Rahul let off scot-free, but Chavan put in a tight spot
Victory has a thousand fathers, goes the saying, but defeat is an orphan. In the prevailing scenario, the defeat of Congress-led UPA is parentless.
Neither Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi nor state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, or anybody else in the Congress for that matter, is likely to embrace the defeat. The lip service of ‘We take responsibility for the party’s defeat’ will not help change the party’s fortune.
There exists an unwritten rule in the Grand Old Party that whenever it wins an election, the credit goes to the leadership, and in the event of defeat, the blame goes to the workers. Apparently, to stave off criticism, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul accepted responsibility and sought to spare their trusted ones from facing the ignominy.
Sonia even accepted the role of the party’s parliamentary leader, putting to rest speculations that she may not take up the job on health grounds. This exposes the party’s inability to go beyond the Gandhi family. In any case, had Rahul been installed in the post, UPA allies such as NCP would have refused to work under him.
After a most humiliating defeat, such developments do not augur well for the party. Under normal circumstances, no veiled or direct criticism against the party’s first family is tolerated. But at the moment it seems unstoppable.
Those who want to put the entire blame on Rahul are unwilling to say it openly, and are instead targeting his coterie of advisors. Statements such as ‘It’s high time for Priyanka Gandhi to step in’ indicate enough. People close to the Gandhis have come forward to protect the family scion.
In the state, the most trusted man of the Congress family, Prithviraj Chavan, has not been so lucky. He has been directly held accountable for the dismal show, largely due to his style of working. Congress got only two seats, 15 less than its last performance in the 2009 general election.
Due to the confidence of the party high command that he enjoys, Chavan’s colleagues had been finding it difficult to target him ever since he took over in 2010. Assuming the chief ministerial chair following the infamous Adarsh housing society scam, he has been cautious to avoid controversies.
This has resulted in some unpleasant decisions, such as no personal favours, no approval to controversial decisions that may invite court cases, no entry to developers, no out-of-turn appointments and so forth. This has angered his cabinet colleagues as well as legislators. But his supporters backed him, saying no chief minister would dare to cross the line when his predecessor had had to quit due to allegations of corruption.
Chavan is being targeted for slow decision-making, as if it is the sole cause of Congress’s poor show in the state. Even though this is a major allegation, there are a few more discussed by his party men in hushed tones - inability to make appointments on state-run boards or corporations, and heavy dependence on ministers of state Rajendra Mulak and Satej Patil.
It is said that the two most important aspects of the Lok Sabha campaign, funds and campaign material, were handled by the duo. The delay in political appointments is also not a new thing; his predecessors have done that a lot at their convenience, citing that the number of aspirants was too high compared to the availability of posts.
A few vacancies were deliberately kept in the state cabinet for the precise reason, and the practice, on since 2005, has disheartened aspirants. Among the many reasons why Congress lost is that party workers did not campaign wholeheartedly for apparent reasons. The party’s base, too, has shrunk, as voters from the younger generation did not support it.
Making most of the present situation, NCP, a key constituent of the Congress-led UPA, has started taking potshots and exercising pressure to extract a maximum of seats in the state assembly. The party has started blaming Congress for the defeat. One should not get surprised if NCP decides to fight the assembly elections on its own.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day