The Telegraph
Friday , January 10 , 2014
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Congress’s lacerating lashes fall on AAP admirer Jairam

New Delhi, Jan. 9: Don’t be surprised if you find Jairam Ramesh at the head of the queue that will snake towards Arvind Kejriwal’s grievance durbar this Saturday.

The suave Congress minister has every reason to be aggrieved and he is in dire need of redress after praising the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and warning his own.

Ramesh’s own party has declared in public what many of his colleagues have been saying in private: the rural development minister has not undergone the “pain and “rigour” of an ordinary party worker and he lives in an “illusory” world.

The trigger for the “illusion” — a word used by Congress veteran and spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi — was the emergence of Ramesh as the most vocal promoter of the Kejriwal brand of politics. (See chart)

Asked about the positive comments made by Prakash Karat and Ramesh about the AAP, Dwivedi said without naming the minister: “What the CPM says can be understood as instability and anarchy suits their politics. But as far as the Congress is concerned, every single worker is sad, angry and hurt as to why this situation evolved. Only those people are in illusion who have never been a political worker… Those who get political recognition all of a sudden behave like this.”

These are strong words but a large number of leaders, including the candidates who lost the Delhi Assembly election, are using much harsher language against Ramesh and want Sonia Gandhi to punish him.

They point out that Ramesh has been part of the “think tank handling party affairs in the past decade” and, hence, one of the persons responsible for the pitiable state.

The comments of Ramesh, who had predicted that the Congress and the BJP would perish if they did not learn from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), had added to the panic and frustration in his party, which soon turned into ire.

Many senior leaders are known to have complained to Sonia that the high-profile minister, who is in charge of Rahul Gandhi’s war-room, was deepening the alarm that has set in after a series of electoral debacles. But Ramesh ignored such sentiments in the party and continued to eulogise the AAP.

The manner in which Dwivedi hauled him up appeared more than a censure and it reflected the resentment in the party towards the rise of “rootless wonders”.

Ramesh, who describes himself as an economist, is an IIT graduate who studied in the US. He worked in an advisory capacity in the finance ministry and the Planning Commission before joining the Congress that brought him to the Rajya Sabha in 2004.

Respected for his drafting capabilities, he is involved in writing speeches for Sonia and Rahul and is considered close to both. As a member of the election management committee headed by Rahul, Ramesh is also seen as one of the key strategists of the party.

Such a vital leader of the party’s top hierarchy has drawn the blistering comment from Dwivedi who is viewed as the chief spokesperson of the Congress.

Sources said the party had to officially take a tough stand to keep the Ramesh syndrome from spreading.

Asked whether Rahul himself had not praised the AAP and said the Congress had to learn from it, a senior leader said: “Praising the AAP just after their victory was part of courtesy and Rahul talked about learning from them only in the limited context of mobilisation. He did not speak about AAP philosophy and gimmicks. There are serious issues about AAP which we are deeply worried about.”

In a restrained manner, Dwivedi hinted at this. “It won’t be wise to make a definitive and final perception about the AAP at this stage. Some people raised a question about corruption. This is an issue, like theft, dishonesty, lies, on which everybody in the society has one view. People thought a new party would be more sincere than other parties and supported them. They have won a small state.

“But it needs an ideology and organisation to rise from here. I don’t want to question the intention of the people who are joining the APP now but we have to be careful whether only those committed to service and justice are coming in hordes or greed for power is the driving force. Let’s see what form it takes in the future.”

Ramesh, who walks from his office and doesn’t take security, also upset the party by speaking against the “lal-batti culture” and personal security. While AAP members and individuals like him do not face any security threat, Sonia and Rahul fall in the high-risk category.

Dwivedi responded to Ramesh’s Lokpal swipe, too. “Everybody knows there were genuine reasons for the delay in passing the bill as many parties had opposed it two years ago. With great difficulty, we evolved a consensus and passed the bill…. Even Anna Hazare is happy. Those who criticise us for delay should say what they did to pass the bill in the past two years.”

Ramesh, who enjoys a long rope from the leadership, has escaped unscathed from similar crises in the past and is likely to be let off with a stern warning.