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Millennium Post

Politics of theatrics

Did the conclave of the Congress party held at Jaipur last January not make the order of precedence within the organisation amply clear? The anointment of Rahul Gandhi as party vice-president at that meet, which was christened as Chintan Shivir, announced loudly that he was the ‘leader of the future’ and for the Congress cadres their game changer.

Now the meaning of the word game changer in the perception of the Congress cadres is very clear, to use Biblical allegory – he is the messenger who would bring for them the good news. And the good news for Congress party would be redemption at the 2014 general elections and the assembly polls leading to them.

Rahul Gandhi as the messenger of good news, as mentioned in Bible, would have to ‘shout to Zion from the mountaintops! Shout it louder to Jerusalem.’ In the midst of a bitter political battle with the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by theatrically equally adept Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi no wonder once in a while climbs ‘up to a high mountain,’ and ‘lift(s) his voice with strength to herald of good news.’

It therefore surprised many when the news channels went berserk over the ‘indignity’ which the game-changer perpetrated on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 27 September by calling the Ordinance to give relief to convicted politicians a non-sense. The same channels and also newspapers had completely soaked themselves in January with the piece enacted by the Gandhi scion at the stage of the Birla auditorium in Jaipur, where he had delivered the act on politics being poison. Therefore, what was surprising about his September act?

Those who admire the Congress party and those who are critical of it would have by now in equal measure realised with the autumn act put on the stage of Press Club of India was a firm reminder that the earlier enactment at Jaipur was not just a piece well-enacted to mesmerise media and television audience but a milestone in the party’s history. If Jaipur made clear who the leader of the party was, Press Club reiterated the fact.

Thus I wonder why the Opposition and a section of the media have been critical of Rahul Gandhi for the words he used to denounce the government decision and of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for not taking umbrage at it. However, what matters for the Gandhi family is that there hasn’t been a whiff of resentment from within the Congress party, which has unequivocally accepted Rahul’s criticism of the government.

This has sent out a very clear message to the smaller political groups about the new leadership of Congress with whom they have now to do business in the event of a pre-poll alliance or government formation following 2014 polls.

Despite the shrinkage in its influence over the years, Congress is the only political party with an organisational presence in every state and union territory of the country. Therefore it is no small achievement that the prime minister, his ministerial colleagues, powerful satraps like the chief ministers of the states where Congress is in power, their cabinet colleagues, members of parliament, members of state legislature and other influential party leaders decide to work under the ‘guidance’ of their leader with no questions asked.

Whether this is done in awe of or for the love of the Nehru-Gandhi clan doesn’t matter, either way it vouches for the control the family enjoys over the party, a fact much resented by their political rivals and detractors.

Therefore, the criticism of Rahul Gandhi for criticising the prime minister will not add any brownie points to the Opposition’s tally as Manmohan Singh is just a regent of the Gandhi family is a long settled stand. Moreover, as recent as during his recent visit to Russia for the session of the G20 nations, Singh had made it clear that he was ready to work under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. Therefore when there is no dispute within the party, where does come the role of the arbitrators?
Coming to gains which the Congress hopes to make from the denouncement which Rahul Gandhi so dramatically made, there are several. First, it saves the government and the party the burden of getting a totally immoral act passed through the Parliament and carry the cross for allies who may not be of much assistance in increasing numbers during the 2014 general elections.

It also takes away the advantage from the BJP, which wanted such an act in place to cover-up for its ‘convicted’ leaders but at the same time taken a holier than thou position in public. Now the onus would be on the BJP to cleanse its Aegean stable including removing convicted ministers from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat cabinet.

The withdrawal of the Ordinance would snatch the agenda from the civil society groups and outfits like the Aam Admi Party, who have drawn the strategy to fight their political battles from within the precincts of the courtrooms. Lastly it shall also save the law officers of the government to go before the judiciary genuflecting and seeking relief. They already have their hands full defending the prime minister and his confidantes for acts committed by the ally ministers in the government. If anybody wanted evidence, it has come out in plenty in the conviction of Lalu Prasad Yadav, where the Congress has managed to steer clear of the controversy by merely stating that the law should take its own course.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
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