Millennium Post

Congress refuses to learn

Congress refuses to learn
Like the proverbial Bourbons, the Congress learns nothing and forgets nothing. For the party, the latest electoral drubbing does not seem to have been too bothersome. It had promised ‘deep introspection’ after it lost four assembly elections last year. That it did nothing of the sort was evident only a few months later in the second thrashing which it received at the electorate’s hands.

But, even this debacle hasn’t affected the Congress’s ways of conducting business. Four reports from Maharashtra confirm this nonchalant tendency. One of them relates to allegations of sleaze against Ajit Pawar, an ally of the Prithviraj Chavan government, who is from the Congress stable and, therefore, carries its DNA. The others are about quotas for Marathis, expediency about dance bars and loss of nerve about the Hindu rashtra sena.

All these instances underline the Congress’s inability to realise that its hallmark cynicism can only drag the party down because the voters are no longer willing to let the party pull the wool over their eyes. Now, thanks to the communications revolution, they are able to see through the subterfuges which are resorted to by the Congress almost by force of habit.

The party does not seem to understand, or is unwilling to acknowledge, that one of the reasons for its present sorry plight is its association with corruption. The various scams of 2011-2012 were effectively utilized to tarnish the party’s reputation by the Anna Hazare/Arvind Kejriwal duo and then by Narendra Modi. Yet, the Ajit Pawar episode shows that the Congress hasn’t undertaken any deep introspection on the subject in order to regain public trust. It still seems to believe that its claims of being lily-white will have credence.

Similarly, the Congress continues to believe that the formula of reservations is foolproof. That a move to include the Jats in the OBC category did not help it in the recent elections in Haryana and UP hasn’t been noted by the party. It believes, therefore, that in the absence of development, the extension of reservations to the Marathis will help it recover some lost ground in Maharashtra.
The party still hasn’t understood that the younger generation no longer cares for such demeaning sops. Instead of securing educational opportunities and jobs by means which will burden them forever with the stigma of being the beneficiaries of an unfair system, they want a buoyant economy to provide them with such facilities where they will not be beholden to a benevolent
mai-baap sarkar. 

Such an attitude may have prevailed in the years immediately after independence when the economy was crawling at the 2/3 per cent Hindu rate of growth. But, the ambience has changed after the introduction of an open economy in 1991. For the Congress, however, the reflexes of a scarcity-dominated licence-permit-control raj have become so ingrained in its psyche that it unthinkingly believes that a promise of quotas will bring the voters running to its doors.

There are other aspects of an open economy which the Congress hasn’t imbibed. Mumbai’s dance bars are one of them. To circumvent the Supreme Court’s order which sought a clarification on why the police were targeting only the bars frequented by middle class customers while allowing dancing and drinking to continue in the high-end establishments, the Maharashtra government has chosen to throw the baby out with the bathwater by banning dance performances everywhere. It isn’t only the non-application of mind which is characteristic of a Congress-led government, but also its refusal to acknowledge the imperatives of a market-dominated economy. When P Chidambaram was finance minister, he pointed out this blind spot when he said that ‘if you are aspiring to make Mumbai the financial capital, you can’t have parochial and jingoistic statements and misconceived intentions that belong to moral policing’.

The Prithviraj Chavan government seems to believe, however, that its show of moralistic fervour will endear it to at least some sections of the population at a time when it will be grateful for any crumb of support it can secure. It will not be surprising, therefore, if the Congress now seeks to compete with the two Senas of the Thackeray family in adopting parochial and jingoistic postures as well, including a ban on books and paintings identified as anti-Hindu by rabble-rousers.

The proposed reservation for Marathis is one such parochial move. Another is the government’s hesitancy to outlaw the Hindu rashtra sena following its suspected involvement in the murder of a Muslim technologist. This organisation was also suspected to be behind the assassination of the rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, but the police are yet to find the guilty. In the years before Dabholkar’s death, the government dragged its feet on implementing the anti-superstition laws favoured by him apparently because of the fear that the superstitious will not vote for the Congress!
Once in the forefront of forward-looking social and educational reforms – banning untouchability, introducing a scientific temper – the Congress today is a dry husk of its former glorious self, devoid of inspiring leaders and an enlightened outlook.
Amulya Ganguli

Amulya Ganguli

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