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Sunday Special » Columns

Posted at: Aug 25, 2019, 7:07 AM; last updated: Aug 25, 2019, 7:07 AM (IST)

Congress, & that sinking feeling

Saba Naqvi
MOCKINGBIRD
Saba Naqvi
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh was right when he said the Congress needed a young generation next face as leader. Instead, the Congress went backwards to anoint Sonia Gandhi, who had been its president for 19 years
Congress, & that sinking feeling
The fundamental crisis within the Congress remains. PTI

Saba Naqvi

WITH the exception of the Punjab unit of the Congress, where the Chief Minister seems to have his political instincts intact, the party elsewhere is in the midst of disaster or headed towards it. It is, therefore, best for the Punjab Congress regime to act autonomously and delink from the larger national party as much as is possible. The fundamental crisis remain at the Centre, where Sonia Gandhi is now again president while Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi are taking national positions through Twitter. None of the three thought it prudent to tell the former home and finance minister P. Chidambaram to surrender to the investigating agencies instead of subjecting himself, the party and the country to the shameful spectacle before his arrest. 

It must be asked if the Congress believes that some people are just too blue-blooded to be charged with corruption? True, P. Chidambaram has remained the individual the Congress relies on to critique budgets and economic policies of the Modi regime. All the more reason for him to have a sense of decorum and dignity and submit to interrogation in the INX media case. Whether or not this was a witch-hunt was an issue to tackle another day. 

Instead, the Congress protested Chidambaram’s arrest as an assault on democracy and lined up the party’s big lawyer guns to hysterically knock on the door of every court to get him bail and demand special attention from the Supreme Court. Why? Was Chidambaram facing a death sentence or was he just too much of an elite to spend a day behind bars? Had he gone willingly, he may even have acquired a small halo, but not now. 

Chidambaram now comes through as one of the has-beens in the Congress who is determined to fight for every inch of turf he is left with. That really is the story of the Congress. A CWC full of has-beens — some facing corruption charges — that refuses to search outside the family or call for elections for a new president.

Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh was right when he said on July 6 that the Congress needed a young generation next face as leader. Instead, the Congress went backwards to anoint Sonia Gandhi, who had been president for 19 years before she handed over the reins to son Rahul, who has now handed over these back to her. It was pathetic, like a child clutching the strings of the mother, refusing to attend the first day in school independently. 

But who were these frightened children? The veterans of Congress, many former ministers, who now only feel safe with Sonia it seems. Could it be a mutual protect me and I’ll protect you exercise? Why would a Chidambaram trust a next generation leader to indulge him the way the family has done? For example, in spite of corruption charges and jail term served by his son Karti, he was actually given a party ticket from Tamil Nadu and he won, thanks to the alliance with the DMK. 

It’s actually rather intriguing, this indulgence and protection of Chidambaram senior and junior. Since politics now survives on cronyism — and the UPA was full of revealed scams — we are allowed to ask if there is a money trail that could actually convict Chidambaram and if so, is there a possibility of it leading elsewhere? 

The other significant point to note is that Robert Vadra, who has got anticipatory bail unlike Chidambaram, is the Achilles Heel of the party. We must ask if the family actually remains at the helm in spite of all saying they don’t want to be there, because they wish to use the structure of the Congress to fight their own cases and battles. Before the 2019 campaign, Priyanka Gandhi first made it a point to accompany husband Robert Vadra for interrogation by the ED in a money laundering case on February 6 before she set off for Uttar Pradesh. 

Was the fight for PC, therefore, not a fight for the people or an issue to take to the masses but a proxy for the sort of battle the leadership of the Congress could face in the future? The instructions from Sonia were to fight to the end for Chidambaram, who hardly has the Left-liberal ideological halo that the Gandhis are drawn to. Priyanka Gandhi tweeted “we stand by him and will continue to fight for the truth, whatever the consequences are”. How does she know what the truth is? True, Congressmen and son-in-laws are more likely to be investigated by a hostile regime. Charges can also be used as leverage to make the Congress a paralysed family business that won’t opt for anything new.

And the “consequences” are unfolding, including the rumour that Jyotiraditya Scindia could decamp with the Madhya Pradesh Government. Just as the Hoodas of Haryana, once the best friends of Robert Vadra, are also bargaining for their place in the political sun. And there is no sunshine in the Congress. All of this is happening when the economy is in trouble and the country desperately needs an Opposition force.

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