Millennium Post

Congress revival a far cry

When a faithful retainer is asked to assess his masters, he has no option but to play safe. Moreover, his servile instincts make him blind to any flaws. The result is that he is unable to give an honest opinion. Instead, he tiptoes around a glaring defect and concentrates on the non-essentials. This unmanly evasion is what characterises A K Antony’s report on the Congress’s debacle.

Commissioned by the party president, Sonia Gandhi, to find out the causes for the setback, the former defence minister has drafted the report along with three others whose mindsets are undoubtedly similar to his own.

The document is for Sonia’s eyes only, which means that it will probably never see the light of the day. However, some of its main features are known, and what is significant is that the report has exonerated Rahul Gandhi of any responsibility for the party’s dismal performance.

Cynics will say that Antony had no option, especially after he saw how those who criticised the mother and son were suspended from the party, like T H Mustafa, a former minister in Kerala, who called the dauphin a joker. Antony is too senior to suffer the same fate if he hints at Rahul’s culpability, but he knows that the Queen will not be amused.

What is immediately obvious from this act of pulling the wool over the party’s eyes is that the real cause will always remain hidden – at least formally. In reality, of course, virtually everyone inside and outside the Congress is aware that the mother-and-son duo has brought about the party’s downfall. While the son is guilty of an unfocussed approach to politics, the mother is seemingly unaware of the social and economic changes brought about by the opening up of the economy. But, since this state secret will always remain under wraps, it can be assumed that the Congress will never come to terms with its primary defect.

As a result, its chances of recovery are remote since no one is as blind as those who will not see. For the foreseeable future, therefore, it will have to depend on the BJP making a serious mistake to claw its way back into reckoning.

Otherwise, there is little hope of the Congress leadership being able to enthuse the party’s followers with either ideas which delineate a vision in sync with a changing India or a display of uncommon energy.

While few would have expected the mild-mannered Antony to be fearlessly outspoken, his docility is nevertheless surprising. Unlike most other sycophants, who are abjectly dependent on the dynasty to retain their places in the organization, the leader from Kerala has a base of his own in his home state where he was once the chief minister. His honesty, too, is legendary, which is why he is sometimes called St Antony with a mixture of derision and amused admiration.

He is, therefore, perhaps the only one in the 128-year-old party who can afford to be frank. In any event, since the report was not to be made public, what harm could have been caused by a candid appraisal? It would have at least shown that the author was not scared of telling the truth.  Now, however, the report, whose gist is known, will be seen as a whitewash except for the surprising acknowledgement of the Congress’s familiar folly of minority appeasement. Antony must have summoned all his courage to write this passage, given his awareness of Sonia’s preference for a quota-based nanny state.

Considering that Antony had opposed Indira Gandhi’s Emergency and had even broken away from the Congress to form his own party at the time, his present kowtowing to the dynasty is odd. So is his belief that the party will bounce back as it did after the Emergency. This is a serious misreading of the situation, for there is little in common between then and now.

In 1980, the voters had lost faith in the ruling Janata Party which had been artificially put together by the merger of several others to meet the challenge to civil liberties posed by the Emergency.

Moreover, the Congress was then still a formidable force. Now, the Congress is a shadow of its former self under an inept leadership whose dalliance with corrupt individuals both in the party and among its allies, and failure to push ahead with reforms, helped the BJP to recover from its position of a kati patang or a fallen kite, as one of its loyalists called the party after its 2009 defeat.

Instead of trying to keep on the right side of the first family, therefore, in a display of feudal loyalty, it is time for those in the Congress whose image is not that of obsequious courtiers to stand up to be counted. IPA
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