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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Congress has lost the will to fight back

By Swapan Dasgupta

From the time concern began to be voiced about the utilisation of public money for the Commonwealth Games, it has been six months of unending bad news for the Manmohan Singh Government. With the Adarsh Housing Society scandal, the 2-G scam, the furore over the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the S-band controversy coming in rapid succession, the impression that the Centre is now either a helpless or willing partner in the organised loot of the exchequer is becoming conventional wisdom.

So politically debilitating has been the cumulative effects of these billion-rupee scandals that the Congress appears to have lost the will to fight back. True, there have been attempts to establish an 'immoral' equivalence. But repeated invocations of the misdeeds of B.S. Yedyurappa and the attempt to blame the erstwhile NDA Government for all subsequent telecom distortions haven't succeeded in altering the widespread perception that the UPA Government facilitated organised loot. Just as Hosni Mubarak couldn't secure his presidency by screaming 'Muslim Brotherhood', the Congress bid to divert attention to 'saffron terror' hasn't worked, except insofar as it helped Pakistan dilute the charges of its own export of terror.

Offence may theoretically be the best defence but brazenness doesn't always pay. Kapil Sibal, with all the dexterity of a good court lawyer, has attempted to show that the fuss over A.Raja and the ISRO are much ado about nothing. Sibal's penchant for the overstatement yielded diminishing returns during the Kargil war in 1999 and is proving to be positively counterproductive in today's climate of cynicism and disgust. Shrillness was rejected by the voters in 2009 and the abhorrence for it still persists.

This is a message that shouldn't be overlooked by the Opposition which is having a ball pillorying the Government. Before it gloats over near-effortless victory after victory in TV discussions and revels in the Government's discomfiture over biting observations by the judiciary, it should pause to reflect over the state of play in national politics.

The credibility of the UPA Government is rock bottom and so is the standing of the PM. The impression that Manmohan is mute spectator to the misdeeds of politicians and bureaucrats has taken root. Even his own party is worried and becoming restless at his inability to control the slide. The system of diarchy which was once lauded as a great political innovation is under strain and has contributed to the Congress pulling in different directions. The Congress worry is all the more because there is nothing as yet to suggest that the heir designate is ready to assume charge.

The UPA muddle should have seen a natural rally behind any Government-in-waiting. The Opposition's tragedy is that frustration with the Centre hasn't automatically turned into a surge in popularity of the BJP-led NDA. Although the suggestion that the BJP is in disarray is over-simplistic, it is fair to suggest that the saffron alliance isn't anywhere close to grabbing the political space that should have been its for the asking. The BJP has recovered some lost ground since 2009 but not enough ground to be perceived as the next government.

Part of the reason could be the absence of a clear leader to lead the charge. For various reasons the BJP has deferred any decision to 2013 in the belief that a year of relentless campaign will establish the leader as the alternative face. There are three clear possibilities—and a few who are claimants in their own mind—for the top job and a final decision will rest on two factors: the political mood and the imperatives of coalition building. If the craving for a strong, purposeful leader is paramount, the choice is pre-determined. If, however, there is the need to enlarge the NDA to include regional parties in the east and south, the choice could fall on either of the other two.

Yet, merely waiting for the new messiah to be anointed does not constitute good politics. The BJP has to be ready with the groundwork. The declaration of a PM candidate by the NDA is an important facet of the final 365 days of war but it doesn't constitute the entire campaign to reclaim the ground lost since 2004.

The BJP needs a determined bout of single-mindedness and a willingness to address popular concerns. In today's climate it means a commitment to relentlessly pursue the themes of corruption and economic mismanagement, issues that appeal to the widest cross-section of the electorate. It implies a willingness to put shelve pet 'ideological' issues on one side and not get derailed by Congress provocation.

And finally, it means an ability to transcend the churlish we-told-you syndrome and formulate an alternative economic perspective that incorporates the best practices of the many successful NDA Governments. Being an opposition like Mamata Banerjee is to the Left Front may work wonders in West Bengal's state of decline but the national need is to be an intelligent opposition, one that can shoulder responsibilities for people who have a lot to lose from the UPA's misgovernance.

Every party has its eccentrics and the BJP parivar has more than its fair share. The misfortunes of the Congress have given them a chance to go prowling for simple-minded suckers. For its own sake, the BJP has to ensure its madcaps are kept behind locked doors.

Sunday Pioneer, February 13, 2011

12 comments:

Rachit said...

Indira Gandhi planted the policy of loot not only in the Congress and Rajiv organized it. India awaits a revolution which can wipe out parties like Congress and BJP.

Anonymous said...

There is only one name that can settle this problem- Nitish Kumar. Get him to lead us and the globalized youth, the urban middle class who dislike the BJP, the influential elite, the East and South who care two hoots for Hindutva, the poor, the SC-Muslim-ST axis, the aaam admi fed up with corruption- all will follow. An NDA with Nitish as the leader will win an overwhelming majority.

Ajit

Anonymous said...

