Saturday, April 11, 2009

How foolish can Madam’s Party be!


Never before has the Congress been so perverse in its selection of candidates. Tickets have been given to netas who should have taken to vanaprastha long ago, and netas who have no chance of winning, and netas who are too controversial to do the party any good. The shoe hurled at P. Chidambaram in Delhi merely dramatized the Congress’s appalling foolishness.

Was that shame necessary to bring the party to its senses? It is a fact that Congress leaders unleashed murder and mayhem against Sikhs in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. It is also a fact that the Congress did nothing to atone for its sins in the 25 years since.

It did just the opposite when it gave tickets to Jagdish Tytler and an accomplice. A CBI certificate of innocence will not make these men innocent in the eyes of the public. As long as public opinion holds them responsible for the anti-Sikh atrocities, they are a political no-no for any party. Yet, amazingly, the Congress chose to add insult to the injury it had inflicted on Sikhs.

Is Jagdish Tytler such an important national asset that the Congress Party had to pick him at any cost? Outside a pocket or two in Delhi, he is a nobody. His omission would have done the party no harm while it would have done the country some good.

Why then did the Congress act so dumb? Everyone knows the answer. A small coterie of operators, on the strength of their closeness to Madam, manipulate everything in the Congress. Madam, very intelligent and very sharp when it comes to protecting her own and her family’s interests, is not so sure about the intricacies of India’s convoluted regional politics. So the coterie is left free to give full play to its egos and its vested interests.

Consider, for example, the tickets given to Margaret Alva, Veerappa Moily, Jaffer Sherief. Consider K.V.Thomas of Kochi who was not even in the list sent up by Congress leaders in Kerala. Are these personalities so outstanding that India’s future would be in jeopardy if they are not in Parliament? Don’t these veterans deserve some rest after serving the country for so long?

Omissions are as revealing as commissions. In the heart of Bangalore, the Congress’s original gut feeling was to field S.M.Krishna. That would have provided a badly needed boost to the lethargic Congress campaign. But petty rivalries were allowed to keep Krishna out. Now a leaderless, idealess, valueless Congress is poised to confirm its surrender of Karnataka to the BJP.

Coterie rule also prevents the Congress from using one of the most important tools in election politics – strategic manoeuvring. Ahmedabad is a good example. Against L.K.Advani there the Congress has put up a man called Suresh Patel, a remarkably unknown person although he is a legislator. What is the point of such a candidate against Advani? Instead, a smart strategist would have left he field clear for Mallika Sarabhai. She is a credible candidate. With some help, she could put up a reasonable performance. That would send a timely message to the country – and the Congress could derive satisfaction from it.

Alas, nothing of the kind works when small minds play with big issues. It is another matter that Madam’s Party may win enough seats to become a player in the next Government. That will be because Advani’s Party is in a more terrible mess. Are we condemned to choose between the worse and the worst?