other castes and communities, since it is hard for anyone to create new jobs in governmental sector.
Hardik Patel in his current anti-BJP mood might want to buy the goody-goody promises of a desperate Congress, but it seems a vast majority of Patidars who had laid siege to the bazaars and public squares in Gujarat not so long ago is mighty angry with him.
It wants to have nothing to do either with the Congress or the BJP. And instead field its own candidates on a distinct Patidar platform in all Patel-dominant constituencies. The point being that by aligning with a political party, the Patidar cause is diluted, nay, nullified.
Meanwhile, a keen observer of the Gujarat scene reasoned that Hardik’s support has diminished to a large extent in recent weeks, partly because of the factional fights and rivalries within the Patidar leadership. Even if he were to declare support for the Congress, a vast majority of the Patels would ignore his call. Hardik also fails to inspire the dominant but conservative Patel community because of his own personal conduct. But the Congress trying to rope him in only shows its own desperation since his support can automatically alienate a number of other caste groups which may be well-disposed towards it.
Besides, caste is only one of the several factors that sway voters. In the absence of a regional leader, and with a weak organizational structure, it is hard to take on a go-getter like Amit Shah and a popular leader like Narendra Modi. Creating a social media hype and exploiting the temporary difficulties of the trading community on account of GST cannot constitute a winning strategy, especially when near the polling day the ruling party would have put to work its army of dedicated `karyakartas’ and unveiled its superior strategy and electoral skills.
The point: If Rahul Gandhi wants to save blushes he ought to hurriedly formalize the family arrangement and take over as party chief immediately.
When the fence starts eating the crop . . .
Only the other day we had reason to comment on the increasing sordidness in the higher judiciary. We did not know we will soon be furnished further endorsement.
What was put on display by the honourable judges of the Supreme Court, undoubtedly instigated by a couple of self-important lawyers, last Thursday and Friday, showed the highest court in the land in poor light. Yes, we had occasion to write about a senior judge who as a member of the collegium invariably agrees without demur with all the decisions taken and then, a day or two later, shoots off letters to the Chief protesting the very decisions he was an active party to and promptly leaks these to the media.
Yes, we know he has had a grievance for a long time insofar as he has been pressing for the transfer of a High Court judge to his home state which for that very reason the collegium has so far refrained from ordering since his own close relative practices in the said High Court. So when a perennially disgruntled lawyer, who once dreamed of becoming a law officer, forum-shopped to broadcast trumped up charges against the highest judicial authority he self-selected the devious judge. How the latter promptly agreed to such an arbitrary demand smacks of a deeper conspiracy. In the name of protecting the fair name of judiciary, what was done was to drag it further into the market place for mudslinging. Also, the PIL entrepreneur, who cloaks his own greed in the garb of larger public good, persisted with his own independent assault on the dignity of the highest in the judiciary. It looked like a pincer attack with the foul-mouthed former head of the SC Bar and the PIL entrepreneur teaming up with a disgruntled judge.
Factional fights among Brother Judges play straight into the hands of those whose actions, ostensibly well-intended, have had the effect of undermining the public standing and honour of the judiciary. As they say, when the fence starts eating the crops, no outsider can protect it.
Tiwari pricks Hooda balloon
Sycophancy is ingrained in the Congress culture. The other day, Deepender Hooda, MP, retweeted a tweet from an NSUI member. It read, “ Deepender Hoodaji has given us a new slogan: You and I, NSUI. Thank you, Hoodaji for motivating all of us.”
But, for some inexplicable reason, former minister Manish Tiwari punctured Hooodaji. He tweeted, “ U and I with NSUI was coined in 1985 by a gentleman who is now in the TDP and whose wife is the Defence Minister. He was the JNU-NSUI president and later national vice- president NSUI.” The reference is to Parakala Prabhakar, Nirmala Sitharaman’s husband, who is now communications adviser to the Chandrababu Government in Andhra Pradesh.
(Virendra Kapoor is a senior journalist and columnist. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect that of Asianet Newsable.)
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:44 PM IST