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Mainstream, VOL L, No 19, April 28, 2012

With a Feared but Clueless High Command, Congress is Dying. Look at the South

Tuesday 1 May 2012, by T J S George

Victory in the Delhi municipal elections has filled the BJP with ecstasy. Actually the significance of this election lies not in the BJP’s success but in the Congress’ rout. The once-great party has been reminded yet again that it is in a nosedive with no one, on present reckoning, capable of pulling it up.

To understand how serious is the comatose condition of the Congress, we must look beyond Delhi and UP to the South. This was the citadel of the Congress. Indira Gandhi herself needed the South to get reborn when the rest of India turned against her. Today the citadel is turning into a tomb. The Congress is dead in Tamil Nadu and is on the way to death in Andhra Pradesh. It is staring at death in Karnataka and is in the throes of a deathwish in Kerala. Add Pondicherry and Goa if you like, the picture only gets grimmer.

The central problem is that the Congress refuses to accept the central problem. Which is the High Command. Congressmen are gripped by fear of a High Command that is perceived to combine the powers of both the Creator and the Destroyer. In the obsessive desire to please this Monolith, no one thinks of the party or the country. Even the Prime Minister remains safely inactive. With the scope for independence and initiative reduced to zero, local leadership does not come up in the States. But strong leaders rise outside the Congress and the States go under their spell.

UNABLE to understand the pull of the Dravida senti-ment, the Congress lost Tamil Nadu for ever. The same inability to understand local sentiments is destroying the party in Andhra. Recall P. Chidam-baram creating a crisis by virtually promising Telangana State, then going back on it. Recall, too, the Congress embracing film star Chiranjeevi who has become a vote-loser.

Jagan Mohan Reddy is another example of the Congress being clueless in Andhra. He amassed wealth during his father’s imperial rule. Following the father’s death, the Congress instinctively felt the boy should be curbed. But it did not know how. The result is a mess. A desperate Congress may now make deals with Jagan and with Telangana’s Chandrasekhar Rao. Any deal will only make the local leaders more powerful than the High Command, but the Congress may accept that humiliation in return for a few seats in Parlia-ment, its focus area.

The Karnataka BJP is so deep in mud that a reasonably credible Congress can get a walk-over. Even at this late hour, if the party announces that leaders like Siddaramaiah, B.L. Shankar, Krishna Byre Gowda, Sharan Prakash will lead the next Congress Government, it could win a fairly easy victory. But it won’t because the High Command has no clue. So, discredited faces like D.K. Shiv-kumar and B.K. Hari Prasad leave the Congress stranded while too-good-for-politics gentlemen like G. Parameshwar watch helplessly.

Karnataka is not a natural BJP habitat. It was the folly of the overambitious H.D. Deve Gowda that brought the party in as a junior partner in government. Given half a chance B.S. Yeddyu-rappa’s craze for power and Bellary’s blood money did the rest. If the BJP wins the next election too, the Congress can as well be forgotten.

In Kerala, the Congress had just scraped through in the last election. It should have been extra careful for that reason alone. But an otherwise seasoned Chief Minister Oommen Chandy shocked people by subverting the Supreme Court and releasing a convicted politician, Balakrishna Pillai, who promptly started manoeuvring to become Minister again. Just as highhandedly he reinstated a tainted police officer, Thachankary, who was still under investigation. When the Chief Minister gave the Muslim League one more Minister, almost all of Kerala, including Congress-men, rose in revolt at what looked like Chandy succumbing to an evil genius in the League who is widely detested in the State.

This is a Congress that is not just nosediving in Andhra, in Karnataka, in Kerala. This is a Congress that longs for death.

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