Ram Madhav let's it rip while rivals go gaga over Gogoi
Ram Madhav’s apparent anger over being sidelined seems to be oozing out. Possibly because he has sensed that there is no hope of rehabilitation, at least in the near future. For the second time since he was dropped as party general-secretary, the well-networked leader has written an article that has raised eyebrows both within the party and in the corridors of the government. The articles have been viewed as an oblique attack on the current regime. Since both the articles have appeared in a prominent Delhi newspaper, they have been widely noticed. “India’s democracy, as envisaged by the makers of its Constitution, thrived essentially because of the respect of the leaders for ethical constitutionalism and moral activism of the grassroots activists,” Madhav wrote in his latest article. “Neither should see the other as an enemy and try to bring them down,” he added. The article sought to highlight the importance of “public morality and unelected institutions” as necessary checks on an elected government. The Narendra Modi government has been widely accused of weakening unelected institutions and seeking to crush grass-roots activists. Many party leaders are wondering what is driving the leader, committed to the saffron ideology, to go this far.
Glowing tributes can often leave one surprised. Take, for instance, the tributes offered to the veteran Congressman and Assam’s longest-serving chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, who passed away on November 23. Some of it would have surprised even the astute, blunt and ever-smiling politician, who never sought or claimed greatness and was sporting enough to laugh even if the joke was on him. This is because the best tributes came from people or organizations who were bitter critics of his government.
The ones which stood out included that from his close aide-turned-political adversary, Himanta Biswa Sarma. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s pointsman in the Northeast who left the Congress after falling out with Gogoi and is often credited with single-handedly ending Gogoi’s 15-year-reign, hailed him as a mahanayak, a visionary and a people’s man who rescued the state from years of darkness and pushed for new development initiatives or the NRC to weed out illegal migrants. The top brass of the All Assam Students’ Union hailed him as a leader of a national party with a regional outlook for his democratic and humane approach to resolving complex situations. AASU was one of Gogoi’s most bitter and vocal critics. This is not all. Even the All India United Democratic Front chief, Badruddin Ajmal, whose decision to float his party after falling out with Gogoi led to the erosion of the Congress’s Muslim vote bank, sobbed at the death of the “dynamic leader’ who knew how to “maintain a respectful relationship” even with those opposing him. He has left a legacy which will always be remembered, said Ajmal. The rousing and united send-off Gogoi received during his last journey despite Covid-19 protocols further established his popularity and standing; this is a void the Congress and Assam will find difficult to fill.
Such was Tarun Gogoi’s charisma that the BJP-led Assam government had even declared three days mourning following the death of former chief minister. The ruling BJP and the Opposition party, the Congress, were in mourning together. But the day after the mourning ended, BJP leaders changed gear, resuming their campaign for the Bodoland Territorial Council polls, releasing the manifesto and launching a blistering attack on rival Bodoland People’s Front. It was hard to believe that the BJP was in mourning a day earlier. The BJP is going all out to unseat the BPF as success here would help it get momentum for the assembly polls early next year. There is no time to lose for a party which treats each and every election with utmost seriousness.
The sudden demise of Ahmed Patel has triggered speculation about who could become the permanent treasurer of the Congress. (The party announced Pawan Bansal’s name as ‘interim treasurer’.) The entire discourse is based on the misconception that the treasurer is supposed to raise funds for the party. Funding, corporate donations or other contributions mostly happen on the strength of the party and the contacts of individual leaders, not the stature of the treasurer. The most important qualification of the treasurer is having the trust of the supreme leader. Two famous Congress treasurers — Sitaram Kesri and Motilal Vora — were not known to be fund-raisers. Their virtue was their honesty: they kept the money safe for the party. Party presidents trusted them and these two also knew their leader’s mind. While Kesri didn’t even help his family — his son survives on petty businesses — Vora’s credentials too are said to be impeccable.
Ahmed Patel was two-in-one, a fund-raiser and a trusted custodian of resources. Such finished products aren’t ready to order. There are leaders like Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh, P Chidambaram, Ashok Gehlot and DK Shivakumar who are capable of raising funds but it is unlikely they will be appointed treasurer. Although it is too early to guess names, Rahul’s aide, Kanishka Singh, who enjoys complete trust of the family, could be given the job. One wonders what Bansal has to say about these whispers.
The Kerala state Congress president, M Ramachandran, has a challenging task at hand: steering his party and the United Democratic Front to victory in the upcoming local body polls. But within days of announcing the ‘A vote against corruption’ as the campaign slogan came the arrest of reportedly two UDF lawmakers in multi-crore corruption and cheating cases. Soon after, an old bribery case allegedly involving leader of the Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala, came back to haunt the Congress. With young guns in the party gunning for him, all that Ramachandran wants is to take control of the local bodies ahead of the state polls.