Has the unexpected ó and somewhat fortuitous ó electoral victory of the Congress gone to its head' Or is the party organically incapable of learning lessons from the turbulence of life and living'
For consider some of the post-poll developments. The Congress is back in power in New Delhi because of the revolt of the people against the barbarians belonging to the saffron school. It behoves the party to take the proper cue from the mandate handed to it by the nation, and act accordingly. It has not; signs indicate that to the party, all other issues are beside the point, the cause of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is what matters, nothing else does.
The vote was against narrow religious fundamentalism. It was against what Gujarat has manifested since 2002. Once the government was in situ at the Centre, the Congressís first priority, it was natural to assume, would be Gujarat ó for instance, to launch a massive nationwide agitation which would lead to the early collapse of the shame of the Narendra Modi regime in that state. The Congress has enough of what is nowadays described as database to target Gujarat. It gave the Bharatiya Janata Party quite a fright in the Lok Sabha polls for the 26 Gujarat seats. In a close-fought battle, the BJP could barely win 14 of these seats against the Congress tally of 12. A delayed sense of revulsion is, it can be a justifiable hypothesis, at work amongst large sections in Gujarat in the wake of the revelations about the Best Bakery case and other related developments; they perhaps are almost ready to make amends for their mis-judgment in the past which permits the Modi regime to continue till now. Just another shove, and Narendra Modi, for all one knows, could be a phenomenon of an eminently forgettable past.
While there is plenty of stirrings even within the BJP on the issue of Narendra Modiís going, any parallel awareness, it seems, is yet to permeate into the Congress. Its priority is not Gujarat, but Uttar Pradesh. Mind you, the Congress this time got even fewer seats in UP than it did in 1999; the poll results have reduced it to the status of a minor party in the state. The Samajwadi Party, in contrast, has reconfirmed itself as the first party in the state. What is even more relevant, had not Mulayam Singh Yadav so effectively countered the BJP, the latter might have easily captured in UP another 20 seats more than what it actually did, thereby edging out the Congress as the party with the largest number of seats in the Lok Sabha. It would have been an altogether different kind of ball-game then.
On the basis of cold logic, the Congress should be beholden to the Samajwadi Party: it has succeeded in returning to power at the Centre because the BJP got choked in UP. But no, not even a minimal gesture of gratitude has been forthcoming from the direction of 10, Janpath. Instead, the Congress has declared war. It has declared war not against the BJP in Gujarat; its war is in UP, it will not rest until it is able to get rid of Mulayam Singh Yadav and his rabble from the state administration in Lucknow. Sonia Gandhiís party has already threatened to withdraw its support to the Samajwadi Party regime. It has not quite stopped there. It has raised the bogey of a breakdown of law and order in UP. A petty squabble amongst local politicians has been raised to the level of a national issue, and one or two Central ministers, including the Union minister for home affairs, have breached norms and contacted state government officers directly in their enthusiasm to discover misgovernence on the part of the Samajwadis. Going by fulminations mouthed in public by Congress spokespersons, it would not be averse to deploy, in the manner of Indira Gandhi, the infamous Article 356 of the Constitution to stifle the longevity of the Samajwadi Party government. The minister for home affairs and his cronies are not known to have asked for special reports on the law and order situation in Gujarat, not even after the Ishrat Raza incident, there is no loose talk of Central intervention in the western state. Gujarat, after all, is not UP.
Much of the Congress day-dreaming concerning UP is just that. Were the Congress foolish enough to overreach itself and contemplate application of Article 356 in the case of UP, the fur would really start flying in all directions; stability of the United Progressive Alliance coalition at the Centre would itself be jeopardized. True, the Congress is formally heading the government in New Delhi; but it is bound by a lakshman rekha which is not given to it to flout at will. Its leadership should realize this fact of life in their heart of hearts. Even so, certain compulsions induce them to make statements that bear the trace of near-berserkness.
These compulsions have their genesis in the objective correlate of the Congress remaining wedded to the dynastic principle. The serendipity of the success in the Lok Sabha polls notwithstanding, the dynasty has for the present to remain satisfied with the de facto prime ministerial position. That is not satisfying enough. Certain long and short term plans have accordingly been drawn up. It is not difficult to surmise what these are. At the end of five years, or even earlier, a fusion of the de jure and de facto prime ministerial slots will hopefully take place and the son of the dynasty, duly anointed, will ascend the throne. To ensure a smooth denouement of this dream, the party must begin by re-conquering, on behalf of the dynasty, the fief of UP. Uttar Pradesh is like no other state; it is the holy terrain from where the dynasty rose and spread its feudal wings. Gujarat can wait, UP cannot.
Feudalism it is, and with a liberal dash of parochialism. It is considered intolerable that the Muslim minorities would not vote for Jawaharlal Nehruís party but, how atrocious, go along with Mulayam Singh Yadav. This outrage must be corrected, and immediately, without further ado. How dare the Bachchans, who were hukumbardars of the Nehru-Gandhis till the other day, drift into the Samajwadi Party' The Samajwadis have to pay for such poaching. First things first, Gujarat and the combat against religious obscurantism must wait.
The havoc which the illusion of a return to the feudal era can render is being exemplified in varied ways by the long-time court jester who has been named the new minister of external affairs. His very first utterance on assumption of office was on Kashmir; it reflected the South Block hauteur of the post-Bangladesh victory of the Seventies. The ministerís first foreign jaunt was to Kathmandu. He chose the occasion of a press conference there to pledge Indiaís total support to Nepalís monarchy in its endeavour to crush the Maoist communists; he spoke his weighty words even as Nepalís newly installed prime minister was making an open appeal to the same Maoists to, please, come in for talks. The second foreign visit of this minister, supposedly reared in the ambience of the Nehru-Gandhi Camelot, was to Washington, DC. He was at his unstoppable best and made a near-commitment to send Indian troops to Iraq to bail out the Americans, the Nehruvian principle of non-alignment be hanged.
Nehru talked of non-involvement in the fracas between the West and the Soviet Union; his panchsheel had apparently not a thing to say about not taking sides between colonial oppressors and those who resisted them; the minister knows best; after all, given his credentials as a close court favourite, he has, he thinks, the prerogative to improvise foreign policy.
What is the rest of the UPA going to do' Something beyond sucking their thumbs'