The Congress needs to decide whether it’s a serious political party or a version of a Bollywood or a Hollywood movie that features a good cop and a bad cop. It is obvious that India’s self-proclaimed national party is severely schizophrenic. First, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government passes an ordinance that overrules the Supreme Court judgment that ruled against convicted politicians contesting elections. This ordinance was passed after a discussion in Parliament and the cabinet, and the subject of the ordinance was in the public domain for some time. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the ordinance was conceived and passed to protect politicians like Lalu Prasad who are under the scanner of suspicion. After the ordinance passed by the cabinet, Rahul Gandhi, on Friday, spoke out against the ordinance describing it as a legislation that should be torn up as it was nonsense. These strong words, rightly seen as a salvo against the prime minister and his government, were followed by the president of the Congress, Sonia Gandhi, assuring the prime minister that the party was behind him. The story continued with Mr Gandhi writing to Manmohan Singh to declare his respect for Mr Singh and the leadership he provides. It is difficult to make sense of all this unless one assumes that the left hand of the Congress is oblivious of what its right hand is doing.
Mr Gandhi could not have been unaware about the ordinance and its contents. There is no record that he stood up in Parliament or within the party to express his disgust about it. Then suddenly, he decided to speak in public in order to drop what he and his acolytes thought would be a bombshell. Mr Gandhi’s speech on Friday was scripted to make him into someone above the machinations of the Congress and as a leader who is striving to clean up the Congress. All this would be fine but for the fact that Mr Gandhi is firmly entrenched within the Congress. He cannot be a part of the Congress and be virulently against the government that the Congress leads and against Mr Singh who was hand picked by the president of the Congress, Ms Gandhi (who happens to be Mr Gandhi’s mother). Mr Gandhi obviously has an identity problem. He cannot opt, when it suits him, to be a recluse, and then suddenly emerge to defy the party leadership and then partially retract the defiance.
The situation as it stands prompts cynicism about the Congress and the way it functions. The Congress leadership wanted to protect politicians; it also allowed Mr Gandhi to appear morally superior and score a few brownie points and then make a show of his token respect for Mr Singh. The assumption seems to be that the people of India are gullible and stupid and will be taken in by such public displays of hypocrisy and two-facedness. Mr Gandhi will be surprised to find that before he discovers India, the people of India will have discovered him. Another Gandhi acted on what he believed in. Maybe the young Mr Gandhi has a thing or two learn from his example.