Games within the Congress
All is certainly not well in the Congress and a Cabinet Minister had in a letter stated that the party was in the ICU and the government was in coma. One needs to ask this Cabinet minister whether he is a doctor or a patient and why was he giving his diagnosis without doing anything about it. There has been a talk of a major reshuffle in the party as well as the government but with the two top leaders being status quoist, nothing much is likely to happen. And in any case unless and until the key people are not moved there seems to be little point in having a reshuffle. After all the end result will be the same.
On Tuesday, a `story’ regarding the desire of four Cabinet ministers to resign from the government to work for the party was planted in the electronic media. Every channel flashed the names of Salman Khurshid, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Vyalar Ravi and Jairam Ramesh as the ministers whose longing to work for the party was going to result in a Kamaraj plan type situation. Those who flashed the news did not care to understand that in Congress of the 21st century, no Minister is likely to resign from the government to work for the party unless he is specifically asked to quit or there are compelling reasons for him to do so. Gradually as the hours passed, three of the ministers who were named in the story distanced themselves from any such move. The fourth one is believed to have written a letter to the Congress president soon after the UP defeat airing his feelings.
The immediate thoughts that crossed my mind was that what had prevented theses ministers from working for the party even while they were in the government. All of them had in fact been working for the party in some form or the other despite holding official positions in the Cabinet. For instance Azad is incharge of both Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Salman was in the forefront of the UP campaign. The Congress president sent Ravi to Andhra Pradesh recently. Jairam does a lot of work for Rahul Gandhi on and off. Under these circumstances, the story had to be incorrect. But those who know the Congress also know that such highly publicized story which turned out to be a rumour couldn’t be without any reason. No one in the party has so far either confirmed or denied it out rightly. The idea is obviously to keep people both in the government and the party on the edge of their seats. From another angle, the purpose behind such a story could also be to reassert the authority of the party over the government particularly after the string of defeats the Congress has had during the past few months.
Another angle could be that was it an attempt by some in the party to target the Prime Minister whose differences with the party on some issues are not imaginary. It is very clear that that several key functionaries are yet to understand that the situation is very different now as compared to what it was eight years ago and any attempt to dislodge the Prime Minister could lead to the fall of the government. If Singh was to be replaced, the party leadership will have many ambitious leaders to deal with and the allies may not necessarily back a new face.
It was a risk just not worth taking. It is another matter that the stock of the government and the party is so low at present that there will be very few who would stick their neck out to predict a rosy picture for the two entities.
This of course is not the end of the matter as many more such sensational developments, true or not so true will take place during the run up to the President’s election. The Presidential election will be a game changer and could lead to a re-alignment of forces unless the Congress acts swiftly to seal the issue at the earliest. But it is unlikely that a party, which is a victim of its own deeds, has learnt too many lessons. But this is one lesson if not learnt properly, could form the conclusion of this volume of the party’s history.