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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Congress 'crisis' is a tamasha

By Swapan Dasgupta
If ‘crisis’ is exclusively a media invention, as many Congress stalwarts have insisted over the past week, India’s ruling dispensation has demonstrated that it takes amateur choreography to demonstrate normalcy.
What was witnessed on the forecourt of the Finance Ministry in North Block last Thursday afternoon should have put a rookie event manager to shame. There was a visibly angry Finance Minister (whose fuse keeps getting shorter with each passing day) reading out a terse statement, flanked by three extras in white apparel who weren’t sure whether they were meant to look amused or sombre. Just as he had finished bawling out his lines, out stepped the Home Minister in white and said his pre-rehearsed two sentences about accepting the Finance Minister’s statement. Then it was quick about-turn and no insolent or stupid questions please.
By evening, the scrolls on news channels were proclaiming that the ‘crisis’ was over and that the civil war in the Congress had ended, without a single head rolling — thanks, predictably, to the wisdom and perspicacity of the Congress president whose wish is her servants’ command.
There are important lessons from the Indian farce enacted on top of Rasina Hill.
First, that despite the great advances in the so-called science of ‘spin’ doctoring and choreography, political management remains embedded in improvisation or ‘jugaad’. This is true for the entire political class. The BJP, for example, spent the first day of its National Executive session last Friday trying to explain the absence of Narendra Modi in terms of his dietary preferences during Navratra.
Second, the political class finds the whole business of having to be accountable to TV viewers and, by implication, to the electorate, an unwanted intrusion into the world of parlour politics. The underlying message of the amateur theatrics last Thursday — Kapil Sibal would certainly have livened things up more had he been given a speaking role — was simple: ‘Crisis is over because we say it is over. And that’s that.’ I doubt if the intention of the Pranab-PC duet was to reassure Indians that governance is back on track and that they could slay Ravana on Dusserah day with a clear mind. The one-point objective was to drive the ‘Notegate’ controversy out of the front pages and headlines.
Finally, the spectacular ease with which this limited objective was achieved — by Friday afternoon the excitable media had deemed that 2G belonged to the ages —should call into question the editorial judgement of much of the Fourth Estate. It is not necessarily that there is a conspiracy theory to explain such exemplary mindlessness. By next week, the 2G scam and the fate of the Home Minister may well be back as the subject of shrieking bouts — if the prognosis of lawyer Harish Salve is anything to go by. The point to note is that the media suffers from a huge Attention Deficiency Disorder and can be easily beguiled by amateur dramatics into losing sight of the big picture.
Fortunately, the country is inhabited by ‘normal’ people, as opposed to activists and newshounds — an important distinction Tony Blair made in his autobiography. For them, the issue is not really about the emergence of a mysterious note that came into the public domain following a RTI application but that an already crippled Government was rushed into the ICU because two of the most senior Ministers were seen to be involved in a slugfest. It provided further evidence of incoherence in a Government that for all practical purposes has stopped governing.
To gauge the extent of disarray does not demand an intimate knowledge of rocket science. The Congress leadership is as aware of this as the harried Man from Matunga struggling to cope with soaring inflation and crippling interest rates for his EMI. The question, therefore, arises: Why isn’t the Government able to get its act together? Why is it blundering from one crisis to another?
The questions are worth a thought because non-performance isn’t an attribute any Government likes to be burdened with. In similar situations in the rest of the democratic world, ruling parties have sought a way out of the impasse by a leadership change. A new leader, it is generally assumed, will create a wall of separation between the past and the present.
After 2009, the Congress also believed that sooner or later the Regency of Manmohan Singh would end and enable the monarchy to once again come into its own. The chatter about the ‘youth icon’ and opinion poll findings about the most popular choice as Prime Minister were aimed at setting the stage for a non-contentious transition from Singh to Gandhi. What is remarkable is the rapidity with which a sense of anticipation has evaporated after the Anna Hazare fasts and the non-role of the heir designate in the crisis management process.
The ensuing silence is revealing. It suggests escalating scepticism over the viability of any transition at this juncture. At the same time, there is a realisation that for all his other attributes, the Prime Minister is losing his grip on the situation. To the Congress, a change is clearly desirable but there is no one who looks like being an effective successor. In any case, an effective non-dynasty successor would put dynastic claimants in the shade. And that isn’t acceptable to the party.
It is this conundrum that is at the heart of a ‘crisis’ that resembles a tamasha.


