Some things never change
When the Congress Party lost really badly in the 2014 general elections, managing a mere 44 seats, little did it know that it was about to become the most powerful entity in India. In fact, after losing India, the Congress and its allies also lost Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The party has a marginal presence in UP and Bihar India’s biggest states when it comes to Lok Sabha seats is just about holding on to whatever does not go to the polls in the immediate future.
PM Modi though does not sit glumly like Manmohan Singh did. No, he prances around the world taking selfies, tweeting, having buddy moments with world leaders. He talks about the things on his mind with the people of India on his own version of Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats in his Mann ki Baat. Pic/PTI
The leadership of the party is seemingly stuck in the seemingly reluctant hands of Rahul Gandhi no one really seems to know just where he stands and what he stands for. And that includes senior leaders in the Congress. In May 2014 itself many people had written off the party saying it had outlived its usefulness. And the corruption and scams of the last three or four years of its United Progressive Alliance government, the “policy paralysis” in its ministries and the silence of the then prime minister Manmohan Singh only added to the fervour to write more obituaries.
But over a year into the great triumph of Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, lo and behold, the Congress is everywhere. And not because of anything the Congress party is doing, because frankly there is not much it can do in real terms, but because the BJP and its supporters just cannot let go.
So whatever the Modi government has not been able to achieve so far is the fault of the Congress party. Unfortunately for the Modi government, it promised far too much before it came to power and also promised the people a “Congress-free India”. There is no bigger irony then than constantly referencing the Congress, even if it is to blame it for the government’s current plight or inability to move fast enough. The first year we concentrated on Nehru and went through how he had worked hard to destroy India and leave behind a terrible legacy we are still trying to recover from. Now we seem to have reached Indira Gandhi, but oddly, the attacks on her are not as scathing as they were on her father, the Emergency notwithstanding. By this reckoning, the Modi government’s term will be up by the time we run through all prime ministers of the Congress party.
Meanwhile, what is even worse is that the new prime minister seems to have been infected by the same disease that afflicted the last prime minister: the sound of silence. Manmohan Singh never spoke when he needed to as his government lurched from one crisis to the next. Modi though does not sit glumly like Singh did. No, he prances around the world taking selfies, tweeting, having buddy moments with world leaders. He talks about the things on his mind with the people of India on his own version of Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats in his ‘Mann ki Baat’.
What he does not do, however, is address any problems or say anything significant. Scams breaking all around him, senior ministers and BJP chief ministers find muck flying on and around them, and the prime minister has nothing to say. The rest of the time he is known for fiery speeches, for his banter, for his mocking statements and the pithy names and phrases he coins. But on the discriminatory comments by his party members and Cabinet colleagues, on former IPL chief Lalit Modi’s revelations involving external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, on the number of deaths in the Madhya Pradesh examination and recruitment board scam, commonly known as Vyapam, where over 40 witnesses and accused have died, Modi has nothing to say.
Union law minister Sadanand Gowda put it in perspective for us when he said that it was unfair to ask the prime minister to comment on everything, including silly things like the Vyapam scam. And now you can dial back to the last years of the last UPA government when we were told by various Congress spokespersons and ministers that it was unfair to demand that the prime minister comment on everything.
Aah, those shattered dreams of a “Congress-free India”, shattered by the BJP and Modi themselves.
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona