Millennium Post

Congress refuses to learn

Congress may or may not be prepared to break, but it refuses to bend. The party’s recent election debacle in four states doesn’t seem to have much impact on its style of functioning despite the party’s next prime minister probable, Rahul Gandhi’s post-poll soul-stiring admission that it has lot to learn from Aam Admi Party to improve its people-connect. Instead, the party appears to have hardened its resolve to take head on its opposition such as AAP in Delhi, SP in UP, JD(U) in Bihar, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and BJP at the national level and continue with pro-business policies for essentials like natural gas, petroleum and products, and electricity to add to the suffering of the common man and the low income group ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

As if to throw an open challenge to AAP, which promised to work with the common man if it came to power in Delhi and make their life easier, the government raised the prices of CNG by 10 per cent at a single stroke, less than 48 hours before the swearing-in of the AAP’s council of ministers, headed by Arvind Kejriwal, to cause a massive face loss for the inexperienced new government, a first timer in politics. The price of the piped gas for cooking has also been raised. The power utilities, represented by Tatas and Reliance Power, too have thrown down a gauntlet at Kejriwal soon after the announcement of election results, proposing higher rates for electricity for domestic and other consumers in the capital city from January. The sudden CNG price hike, which will have a chain effect on the rates of the capital’s public transport system, including the common man’s auto rickshaw and bus, is the crudest form of joke pulled on Kejriwal’s new born government. AAP had promised to reduce prices of the common man’s consumption, including food articles, water and electricity, and bring quality education and healthcare within its easy reach. Kejriwal’s first challenge is to meet the auto operators’ unions to agree on a new revised fare chart and deal with higher electricity tariff.

Curiously, Kejriwal has been simultaneously warned as well advised by a senior serving IAS officer, expressing his ‘personal view’ through a leader article in a leading national newspaper ahead of his swearing-in, that ‘probity in politics and public life is infinitely harder to do than inculcating markets into a government managed economy’. In summery, Kejriwal was told: honesty in public life is okay, but don’t resurrect socialism to fiddle with the current brand of economic reform or private capitalism and market economy to invite disaster for Delhi and the country.

It is an unbelievably amazing act on the part of a serving bureaucrat to provide such an unsolicited – as also unheard of before – advice to a newly elected government to dump its poll promises and cheat its electorates to uphold the bastions of neo-capitalism. Did the IAS officer act on the advice of Congress president Sonia Gandhi or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, or apex industry, or business lobbies? Did he have the government’s written permission to serve such a strong notice on Arvind Kejriwal? How would the UPA government, Ms Gandhi and Singh react to such an open advise given to them by a serving bureaucrat to dump the party’s pro-market, pro-rich economic policies and strengthen the government subsidy regime to benefit the common man in such a strong manner?

Congress seems to have gone crazy ahead of the 2014 parliamentary polls. It has gone back on promises to provide ‘special status’ and special economic package to Bihar as the party is rethinking on poll alliance in Bihar. CBI didn’t contest the bail application of Lalu Prasad Yadav, a Ranchi High Court convict in the Rs 10,000-crore Bihar fodder scam case, which has taken nearly two decades for a logical conclusion. Congress may be looking for a grand alliance in Bihar with Lalu Prasad’s RJP and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP to take on BJP and the ruling Nitish Kumar’s JD (U). Any special economic package to Bihar could wait until then.

CBI’s continuous interest in the private Saradha chit fund fraud case in West Bengal, which is being thoroughly investigated by the state’s own law enforcement machinery, poses a threat to tarnish the image of Mamata Banerjee’s TMC government for the alleged link of some of its high-ups in the Rs 4,000-crore scam that duped lakhs of small depositors from even other neighbouring states such as Bihar and Assam. One fears that a seemingly mal-intentioned CBI move may try to fix responsibility of the chit fund fraud on the West Bengal government to put Mamata Banerjee on the dock before the election. Obviously, the West Bengal government does not want CBI snooping anywhere near the Saradha investigation.

There is no respite for Modi even after he got a clean chit from a court of law in the Gujarat riots case. The Centre has ordered the setting up of an inquiry commission to be headed by a retired high court or supreme court judge to probe the alleged illegal snooping of a Bangalore-based woman architect by Gujarat officials, reportedly at the behest of Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s close aide Amit Shah. The commission will have to submit its findings fast, within three months, well in time before the parliamentary election. Obviously, Congress has no intention to leave Mody in peace till the election.

Unfortunately, Congress under its present leadership appears to be less tolerant and more vindictive to its critics. That in democracy people are supreme and regime change is part of the system teaches political parties humility and their leaders behave humbly. The growing arrogance of power has embittered Congress’ relationship with both its allies and opposition. It is the biggest undoing of the 130-year-old party.


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