Not sure if I learnt something new today. Apart from the fact that BJP should wrest the initiative, but is not doing so.I had subscribed to your feeds because you came across as a very intelligent man, and I wanted to benefit from your insights. This post is more of an observation than an opinion. Not many will disagree with you. I am going to stay here for some more time before I unsubscribe ;)

Anjali said...

U r right sir,rather than expecting alliance wit regional parties BJP must strenghten itself in ground level..even aft 30 years of it's foundation,ordinary people in our state(Tamil nadu),does not know abt it..(the only name they know is Shri. Vajpayee)

satyam said...

good one!!!!!!!
pertinent points you raise.. one place to start could be reining in the VHP on this v-day... nothing infuriates the youth more than these saffron goondas...and looks who is looking good in all this.. chindabaram coz he had the guts to ADVICE states to ensure security....

jai said...

there will power is excecuted only in corrupting the country n nothing else,,, nice write sir

Anonymous said...

Just read Arun Shourie's interview with Karan Thapar. He is credible and convincing. Congress' conduct is understandable to some extent, after all they are managing a coalition govt. But how does one make sense of the squeamishness of the BJP? No wonder anti-corruption rallies are big flop. Even more intriguing is the role of the media: at least 40000 crore loot, document offered, still it chose to beat about the bushes, perhaps reserving it's investigative skills for solving Arushi murder mystery. All Indian institutions seem be crumbling one after the other.

Anonymous said...

Anti-corruption rallies are a big flop because of Jharkhand and Karnataka. Hindutva now stinks like shit because of sundry sadhus and sadhvis playing with guns and idiots like Varun Gandhi and Pravin Togadia. People want change but the current Sanghi crowd is stuck in 1990s. We want a genuine right wing party please, not middle-aged jokers running around in knickers and jerking off about 5000 year old civilizations

Ajit

Anonymous said...

It is completely wrong to suggest "Congress has lost the will to fight back". A decision or an action can be articulated the way one wants to, and you have done exactly that. On the contrary to what you suggest, it is the Congress govt. that has taken credible action: be it Adarsh scam, CWG, or 2G. What is BJP's record? Bangaru Lakshman, George Fernandes, Yedyurappa and others are enjoying.

And you say UPA is trying to divert attention citing "saffron terror"? What sort of an argument is this? There are confessions before magistrate. You conveniently choose to ignore those facts. Please be fair. Don't fool your readers!!

BJP's hypocrisy is apparent! They refuse to comment citing all cases against their leaders are in court. But when it comes to Congress leaders, the govt. must sack them if there are allegations. Are these guys so dumb?

Name one party where there is no corruption!! There are and will be bad apples in any party. There will be corruption, but one will have to fight it out and contain it. Writing obituary to a party even without giving it a chance to defend is sad!

seadog4227 said...

"Congress has lost the will to fight back"...... but it hasn't lost the will to loot!
Has the BJP/NDA GAINED the will to fight? Do they need to be reminded that this criminal, irresponsible, 3rd rate govt. would not had a ghost of a chance elsewhere? Ditto for the state govt. of Maharashtra.

Anonymous said...

dear sd
the present tops of bjp are proved unreliables to expect from them will to fight corruption which is main devil.they are eagerly waiting for an early opportunity at centre for power without merit.lka giving clean chit to sg and family who are the rootcause of corruption tree and resultant serious poverty in india is alimit of fooling indians.atal did the same by obstucting bofors probe.
still cbi nottouching the rootcause of 2g,fooling the country!whole country know that mms,the root of 2g,offered bribe and allowed 2g loot to buy power illegally. if cbi touching anil,why not touching mms the initiator of 2g?now mms concern is to safeguard himself by influencing evidences by various means which precedent cannot be set by sc judging other citizens.who first paid 2g pricing freedom bribe,to raja/dmk,obviously mms/sg?why they are free to influence evidences in historical size of scam?would sc have allowed them free if they would have been ordinary citizens?
the priority of indians at this point of time should not be cricket,but total foreign black funds brought back to india at soonest,byefficient steps,pressures,movements like egypt as there is no matching solution to remove poverty etc,and they are our taxpayers hard earned money.that will allow india to repay specific debt,saving interest thereon which can be used for resonable unemloyment bonus to all unemployed ,rest can be invested in all type of necessary infrastructure/r&d to creat maximum jobs which will inturn maximise gdp and tax collections.for such objective each indian has to contribute,including agitations ,so that our coming genretions can be proud of us and enjoy better india.if egypt can do indians can do it better!

Anonymous said...

On the contrary Swapan da, I would say Congress is fighting back credibly through paid media and using its vast experience in divide and rule and its dirty trick repertoire. In Andhra, they are using every tactic to blunt Jagan`s challenge and have also taken Chiranjeevi and his Praja Rajyam party on board that might give them big fillip with OBC vote in next election. Karnataka under BhaJaPa, a progressive state, has been painted thro sustained media campaign as highly corrupt whereas Andhra under the late YSR was the acme of corruption, Maharashtra is also highly corrupt with a highly active mafia and underworld connected to various politicos, yet we do not hear a word about Congress shenanigans. I am afraid NDA may not fare well in 2014 as well if their thinktanks dont do some smart thinking - there is still time though.