Boycott politics to nowhere

Boycott politics to nowhere

Politics is a game of creating perceptions. This is an area that the Sonia Congress has not shown much appetite for. Credibility is not something that...

We are entering another election season. It is going to witness a no-holds-barred fight, making the Lok Sabha election held in April-May appear as gentlemen’s game. We already have a foretaste of things to be expected with the Chief Ministers from Jharkhand to Haryana and Maharashtra deciding not to share the dais with the Prime Minister. Their decision has less to do with the politics of secularism, and much to do with the fact that the crowds are unwilling to listen to them when they are in the company of Narendra Modi, who is now hopping around inaugurating projects that belonged to the UPA era. That Modi is waving to crowds to remain calm and listen to the Congress CMs is neither here nor there. Their supremo Sonia Gandhi is already leading the charge against Modi and the BJP, accusing them of selling false dreams in March-May round. She is also charging Modi et al with stealing intellectual property rights (IPRs) for UPA flagship schemes and rebranding them as their own. Will her charges stick? Too early to say.

Politics is a game of creating perceptions. This is an area that the Sonia Congress has not shown much appetite for. Credibility is not something that can be acquired off the shelf nor can an advt agency provide you with a jingle. Politicians and political parties have to work on the ballot street with eyes wide open and ears to the ground. Even a momentary lapse into self-praise will undo work of months as Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have realised the hard way. To put it more bluntly, as former Election Commissioner, and long-time observer of Indian political scene, G V G Krishna Murthy says, “Politics is a Love Street for suicide and homicide. The choice is yours.”

It is not my case that Hemant Soren, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Prithviraj Chavan are on the path of either suicide or homicide. The three harassed Netas are clueless about their future, and about the future of their party. As satraps holding the charge at Ground Zero, they know what had gone wrong at the hustings in May, and what will go wrong again in October-November.

Course correction is what the Congress needs badly but they are helpless after the Antony Committee gave a clean chit to the real culprits for the LS debacle, and put the blame on inflation and corruption. In an unguarded moment while preparing the report, Antony had conceded before a receptive audience in Kerala that the Congress was unable to shake off the charge of indulging in minority appeasement. In so many words, his lament was that the BJP and its mascot Modi had exploited the charge and derived electoral dividend.

The likes of L K Advani have been accusing the Congress of practicing pseudo-secularism for more than three-four decades. So there is nothing new in this critique; Antony knows this; he also knows since he was privy to the plan that the Congress had walked the extra mile during the Vajpayee era (and afterwards as well) to target and neutralise Advani. Well, they saw in Advani a potential threat. For them Vajpayee posed no problem as he had lost the appetite for a new fight after entering the 7, Race Course Road. With his dreams of shining from the Raisina Hill one day, the BJP strongman had allowed himself to be their prey. Even Manmohan Singh took delight at hitting out at Advani often with below the belt barbs exposing his own political bones in the process.

Now, when Advani, like Sorens, Hoodas and Chavans, is being silenced by chants of “Modi”, and “Modi”, wherever he goes, even at Kabaddi match award functions, the Saint of Kerala finds some merit in the minority appeasement charge. He could have walked the talk. He did not. Instead, he blamed the Manmohan-nama for the poll reverses. Course correction can come only from an honest introspection. Our comrades are famous for honestly admitting their blunders. Post-blunder honesty did not give them any brownie points, and in fact made them objects of ridicule more so as they paid little attention to their roots while revelling in their self-anointed role as modern day Chankya in Hastinapura. It is possible that Antony, a long-time watcher of the Left in God’s own country, has decided not to go the Comrades’ way of being honest with the past.

But flagging the administrative paralysis of the Manmohan government leads the Congress nowhere in the context of forthcoming Assembly elections. That paralysis was a direct fallout of Sonia–Rahul combine’s failure to read the pulse of the people in their irrational exuberance over their patent – the dole bubble. This mistake was compounded by their inability to consign to the dustbin the Indira Gandhi’s practice of not nurturing regional satraps.

Sonia Gandhi did make an exception to the rule in the case of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, and to an extent in the case of Bhupinder Singh Hooda. But YSR aides made her quickly return to the old Indira line by projecting Jaganmohan Reddy as the “regional” crown prince who deserved space along with the “national” crown prince on the local bill boards. The post-YSR show that resulted in YSRCP with some twists and turns in the fortunes of Jagan Reddy offers enough talking points on how to put the Congress house in order if it is to revive its electoral fortunes. That is beside the point.

Shunning Narendra Modi will do no good to the Congress satraps. The functions where they have been hooted thus far were not functions of the BJP or Congress but were joint ventures of the Centre and the State governments. Before the poll body announces the schedule of Assembly elections, there are bound to be many more such occasions. By boycotting these inaugurations, the Chief Ministers will be depriving themselves and also their party of a talking point at the hustings.

Modi, as Prime Minister, may be inaugurating a project funded or executed by a central agency. The States too have contributed to the project; the inauguration or foundation stone laying ceremony is the culmination of home work spread over several months. By not sharing the limelight or refusing to shine in the reflex glory of the Centre, the Congress party-led state governments will not be serving their cause, which is putting the best foot forward on the eve of elections.

Only those with head in ivory towers, body in the Spa and feet in leg foot massager can afford to give ‘boycott’ advisories to the foot-soldiers. Because for them, politics stand for Darbar intrigues and political debate is no more than a shouting bout in the TV studio.

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