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Regular-article-logo Thursday, 20 June 2024

Old habits die hard, especially if they are bad habits

Senior Congress leaders are still busy fighting each other instead of reviving the party to fight the common enemy

The Telegraph Published 18.08.19, 10:50 AM
Working presidents of the Delhi unit of the Congress party salute the national flag on August 15, 2019

Working presidents of the Delhi unit of the Congress party salute the national flag on August 15, 2019 Image: @INCDelhi on Twitter

Old habits die hard, especially if they are bad habits. Even if the Congress ceases to exist, its factionalism will live on. The Grand Old Party, some think, is almost on the verge of ruin. But senior leaders are still busy fighting each other instead of unitedly trying to revive the party to fight the common enemy. The disharmony was exposed in the most bizarre way this week. Three working presidents of the Delhi unit — Haroon Yusuf, Devender Yadav and Rajesh Lilothia — quarrelled among themselves about hoisting the national flag in the party office on the occasion of Independence Day. Since the state unit president, Sheila Dikshit, passed away recently and nobody has been appointed in her place yet, one of the working presidents had to unfurl the flag. There was no consensus among the three — a former minister, Yusuf staked claim on the duty on the basis of seniority. In Sonia Gandhi’s earlier tenure as party president, when she had gone to the United Sates of America for treatment, Motilal Vora had been asked to unfurl the flag at the party headquarters on the basis of seniority. But this option seemed unpalatable to those in Delhi. Ironically, after failing to arrive at a consensus in spite of detailed discussions, it was finally decided that all three would do the job together. They collectively unfurled the flag, triggering ridicule and laughter among most party leaders and workers alike. Can one hope that they have now learnt the significance of unity?

Amit Shah is the man of the moment

Amit Shah is the man of the moment Telegraph file picture

Deflected glory

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Amit Shah is the man of the moment. The scrapping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the bifurcation of the state into two Union territories is widely being seen in BJP circles as Shah’s first big achievement as home minister. Bharatiya Janata Party leaders were heard privately calling Shah the new “Iron Man” and a “bold and decisive” leader. He was even equated with the country’s first home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a fellow Gujarati. Shah, who seemed to bask in the accolades initially, apparently soon turned wary of getting more importance than the prime minister, Narendra Modi.

In the Lok Sabha, when one Opposition leader pointed out that he was being called the next “Iron Man”, Shah chose to counter it by saying that he was happy to be an ordinary BJP worker and went to hail the leadership of Modi, calling him responsible for the bold move. Thereafter, in every public address celebrating the move, Shah has been heard asserting that it was possible only because of “humare neta”, Narendra Modi. It seems that Shah understands the perils of being seen as a leader taller than Modi.

Back in action

Not all old habits are bad. Sonia Gandhi, who recently accepted the post of interim Congress president, is not going to be a ceremonial head. She had stopped meeting party leaders for the last couple of years while Rahul Gandhi held the reins of the party. But now the practice of regular meetings at her 10 Janpath residence has resumed. Rahul’s residence, 12 Tughlaq Lane, though still functional, has ceased to be the centre of activity. Sonia has started meeting delegations from election-bound states; she met leaders from Maharashtra who had held discussions with Rahul till her appointment was done. The buzz of activity, insiders hope, will rejuvenate the rank and file of the party who had to deal not just with defeat in the Lok Sabha polls but also Rahul’s resignation as from the post of Congress president.

Rahul, on the other hand, has been telling party leaders that he had no powers to make appointments and thus should not be approached with requests. He is refusing to interfere in organizational matters although he will actively campaign in the assembly elections. Will that be enough to get the party back on its feet?

Curious case

The former National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon, left people scratching their head with his response to online queries about whether the ministry of external affairs had tweaked the text of his October 2010 speech in recent months. After Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, Vipin Narang, pointed out the changes with screenshots of the old and new, and Menon was asked which was authentic, he tweeted: “Whatever the government says it is.” This left many wondering whether he was being sarcastic.

The whole episode sowed doubts about the sanctity of documents on government websites and may spur a surge in keeping printouts in spite of the push towards leading a paperless life.

One-man show

The Karnataka chief minister, BS Yediyurappa, has been a one-man cabinet for more than a fortnight. When the deluge came, he had to do all the running around with only officials and some party leaders in tow. It is thus payback time for Opposition Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), whose alliance was put through the shredder for being a non-performing government. The question on everyone’s mind is that who is the real non-performer. But busy with tackling the floods, Yediyurappa is yet to find a suitable answer.

Footnote

Kerala awaited with bated breath, statements of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) veteran and former chief minister, VS Achuthanandan. Known as a critic of his own party, ‘VS’, as he is popularly called, has now issued a warning to the state government for allegedly ignoring both environmental issues that lead to natural disasters such as landslides and experts’ recommendations on saving the Western Ghats. The wait is on to see whether chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, will take the the bait.

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