Congress’ Crown Prince in no hurry for corona­tion

Wait­ing for Gu­jarat, Hi­machal out­come might force fur­ther de­lay.

The Sunday Guardian - - World -

The Congress’ Crown Prince does not seem to be in a hurry to be­come king. Where is the hurry since I am al­ready call­ing the shots, he may well ask. But we sus­pect the re­luc­tance might stem from a gen­uine fear: what if the party’s for­tunes dwin­dle fur­ther? Like they had soon af­ter So­nia Gandhi took over as party chief af­ter the late Si­taram Kesri was phys­i­cally dragged out of the party of­fice. The Congress tally in the 1999 gen­eral elec­tion, the first with So­nia Gandhi as party boss, had come down from 144 to 114.

Re­ports that Rahul was to be anointed the Congress pres­i­dent ahead of the Gu­jarat elec­tion were clearly un­founded. Now, the for- mal­i­sa­tion of his de facto sta­tus as the party boss would have to await the out­come in Hi­machal Pradesh and Gu­jarat. While the for­mer is as good as lost for the party, con­trary to the hype be­ing whipped up in a sec­tion of the me­dia, Gu­jarat too is all set to stay with the BJP. And in that even­tu­al­ity, it would be rather odd for a beaten Rahul Gandhi to take com­mand of a de­feated and dis­heart­ened party. There­fore, aside from ton­ing down the hype about wrest­ing Gu­jarat from the Modi-Shah duo, the Crown Prince should see per­cent­age in hur­riedly for­mal­is­ing his own sta­tus, so that the re­verses in Hi­machal and Gu­jarat do not fur­ther de­lay the in­evitable.

The fact that the BJP has had nine pres­i­dents since So­nia Gandhi grabbed the Congress pres­i­dent’s post from Kesri in 1998, and has re­mained the sole party boss since, un­der­lines the ob­vi­ous about the GOP: it is now a fam­ily firm, with place for only those who are will­ing to serve the cause of the own­ers above all else. Self-re­spect and dig­nity must not get prece­dence over loy­alty to the fam­ily, a ma­jor fac­tor for the flight of strong re­gional lead­ers from the Congress.

That said, re­ports from Gu­jarat also speak of the Pa­tels ditch­ing the Pati­dar leader Hardik Pa­tel in droves, for the lat­ter’s in­abil­ity to steer clear of par­ti­san pol­i­tics. A good sec­tion of the Pa­tel youth, it seems, is an­gry with Hardik for seek­ing to sup­port the Congress or any other party, for that mat­ter. Aware that reser­va­tions in gov­ern­ment jobs and ed­u­ca­tional seats for Pa­tels are a pipe-dream un­der the cur­rent con­sti­tu­tional or­der, a large sec­tion of the Pati­dar youth would like to con­test the elec­tion on their own sep­a­rate plat­form. Any­way, there is a strong anti-Congress mood within the com­mu­nity, for hav­ing de­prived it for decades of the ben­e­fit of reser­va­tions.

The be­lated at­tempt to fob off the Pa­tels with lawyerly ar­gu­ments about a Tamil Nadu-like for­mula is fraught. One, an at­tempt to breach of the 49% Lak­shan Rekha has not worked in a few other states when un­der pres­sure from other castes and com­mu­ni­ties they tried to ex­ceed the Supreme Court- man­dated limit on reser­va­tions. Two, any fresh reser­va­tions in gov­ern­ment jobs and ed­u­ca­tional seats will have to nec­es­sar­ily come at the cost of the OBCs, SCs, STs or some other castes and com­mu­ni­ties, since it is hard for any­one to cre­ate new jobs in gov­ern­men­tal sec­tor.

Hardik Pa­tel, in his cur­rent anti-BJP mood, might want to buy the goody­goody promises of a des­per­ate Congress, but it seems a vast ma­jor­ity of Pati­dars, who had laid siege to the bazaars and pub­lic squares in Gu­jarat not so long ago, is mighty an­gry with him. It wants to have nothing to do ei­ther with the Congress or the BJP. And in­stead field its own can­di­dates on a dis­tinct Pati­dar plat­form in all Pa­tel-dom­i­nant constituencies. The point be­ing that by align­ing with a po­lit­i­cal party, the Pati­dar cause is di­luted, nay, nul­li­fied.

Mean­while, a keen ob­server of the Gu­jarat scene rea­soned that Hardik’s sup­port has di­min­ished to a large ex­tent in re­cent weeks, partly be­cause of the fac­tional fights and ri­val­ries within the Pati­dar lead­er­ship. Even if he were to de­clare sup­port for the Congress, a vast ma­jor­ity of the Pa­tels would ig­nore his call. Hardik also fails to in­spire the dom­i­nant but con­ser­va­tive Pa­tel com­mu­nity be­cause of his own per­sonal con­duct. But the Congress try­ing to rope him in only shows its own des­per­a­tion, since his sup­port can au­to­mat­i­cally alien- ate a num­ber of other caste groups that may be welld­is­posed to­wards it.

Be­sides, caste is only one of the sev­eral fac­tors that sway vot­ers. In the ab­sence of a re­gional leader, and with a weak or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture, it is hard to take on a go-get­ter like Amit Shah and a pop­u­lar leader like Naren­dra Modi. Cre­at­ing a so­cial me­dia hype and ex­ploit­ing the tem­po­rary dif­fi­cul­ties of the trad­ing com­mu­nity on ac­count of GST can­not con­sti­tute a win­ning strat­egy, es­pe­cially when near the polling day the rul­ing party would have put to work its army of ded­i­cated karyakar­tas and un­veiled its su­pe­rior strat­egy and elec­toral skills.

The point: If Rahul Gandhi wants to save blushes he ought to hur­riedly for­malise the fam­ily ar­range­ment and take over as party chief im­me­di­ately. Only the other day we had rea­son to com­ment on the higher ju­di­ciary. We did not know we will soon be fur­nished fur­ther en­dorse­ment.

What was put on dis­play by the hon­ourable judges of the Supreme Court last Thurs­day and Fri­day, showed the high­est court in the land in poor light. Yes, we had oc­ca­sion to write about a se­nior who in­vari­ably agrees with­out de­mur with all the de­ci­sions taken and then, a day or two later, shoots off let­ters protest­ing the very de­ci­sions he was an ac­tive party to.

Fac­tional fights among brother judges play straight into the hands of those whose ac­tions, os­ten­si­bly well-in­tended, have had the ef­fect of un­der­min­ing the pub­lic stand­ing and honour of the ju­di­ciary. As they say, when the fence starts eat­ing the crops, no out­sider can pro­tect it. Sy­co­phancy is in­grained in the Congress cul­ture. The other day, Deep­en­der Hooda, MP, retweeted a tweet from an NSUI mem­ber. It read, “Deep­en­der Hoodaji has given us a new slo­gan: You and I, NSUI. Thank you, Hoodaji for mo­ti­vat­ing all of us.”

But, for some in­ex­pli­ca­ble rea­son, for­mer min­is­ter Man­ish Te­wari punc­tured Hooodaji. He tweeted, “U and I with NSUI was coined in 1985 by a gentle­man who is now in the TDP and whose wife is the De­fence Min­is­ter. He was the JNUNSUI pres­i­dent and later na­tional vice-pres­i­dent NSUI.” The ref­er­ence is to Parakala Prab­hakar, Nir­mala Sithara­man’s hus­band, who is now com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­viser to the Chan­drababu Naidu gov­ern­ment in Andhra Pradesh.

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