Trust RaGa to make a gaffe and spoil the party when everything seemed to be on a roll for him. Addressing a handpicked sympathetic audience he has come out with the gem that Congress had nothing to do with the 1984 anti-Sikh Riots. This brick dropped by him is definitely going to bruise more than his toe. The statement may have been made in faraway London but this revisionist bit of history is going to reverberate as the Lok Sabha Elections draw nearer.
P Chidambaram tried damage control by pointing out that Rahul had just entered his teens at the time of the riots and can’t be held responsible for what happened; but surely he is accountable for his statements now in his advanced forties and at the helm of the major party in the Opposition.
Many in the Congress think that 1984 is forgettable fudgy pre-history and 2002 an indelible contemporary calamity. Unfortunately, both are terrible blots on the face of India and can’t be wished away. There are other acts of brutality and state’s inability to punish the guilty. These will continue to suppurate like ugly, potentially life-threatening sores till a closure is arrived at.
As if this weren’t enough, Rahul ‘explained’ his party’s defeat to a ‘Clash of Generations’. His recent reshuffling of the party machinery hasn’t exactly addressed this issue. Octogenarians and septuagenarians continue to occupy berths that logically and legitimately should be reserved for party workers much younger—younger even than RaGa himself. To any neutral observer it is clear that what ails the Indian National Congress (INC) isn’t a generational conflict. It is truly a clash of civilisations: Dynastic ‘Democracy’ v/s Meritocratic, Free and Fair Election-based governance within and without the party.
Trusted loyalists, family friends and retainers always manage to trump those who have proved themselves more than once in electoral battles and in administration. Like in all royal households with a weak and incapable inheritor on the throne, there are feuding factions and intrigues aplenty jostling for a position of power. All this, we are told, shouldn’t concern any outsider—it’s the internal matter of the Grand Old Party. Let that pass for the moment.
Unfortunately for Indian democracy what has allowed this performance to continue so long is the inability of the NDA in power to control the lynch mobs, uber nationalist marauding vigilantes flouting the rule of law and intimidating innocent citizen. Those spewing venom, indulging in unbridled hate speech or propagating blind superstitions continue to occupy ministerial chairs in the Centre and states where the BJP is in power. Acquittals are easy when the accused enjoys protection. Withdrawal of cases and remissions and pardons are, quite legal. But the stink they leave behind is unbearable.
This climate of fear and increasing intolerance has definitely alienated a large segment of population from the present regime in the Centre, many of whom had voted for Narendra Modi and the BJP with great enthusiasm. Many saffron flag-waving leaders have been tainted with accusations of heinous crimes. Not in all cases can political vendetta be argued in defence. It is this creeping, lurking disenchantment that has revived and rejuvenated the INC. Little does RaGa realise that he is chasing a mirage. The hopes of forging a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ have dissipated repeatedly.
It’s also difficult to understand what purpose is served by proving to foreign audiences that Rahul Gandhi has finally come of age, has mellowed and matured like good wine. People at home know very well that it’s the bottles and the labels that keep getting replaced; the stuff inside is the same wine that reminds one more of vinegar.
But Rahul is not the only one living in a world of make-belief surrounded by well-meaning mentors and handlers. Capt Amarinder Singh in Punjab, too, has quite recklessly started playing with fire. His proposed amendments to the Blasphemy Law are against the letter and spirit of our Constitution and deserve to be consigned to the dustbin without wasting more time. Or, is this part of a devious conspiracy? A new take on the ‘Good Cop Bad Cop’ skit?
Rahul absolves the ‘Guilty Congressmen’ of 1984 and to restore the balance ‘Kaptan Sa’ab’ becomes the protector of not only the Panth but all other faiths of the minority. Is the Congress battle cry in 2019 now going to be: “Fundamentalist fanatics of all minorities unite! You have nothing to lose but secularism!”
Religion is, and should remain, strictly a private affair. It can’t be allowed to spill over in public domain and poison the life of the community. Polarisation may tempt vote seekers—those in power—who lack both charisma and pragmatic managerial competence. Does anyone have time to ponder how disastrous the repercussions can be if different sects among the majority community catch this contagion?