Deaf, dumb and blind

Last week I heard with interest Rahul Gandhi, as the newly appointed vice president of his party, call for the identification of 40 to 50 people in the Congress in each state who could be leaders -potential chief ministers and prime ministers.

This week travelling to Hyderabad on a private visit and attending a Rotarian Republic eve do with a friend as, well, just a friend, I was pleasantly surprised to come across the Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh assembly, Nadendla Manohar, who is probably just one of the bright young things whom Rahul Gandhi is waiting to discover.

“I can speak freely as there is no media present here” Manohar said and almost instinctively I sank back in my chair even as my friends looked at me to see if I would stand up and be counted. I was glad I didn’t because that cowardice helped me to listen to a wonderfully sincere speech shorn of all the gallery play usually put up for the media.

I was told by my friends that AP has more talent like him -for example Congress MP U Arun Kumar who had the tenacity to dig up parliamentary records of past decades and come up with convincing and logical arguments to punch holes in the Telangana argument, including expose ghe duplicity of TRS leader K Chandrashekhar Rao.

manohar, though, spoke no politics at the Rotary event but it was interesting to note the clarity with which he identified the government’s stellar schemes like Aadhaar, which would empower even the least represented people in this country, the mid-day meal scheme which feeds millions of children every day, the pulse polio drive which will lead to total eradication of polio from India in a few years, etc. “The government is in that sense the biggest NGO in the country,”Manohar said.

But one scheme he seemed to have missed -something – which even Rahul Gandhi mentioned only in the passing – is the UPA’s latest direct cash transfer scheme. It may have got off to a shaky start but I have seen the tremendous excitement among the poor about the scheme in both the cities and villages of Maharashtra, Gujarat and now Andhra Pradesh where there is a huge rush to secure Aadhaar cards which will form the basis of the empowerment.

And for all that Rahul Gandhi said that corrupt people are the ones so fond of eradicating corruption, I wonder why the originators of this most unique scheme anywhere in the world are unable to see that this is their biggest weapon in fighting corruption — no one in the party is so far promoting the scheme so.

After long years of political reporting I have come to the conclusion that the best schemes in the country have come from the Congreas party over the decades (and not just the UPA years) but that despite bringing the communication and information technology revolutions to the country, they have no idea on how to use that information revolution to press home on their advantages.

I have heard many UPA ministers blame opposition governments in various states for passing off thd MGNarega scheme as their own but I have discovered that even their chief minister, Y S Rajshekhar Reddy, did the same – Narega, I am told, has been best implemented in Andhra Pradesh but all the poor people who benefit from the scheme believe it. Is YSR’s brainchild and not the UPA’s. Not surprising then that YSR’s son, Jaganmohan Reddy, should steal a march over the Congress in AP and I believe then that the Congress therefore deserves every bit of drubbing it gets in AP these days as also elsewhere in the country for, perhaps, the same reasons.

What can one say about a party that has ample talent sitting right under its nose -I i had discovered equal matches to Manohar in Gujarat during the assembly elections there in December – and cannot even see them even in the sunlight? Blind! And have the beat of minds who can think up schemes to make the lives of millions of people better every day but then cannot even hear others marching in? Deaf! And those who can’t even speak up for their own plans? Dumb?

No wonder, then, that the UPA is so handicapped!

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