Fight from the front, Madam

THE GREAT INDIAN CIRCUS

Fight from the front, Madam

He was not a very formidable man. Nor did he ever lay claim to charisma or achievement, except in a negative sense when he pulled down two governments. Once in the seat of power in the Congress and given the precarious position of the UF government vis-a-vis his party’s support, he did nurture some ambitions of entering the Race Course Road as a resident, thereby earning him the title ‘Old man in a hurry’. But the absence of the above mentioned qualities ensured that he did not make the most of his own actions. Probably, fate was in no hurry to reward him.

Congress president Sitaram Kesri had gone out the same way he came in, silently and unobtrusively. There was neither any celebration nor jubilation when he took charge and there will be no mourners or tears when he lays down office. For a party which is ever on the lookout for scapegoats and suckers, one more electoral debacle means yet another change of guard. And even as the incumbents are booted out with unceremonious alacrity, the sycophants who infest the party start their chorus of prayers towards the goddess of the Temple of Silence to take over the party. It happened when Rajiv was killed. It happened when P.V.Narasimha Rao was dumped. And it is happening now.

After the blitzkrieg that fizzled out, the Lady is back into the shell, with self and family locked up in a self-imposed exile of silence and, probably, introspection. But, as before, the strings continue to be active with the puppets hanging at the other end still dancing to the whims and pulls from inside that fortress. Kesri’s parting kick, though a very feeble one, is indeed revealing of ways and machinations of the occupants of 10, Janpath. Even a man of Kesri’s calibre, whose penchant for unbridled sycophancy and unabashed servitude to the ‘Sonia family’, has found it difficult to swallow the incessant doses of insults to his self’s respect. And the beauty or the ugliness, depending on whether you are a Congressman or not, about the whole show is that even as the head of one voluntary sacrificial goat goes rolling down the altar, there are multitudes of others offering their heads to the mercy of the presiding deity.

And the Lady and kin seem to love it. We are not sure if it is a hangover of colonial haughtiness or simply a mockery at the oversolicituous Congressmen for falling head over heels in paying obeisance to Her Majesty. Yet the unmistakable sneer and the unnerving contempt offends one’s sensibilities. After all, the boiling point of the people is not as high as the Congressman’s.

All said, there seems to be no reason for her to embark upon such unseemly behind the scene manoeuvering, just to get a meek Kesri out of the way. But the fact that she did play the mastermind in easing out the old man without revealing her hand, does not augur well for the party as well as the country, if her ambition does materialise.

Sonia obviously thinks that she can carry on her backroom machinations for eternity. It is probably her fond hope that she can rule, the Congress as well as the country, through her obliging minions and need be quoted only through ‘sources close to Janpath’ and not directly. She is perhaps of the opinion that she can ever remain the hidden hand that dictates and decides every move of the party, without exactly taking responsibility for any of the consequences. Or it is her firm belief that her widowhood combined with the spinelessness of Congressmen is adequate for her to romp home to power when the time is ripe and it is prudent to lie low for the present and meanwhile, watch the crabs in the Congress bucket pull each other down.

Such illusions are sure to boomerang on her. It is time she realised that politics is a different ball game in which there is no place for unseen players. Nor can proxies represent the real for ever. The people of the country have the right to know who and what they are voting for and sooner or later they would want to know what she thinks of various issues and what her policies and programmes are. Even Indira and Rajiv had to go through this treadmill. There could be no exemption to the ‘bahu’ or the widow. The facade of silence and enigma could be taken for cowardice. The refusal to come out into the open and take head on the critics and enemies alike, could easily be construed as cold feet. The disinclination to enter into direct confrontation and debates on matters of national interest could certainly be mistaken as an exhibition of hollowness. And above all the utter disdain with which she treats the media and such other institutions could easily spell doom for her and the party which she purports to protect and perpetuate.

The Congress can afford to put up with invisible leaders. The nation cannot.

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Jawahar T R