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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 17, April 13, 2013

From Past Elections and Past Mistakes Political Parties Learn Nothing

Sunday 14 April 2013, by T J S George


Confusion is a weapon in politics. When you are confused about what to do, do something to make others even more confused. Say things that are at once sensational and contradictory until your opponents start scurrying around to find the meaning of what you are saying. That is battle half won.

The Congress is an old hand at this game. But this time it deserves our sympathy. It is tasked with the responsibility to sell a product that many markets have already rejected. But mother’s love is a formidable force. So the question is: Go to battle with Rahul Gandhi leading the akshauhini and face inevitable reversals or look for ways to reconcile mother’s love with reality?

Basically Rahul Gandhi must be a nice guy. He even manages to say a right thing or two occasionally. He performed in an easygoing style before corporate chieftains who praised him lavishly. But corporate chieftains praised Narendra Modi even more lavishly. They praised Mamata Banerjee also at one point. This is purpose-oriented praise and must be seen as such. What Rahul had to say were inanities: India is not an elephant, it is a beehive... I was born with a DNA... There were no fresh ideas, no action plan. And no recognition of the unalterable fact that history’s biggest scams mauled India during his father’s and then his mother’s watch. Unless he exorcises this past by addressing it boldly, his hype about the future will only remain ghost-writers’ dreams.

The reality of politics is harsher. We got a taste of it when Digvijay Singh made what looked at first like a critical statement against the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh leadership. Their functioning as twin power centres had failed, he said. It was time therefore for Rahul Gandhi to become the sole power centre as Prime Minister.

Was Digvijay Singh, said to be Rahul Gandhi’s mentor, knocking out other prime ministerial hopefuls by saying that the Sonia-Manmohan pairing would not be repeated by, say, a Rahul-Chidambaram pairing? Before we could figure that out, another ranking Congressman changed the whole scenario.

Janardan Dwivedi, who never utters a syllable unless it is official party gospel, said the Sonia-Manmohan team was something unique and could be “an ideal model for the future.” Other party satraps rushed in to endorse that view. But Digvijay, the mentor, stuck to his position, thus creating a Great Moment in the history of Politics by Confusion.

So what’s going on? It cannot be that the Congress is finally recognising the unwinnability of Rahul Gandhi. That would be a repudiation of mother’s love and hence inconceivable. So, anticipating a poor perfor-mance in the next election, is the Congress trying to save Rahul Gandhi’s face by putting poor Manmohan Singh up front as a shield? Or is there a plan to project Manmohan for now and, if the party were to win a credible number of seats in Parliament, then ditch him and put Rahul on the gaddi?

Calculations and confusions are important for the Congress because it is likely to benefit in this election from the weaknesses of the BJP. In Karnataka at any rate, it will win because of the terrible record of the BJP Government. But the early moves of the Congress in the State show that it is not learning anything from its fortuitous advantage.

The opportunity to win the trust of the people may already be lost. Senior leader Siddaramaiah was looked upon as the most credible among Congressmen and a government under his leadership was something many people in the State longed for. But as soon as elections were announced in the State, the party appointed as its strategy committee’s chief a discredited former Congress leader who had acted like a bull in a China shop whenever he tasted power. That this man was Siddaramaiah’s nominee dashed all hopes about the lone remaining Congress leader. The party has since been busy trying to give tickets to other renegades, corruption kings and party hoppers. The colours may change, but the tragedy of our democracy will continue.

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