Bhatt, Alok said...

Sir, I wish I could remind PranabDa of his Rashtriya Samajvadi Congress moment in mid 80's. That misadventure of mid 80's wasnt more relevant than it is today.
I marvel at the patented surgical procedure of Gandhis (so called) that helps them remove the spines of everyone and anyone who is part of that party called Congress. Why cant these congressmen stand on their spines and do justice to this country. Are we really gonna suffer till 2014?????????/

Anonymous said...

Meira Kumar for PM..UP will be won and all of India's problems will be over . Baith jayiye, baith jayiye , this is said firmly with tongue in cheek !

Abhijit said...

All major parties are in disarray. There is internal squabble in both Congress as well as BJP. Congress is getting all the attention because it is in power. People are expecting it to behave and deliver. The main issue of 2G scam and what does Mr. Chidambaram knows, did or did not must be out before the nation. If no one is guilty why Congress is not speaking. Certainly, Mr. Chidambaram only made erroneous policy decison and did not make money. Why is no one standing up and saying so.

Abhijit said...

Both national parties are in disarray, be it Congress or BJP. Rampant corruption, intraparty rivalry for the top post is eating away their vitals. Meanwhile governance takes the back seat. Congress gets most attention because they are in power and people expect them to deliver. People must know what Mr. Chidambaram hen know, did or did not do in 2G scam. If he is is honest then he should explain his position.

Anonymous said...

Congress is so shameless beyond description. Just to cling to power & consolidate their regime further now that Anna Hazare has also been won over by dangling the sop of Presidenthood they have "made up".

The only adhesive is the "custodians of dynasty".

Chidambaram provided comic relief by telling " the rich should prepare thmselves to get taxed heavily". And also claims he belongs to Home Ministry not Finance.

Tax further? What about the loot of Congress ministers?

Bhatt, Alok said...

Actually if we analyse the events world over, people's exasperation with political class is becoming more evident in the ferocity of street protests. The Arab Spring of Middle East showed its power and proved its might in Tunisia, Egypt and most recently in made India's political class to bend backwards to save their skin and butts from being kicked in Summer and is most likely to see Corp America and political America being equally hit in American Automn protests. Going by the Twitter & Social media activism, I dont see any reason why that 13 year old courting arrest and being handcuffed- see here- - become a symbol of hope for poor and downtrodden and suffering middle classes of US...... I also feel that this revolution will soon spread to Europe and will finally engulf China in Winters. World that will rise thereafter will be a better world as political class will have no other option but to reform themselves....and whatever is happening in India is no less a coincidence. Here are the possible scenarios and whether one like it or not, in every possible case, SC has an opportunity to seize and turn it for a better India....only if those learned judges shows the spine and might of just law-

1. Amar Singh might reveal the names in Cash for votes scam? HC will take cognizance and enquiry might be expanded. Ahmed Patel will get cornered and so will be the dynasty.

2. SC might ask CBI to make Chidambaram and PM come to court to explain.....crisis in Congress will compund for another "Yes Madam" PM will beging and end at perhaps "Antony" or "Krishna" or who thing that is certain is that that Tom, Dick or Harry would be a Yes Madam PM worse than MMS.

3. Anna will be back in November/December and political class will suffocate further......there is a strong possibility of that movement being much stronger than the previous two movements.

4. Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland will be allowed to collapse by Germany and France in their bid to save their house.....EU experiment will be dealt a severe blow and Euro might see a George Soros type attack.... Gold might cross $2500 to $3000....

5. America might decide to take on Pakistan directly and militarily as their Govt would need something drastic to divert the attention of American public from "occupywallstreet movement....

