The mini-rebellion by Rahul Gandhi in the heart of Lutyen’s Delhi caused tectonic shifts in the political landscape of the capital. Palace intrigue gripped New Delhi. Who was the author of this coup d’état? Will it lead to the resignation of the prime minister? A cabinet reshuffle? Who scripted it? Did it come from a president who was not a mere rubber stamp? Which way did the UPA president lean?
But typically there were no answers or clarifications, just whispers in the corridors. Rahul went into hiding, Sonia didn’t speak out, and the call was made for “all good men (and women) to come to the aid of the party.” Like good troopers, they marched in tune. To the last man, they all dumped the hot potato ordinance and said that they stood with the party (read Rahul Gandhi).
Not one party leader had the temerity to stand by the cabinet, headed by the prime minister. The insult was there for all to see and snigger about, even if the young man didn’t know how bad a slur it would be on the office of the prime minister and how it had queered the pitch for India in the US.
But is this the first time that such a thing has happened in Delhi? Not really. The city is all about knives and drawing blood, about shadow-boxing and men and women darting about corridors of power playing court games. One prime example is the way the BJP is sympathising with the prime minister’s predicament. The same prime minister they called nikamma is now being offered a shoulder to weep on!
This is almost in the same manner that the Congress suddenly has new found affection for LK Advani, now that he has been sidelined by the young Turk, Narendra Modi.
But it makes for great TV. The gate crashing into Ajay Maken’s press briefing by Rahul Gandhi, rolling up his sleeves, says the ordinance is nonsense and should be torn up and thrown away, Ajay Maken’s ashen face, Jayanthi Natarajan saying we will fall in line because Rahul has a view, Shashi Tharoor siding with Rahul and abandoning his one time mentor Dr Manmohan Singh, the shock and awe of the prime minister’s aides in Washington DC, the hurried drafting of a sanitised reply from the American capital, the consternation of Sonia Gandhi who supposedly placed a call to the prime minister (nobody is quite sure whether they spoke or what they discussed).
Many have drawn comparisons to Rajiv Gandhi’s press conference in 1987 when he said, “You will be talking to a new foreign secretary soon.” Foreign secretary AP Venkateshwaran resigned the same day in pretty much the same hot headed manner as the prime minister. He was not playing by Delhi’s rules where bureaucrats don’t quit. They just move to other jobs. Rajiv also was not doing things the Delhi way. He hadn’t learned how to.
APV went into oblivion, the PM stayed. This is how things are done in Delhi. Nobody is indispensable. And it is a cruel, unsympathetic, inhumane battle field where the only rule is that there are no rules. Dr Manmohan Singh would be making a big mistake by resigning and my bet is that he will not resign nor does his party expect him to. It will serve no purpose.
Rahul has at last shown impatience with the old guard in his party, but quite naturally everybody is asking: Why now? Why not when things had started going downhill a few years ago? Rahul was careful not to gingerly step on the toes of senior leaders, restricting himself to reorganising the party at the grass root level. The old guard saw it as disinterest or shirking of responsibility. Off the record, many younger Congressmen had begun saying that they were afraid to go back to their constituencies to ask for votes, so great is the anger against the party. And this isn’t because of the Modi factor. It is because people had such huge expectations from them and they faltered.
Young people do things differently (yes in politics, 40 something is young). They break traditions and monopolies and sometimes use those monopolies to break more rules. They don’t care for propriety and manner. Delhi either breaks them or moulds them to play by its rules because that is the way Delhi plays. But the more interesting way would be to break Delhi’s rules. Let’s see what happens then.
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash