Would the Ramesh, Singhvi and Tharoor pivot Congress to good sense?
It had to happen. India cannot afford a Congress Mukt Bharat. To be a live and throbbing democracy, we need a strong opposition. Only the Congress party is capable of occupying that space, for it alone has a Pan India presence. It may have been decimated in 2014 elections to be reduced to 44 seats in Lok Sabha. They did not even qualify the 10% requirement to have a Leader of the Opposition (LOP) with cabinet rank. Technically, Modi 1.0 may have been justified in granting Mallikarjun Kharge, the status of LOP. It would have been chivalrous and graceful of Narendar Damordas Modi.
What had to happen, that has now happened. Well, Jairam Ramesh, Abhishek Singhvi and Shashi Tharoor, the intellectual triumvirate have spoken out and loud that #IndianNationalCongress may have to reconsider its compulsive routine to ‘demonise Modi’. It is time for Congress cease from the ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ mode. Modi 2.0 was anointed with a higher majority and now they have been able to steamroll the opponents even on the legislative domain. The so called stonewalling or gerrymandering of the India variant, in the Rajya Sabha, has fallen flat with Triple Talaq Bill, Right To Information Bill, Unlawful Activities Bill and a host of others which have seamlessly moved on to become part of the statute book.
As if these were not enough the Modi/Shah duo played a dream masterstroke on 5th Aug, 2019, in the Rajya Sabha to nullify Art.370, granting special status to Jammu & Kashmir and obliterating Art.35A, in its wake. It was debated, discussed and deliberated in an open Parliament session, and it got a 2/3rds thumbs up. A stunning reversal from the earlier Rajya Sabha avatar, where every other Bill was stood down to be referred to Standing Committees, and left to languish and lapse.
Carrying on, Amit Shah performed brilliantly as a Parliamentarian and took on all comers before the Rajya Sabha and followed up in Lok Sabha too, for a 2/3rd division vote. Cleavage was not merely showing in Congress ranks, but it trumped the high command in a defiant gesture.
Congress was isolated, as if left with tukde tukde log for company, even as the Khan Market log from whatever is left of the Lutyens’ media influence was gasping for breath at the overwhelming national rejoicing. There was relief and joy that there was at long last One nation, One Flag, One Constitution, and it had gone through the open and transparent Parliamentary route.
The convulsions in Congress could not have got a left hook, a right hook and a direct one to its solar plexus. Rahul Gandhi had resigned, refused to be persuaded to withdraw and alas the Congress Working Committee missed a glorious opportunity to grow out of mummy’s hug, by recalling Sonia Gandhi. Congress continues to be tied to the apron strings of the Gandhi parivaar and it would appear as if the party fears a complete collapse, in the absence of the so called umbilical cord protective nexus.
Consider this: after the 1984 road roller majority achieved by Rajiv Gandhi, BJP was reduced to just 2 members in the Lok Sabha of 543. Vajpayee and Advani as their tallest leaders did not sit back and wait. They stood up and took on the Rajiv majority, outside Parliament as well as they could. Until the Bofors happened, mind you the language of these leaders was not to demonise Rajiv Gandhi. They taunted him on his ‘friendships’ and kept the pot boiling for BJP.
And in 1996 even while going after 13 days on the first occasion and 13 months after the second, Atal Behari Vajpayee thundered, “Now, you are all jumping in joy and making fun of us as communal with no chance to retain or return to power. Take it from me, I may be going to the President of India to submit my resignation as the democratic ethos and culture of our nation commends us. But I am not resigned to the fate. For I assure you, a day will shortly come when we would not be merely back in power but with an absolute majority able to fulfil our promises. We have made those promises to our brethren with conviction. We believe in them and destiny beckons us.”
How prescient he could have been. BJP has come back not once but twice with an absolute majority. They are not only in Government with a majority of their own for BJP, but in most States of India and now in control of the numbers in the Rajya Sabha too. It did not happen overnight. They toiled for it. They planned for it- “State by State, City by City, District by District, Constituency by Constituency, and Booth by Booth and very nearly voter by voter” as Amit Shah put it. It was not an empty bluster but a confident proclamation born of evidence.
Per contra, the Congress dreamt after the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh reverses for BJP, 2019 was theirs for the asking. Rahul Gandhi became assertive and the print and electronic media, with their visceral hatred for anything Modi/Shah played bandbaja. More than anyone else, Rahul Gandhi became convinced that May 23,2019 would be goodbye to Modi. This overconfident straddling without a foundational homework at the ground level, led to their using foul language and calling Modi all kinds of names with ‘Chowkidar Chor hai’ even to a Rafale verdict of Supreme Court, compelling Rahul to apologise too.
And even after the elections, Congress did not appreciate the verdict of the commoner. They assumed that Modi was re elected thanks to Balakot surgical strike and riding on “mischief with the EVMs”. Congressmen were totally oblivious to the changed reality. The schemes that Modi had announced as Jan Dhan, building toilets for mothers and sisters, supplying gas cylinders to maa-behens, and subsidising house constructions and Ayushman health measures, were implemented with diligence and care, on the ground. It has now taken a Jairam Ramesh, Abhishek Singhvi, Shashi Tharoor dissent to the party line, to grudgingly admit the success of these welfare measures.
It was Rajiv Gandhi who admitted during the Mumbai session of Congress once, that only 15% of the Central welfare measures reached the common man and the rest of 85% were swallowed by middlemen and party/power brokers. Whether Congress believed their leader or not, Modi/Shah/BJP believed it. They changed the face of the delivery mechanism by institutionalising Direct Bank Transfer. The poor, needy and underprivileged, at long last saw it happen as real. They loved Modi for it. They trusted him for he came from a chaiwala background, from amongst them. They repaid him with interest and result is for all of us to see. 303 seats for BJP alone. Modi is now a towering colossus. India Today’s recent Mood of the Nation Poll has suggested a higher majority as possible. More than Congress, We The People now urge that Jairam Ramesh, Abhishek Soinghvi and Shashi Tharoor, have hopefully, offered a ray of hope for Congress to decisively pivot from the Randeep Surjewala, Anand Sharma, Digvijay Singh et al route of demonising Modi, for nation’s sake.
(Author is a practising advocate in the Madras High Court)