6. China will see its own popular rovolt in Winters as its economy will slow down further.....and as USD future as reserve currency will come for increased questioning; safety of Chinese holdings of 1 trillion USD will keep them busy and cracks in Chinese society will appear far wider than they ever....

7. Congress might see a split in India with a possible likely split in BJP,those two splinters might want to come together and give a viable alternative......BJP might avoid that spolit only if it comes clear on various questions it is facing but also avoiding!

8. General Elections might be called in summers.....UP in all likelihood will see a divided verdict.....

9. Balochistan might become a reality as a buffer state between Pakistan Punjab and Afghanistan.....while MQM will take over Sindh...

10. Whole world will see trying and testing times and you will see UN membership cross 200 countries for the first time in world's history...Saudi royalty and oil rich Arab world will see much ferocious democracy movement and as they will taste the fruits of democracy, earlier exponents of Democracy will see Democracy 2.0 with larger people participation..

If nothing of this sort happens, world will remain a boring place to be in, India will see the return of dynasty in real form unlike present day regime of proxy ruling....interesting times!

Kiran said...

While electronic media is happy getting spun by the spin doctors of the ruling party, the print media seems to be going a step further. A recent editorial page article by Shekhar Gupta goes on to "advise" Congress on what to do. Sadly, it ends up doing the bidding for people like Chidambaram instead of demanding that Pranabda's note be taken seriously and that PC be held accountable and be probed by an unbiased agency! Ironically, this comes under a column titled "National interest"!!

bharat said...

Sir, great analysis, rather great mirroring of the situation. Media or newshounds decide upon their own when a crisis begin and end but loose the gist of the crisis...

Anonymous said...

It is time Advani retires for good.Renounce his greed for power. Only recently he said he was thumbing through Bhagavad Geetha & derived a lot of solace.Hence Advanis , Sushma Swarajs should retire making way for Narendra Modi and certain others.

@Kiran ,

Shekhar Gupta is one of those overhyped journos like Prannoy Roy & Barkha Dutt. It was the same Shekhar Gupta who was so extra jubilant during Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait , he travelled to Iraq , dwelling at length on Iraqis' "morale & might" resorted to a lot of anti George Bush & anti American propaganda.

Prannoy Roy was equally overjoyed to see American casualties & was gunning for Saddam Hussein's victory. Every malicious move of Saddam Hussein & his supporters made Prannoy Roys & Shekar Guptas crow with delight. Both are hard core unscrupulous leftists , mercenaries.

Anonymous said...

Prannoy Roy's wife Radhika Roy & Prakash Karat's wife Brinda Karat are sisters.

Anonymous said...


Whatever be the internal squabbles BJP is anyday preferable to Congress,Left,DMK and similar unprincipled clones.

Whereas Congress & the others as is so patently obvious does not have India's welfare as its objective.They are & shall always remain communal parties.

Let us do away with the temptation of worshipping Anna Hazare. He has not been vocal enough in highlighting the crimes & misdemeanours of congress dynasty & the custodians of that dynastic rule.

Upadhyay said...

Sir, a great analysis, once again.

For Congress, things have rapidly gone out of hand, what with Madam-ji indisposed, her non-happening son the "Youth Icon" incapable of making any thing happening, Chiddu's reluctance to utter the words "Muslim" and "terror" in a single phrase and his catch phrases like "Hindu terror", "Home Grown Terror" etc, the Amar-Akbar-Anthony "secular" comedy, the 2G and the 9 million dollars Commonwealth gas balloons.

And yet they still feel that India is their paternal "jageer". The Congress has tried all its cards including its specialized patented weapons - "caste card" and "communal card", yet nothing seems to be moving for them. And hence the great "Tamasha".

Congress and India need to move on and look beyond the Gandhis, Air India and socialism. Even Russia disbanded KGB, Aerofloat and communism long ago.

jalal said...

swapan babu, when don't u turn a stage playwright? u cud b as good as girish ghosh!