– V.N. Balakrishna | January 20, 2014
Ahmedabad | “The Opposition has good marketing skills…They are selling combs to bald men. Now there are a new group of people who are trying to give them haircuts,” the scion of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty Rahul Gandhi taunted the opposition in his 45-minute speech at AICC meeting in Delhi last Friday.
It is said ignorance wavers between extreme audacity and extreme shyness and there was plenty in Rahul’s speech. Never did Congress since the heady days of Indira Gandhi’s populism of socialist redistribution ever stop promising “combs” for the poor and degentrified middle class for the hair that was promised to grow.
All that positing Rahul as agent of change to counter Modi persona yet shying away from urgent bold steps may prove Congress’ undoing. Rahul calling for another five-year term to his party to help disengage the poverty trap of the poor and degentrified even as these people are dogged by morbid fear of losing their livelihood is bound to be a nonstarter. (Degentrification occurs when sustained poverty turns middle class into slum-dwellers over several decades as can be seen in Mumbai. Dharavi slum is a case in point).
Congress fighting shy of naming Rahul as prime ministerial candidate has alarmed the cadres even as Modi juggernaut moves forward relentlessly. All Rahul could offer to the country is bluster which failed to catch the imagination when honesty and humility could have done the trick if only he had the grace to admit his party’s past mistakes. Enumerating achievements under the covering fusillade of self-praise like that of claiming credit for Lokpal Bill makes no sense as Congress was the culprit with 45 years simply spent on self-preservation.
Congress is a past master in evoking nostalgia and yet had fallen afoul of aam admi as last four assembly election results showed. And as if to counter this drab scenario Rahul resorted to the dangerous ploy of letting out the quota genie for women when he said “I want half of the members of parliament and party workers to be women. We will fight your (women) battle, help you progress, empower you and respect you.”
Politicians have been playing with fire using quota brahmastra to counter sagging fortunes. None succeeded be it NT Rama Rao, who as chief minister had to backtrack after declaring quotas to backwards, or the Janata Dal which fell by the wayside playing the deadly Mandal card. If half the Parliament is packed through quota with women picked by politicians as their proxies, pray, do the foisted need empowerment?
Malgovernance and mega corruption have always been the albatross around the Congress neck. And Rahul donning the cap of corruption crusader is like handing over keys of bank lockers to thieves for safe custody.
Sadly, Congress of yore which had host of new generation leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, Subhas Chandra Bose and Srinivasa Iyengar never could re-invent itself after Nehru-Gandhi clan got a stranglehold over the organization. The irony was lost on Rahul while targeting Modi: “Democracy is not rule by one man. We don’t hand over the structure of a party to one man.”
The one thing Rahul said may be prophetic: “This is not about yet another election; it is a turning point in our nation’s history. The change that is taking place before us is unstoppable.” With Sonia holding Rahul back presumably to avoid his image tarnishing in case of defeat in 2014 Lok Sabha polls the restless demoralized cadres could set the Congress totter. And with aura gone around the First Family all that Rahul needed desperately was to try and restore Congress’ lost glory by going down fighting in a direct face-off with Modi. At least he could have earned his political spurs.