A Greek tragedy: Is that how the Congress ends?

Asian Age

It is, today, a disaster as it has no clue of what it should do next, under the present political circumstances.

There is nothing remotely amusing watching the Congress Party enact a Greek tragedy, totally unaware that it is doing so. It is, today, a disaster as it has no clue of what it should do next, under the present political circumstances.

It was the party in power at the Centre for almost all its existence. It was a platform and it worked to steer the behemoth down the middle. There were pro- and anti-factions; there were prominent leaders like Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the Jan Sangh's founder, and a contingent, routinely identified as socialists, among whom was Mohan Kumaramanglam.

When the great leaders of the freedom movement, starting with the zero point one generation, down to the last of the lot, wrote the Constitution and set up the first government, it worked for a consensus, and struggled to reach it between polar opposites pulling the party in different directions.

However unsatisfactory the policies of a government by consensus with its endless machinations to please the Right and Left, the orthodox and the progressive, there was no doubt that the Congress could mean many things to many sections of the population. It could, then, include people with contradictory principles. The outcomes were nevertheless far-reaching; a mixed and muddled economy, which has revealed surprising strength, policies that set the course on how public goods and services should be a core of governance and a push me-pull you secularism.

The reappointment of Sonia Gandhi, albeit interim, as party president is an outstanding example of what a consensus ought not to be. A review of how the Congress handled leadership choices in the past -- Jawaharlal Nehru versus Subhas Chandra Bose, for instance - is pointless. The party doesn't have leaders like them anymore. It does not have sacrificial lambs like Pattabhi Sitaramayya, who was Mahatma Gandhi's candidate against Subhas Bose, after Maulana Azad and Nehru dropped out.

Cowardice and complacency are the distinguishing features of the Congress as a party these days. It has leaders who dare not take any responsibility for fear that it would damage their own careers and the party, more than it is already damaged. Complacency, tantamount to suicide, is all-pervasive. The Congress, as a party, not an agglomeration of leaders, has no ideas about itself vis-a-vis its past, its purpose vis-a-vis its present, and its strategy vis-a-vis its future. The Congress mouths words loaded with meaning like democracy and the Constitution and foundational values, but when the push comes to shove, its leaders, primarily the younger ones, are unsure. The disgraceful spectacle of younger leaders quibbling about Article 370 and Article 35A as indeed dispensable, but not in the way that the BJP got rid of the provisions, reveals that these are not people of substance.

The current purpose of the Congress is to be a lousy bogeyman for the BJP, so that it can continue its ridiculous exercises in publicly measuring its decisive actions in contrast to the "ineffectual" and dishonourable leadership that ruled India for "70 years". Legislating corrections by reducing the state of

Jammu and Kashmir to Union territory status, and temporarily (sic!) abrogating fundamental rights, or the chaotic identification of citizens in Assam can only be justified vis-a-vis the past.

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