The best comment I heard this morning on the sacking of the irascible Veerappa Moily and the soft-spoken Ashwani Kumar was: "In the Congress, only Rahul Gandhi has the right to make a fool of himself."
Perhaps Moily overdid things by suggesting that Nitish Kumar has an inflated opinion of himself but this was not an unparliamentary comment. It was part of the usual cut and thrust of electioneering.
How was Moily or any Congress spokesman supposed to handle the Rahul-created mess? Just look at the contradictory signals:
- On Tuesday, Rahul baba says "Mr Nitish", Chandrababu Naidu and Jayalalitha are not so bad after all. He also asks for Left support to Manmohan Singh. Predictably, the existing allies of the Congress are furious; Mamata threatens to walk out and Paswan asks why Congress has put up candidates against JD(U).
- By Wednesday, the Congress begins a damage limitation exercise but continues sending contradictory signals. It tells Mamata that the alliance is intact but Sonia cancels visit to Tamil Nadu. The JD(U) meanwhile deploys all its forces (including N.K. Singh) to disabuse the claim that Nitish will switch sides.
- On Thursday, the Congress deploys Prithviraj Chauhan for an "off the record" media briefing at the AICC. Chauhan says that Congress is looking at "strategic abstentions" to see its minority government through. This is just after Moily says Congress will win 180 seats on its own.
- On Friday, Rahul Gandhi sheds tears for the Lankan Tamils. He is silent on Jayalalitha but P.Chidambaram calls her communal. At the AICC briefing, Kapil Sibal says Congress is moving towards a 200 seat tally. He can't understand the mood of disbelief among the journos. Lalu and Paswan stay away from the Cabinet meet. To placate Lalu, the EC sends teams to probe "irregularities" in Bihar, three weeks after voting!
- On Saturday morning, Moily is removed for attacking Nitish. Paswan says Sonia Gandhi must clarify matters by speaking to him and Lalu.
An election campaign is also all about nerves. The Congress is conveying the impression it has lost its. It is trying to please every potential ally and ending up looking desperate. To use Ronen Sen's phrase, the party is running about like a "headless chicken".
Those who are in the know of things in the Congress say that, far from being chastened by his gaffes, Rahul and the brat pack believe they have mounted a very successful psy-op to confuse the enemy. Sonia is not known to take decisions; the babalogs are calling the shots. They believe that the Trust Vote success can be replicated after May 16.
Either they are right or the rest of us are all fools.