The Congress, India’s oldest political party, has taken its mind out of its politics. It has replaced it with sheer expediency, which is another word for opportunism. Nothing else can explain the somewhat comic dance the Congress performed over the ordinance to protect convicted politicians. After due discussion at various fora, including the cabinet and the Congress core group, the ordinance had been passed and sent to the president for his signature. A drama ensued after an enigmatic time lag. Last Friday, a few days after the ordinance had been given the green signal by the cabinet and the Congress, Rahul Gandhi decided to speak out against the ordinance and said that it should be torn up. In Mr Gandhi’s opinion, the ordinance was a piece of “nonsense’’. This statement was tantamount to an assault on the government led by Manmohan Singh, and the Congress leadership led by Sonia Gandhi. Following this, both the government and the Congress decided that back-pedalling was the better part of political valour. Yesterday, it declared the ordinance to be null and void. This entire process is bewildering unless one assumes that what was obvious to Mr Gandhi and many others outside the Congress had not occurred to the wise men and women of the Congress and the government who thought that protecting corrupt politicians was more important than a show of rectitude. The events show that the Congress and the government are not only brainless but spineless as well.
It is easy now for Mr Gandhi’s claque of applauders to see the outcome as his personal triumph. Far from it. Mr Gandhi has not emerged from the episode with any plume. For one thing, where were his objections when the ordinance was under discussion within the party, of which he is the vice president? The other is the manner in which he expressed his objections. His outburst on Friday was marked by an impetuosity that ill behoves a person aspiring to be a national leader. It is no longer possible to describe Mr Gandhi as a young man whose impetuosity can be ascribed to his age. He is old enough to learn to temper his emotions and his words. His father was also at times driven by his whims but this was after Rajiv Gandhi had become the prime minister. Mr Gandhi is far away from the top job and perhaps he should take a few lessons from his mother on restraint. Mr Gandhi has had a bad ordinance withdrawn but he has also left a sour aftertaste.