Congress Having Self-Doubts
The Congress-led UPA is continuing to fire fight with fire on a number of fronts but with little or no impact.
On the eve of the polling in the Hisar Lok Sabha by-election, the Congress was outsmarted by Team Anna. Reading clearly the writing on the wall that the Congress candidate Jaiprakash is trailing in third position and would be losing the election rather decisively, Anna Hazare’s team moved in for the kill, asking people not to vote for the Congress party. While Hazare himself did not go, his lieutenants circulated a 10-minute video shot on him, on why the people should not vote for the Congress party.
In reaction, the government’s Law Minister Salman Khurshid announced that the new Lokpal would be a constitutional body more powerful than the Election Commission. It was Rahul Gandhi who had demanded that the Lokpal should be made a constitutional body with the government now making such a provision to refute the charge that it is not serious about the Lokpal. A charge repeatedly made by Anna Hazare and his team members who have been working on an anti-Congress agenda for some time now.
Sadly for the Congress party, it could not demoralise its workforce and the candidate, by announcing before the polling that it is already losing the election, with the split in the Jat vote benefiting Kuldeep Bishnoi being just one of the factors in the likely defeat. Jaiprakash was a candidate in the last election also against Bhajan Lal and at that time also he had come third. Just as he is expected to do so now.
So, after a virulent and opportunistic campaign launched by Team Anna against Congress, the message has sought to be conveyed across the country, through a rather over eager media that Jaiprakash is losing because Anna Hazare desires that Congress lose. Newspapers have been falling over themselves to point out that the Hisar by-election would change the destiny of the nation and was one of the most important elections held in recent times.
Again sadly, the response time of the Congress machinery has slowed down to such an extent that it has failed to convey its point to the people, with the party’s and the government’s media managers living in little cocoons, failing to speak out to forcefully convey their viewpoint.
It has been left to individual leaders like Digvijay Singh to take on Anna Hazare. He has written an open letter to him which he claims is his private letter and not written at the behest of the party. This has to be pointed out because the party leadership has failed to take a clear view on Anna Hazare and the kind of politics he is indulging in. Is the Congress leadership in agreement with whatever Hazare is doing or is the Congress leadership opposed to what is being done? And if they are opposed to it, then why are the party and the government not speaking more sternly than they are doing.
It is something like the Telangana mess-up where the Congress party has yet not told the nation whether it is for Telangana or against it. A senior leader said that unless the party leadership was clear and convinced about what it was doing or not doing, any amount of procrastination in taking decisions would not help resolve a problem.
As far as the government is concerned, the Prime Minister has also shot off a letter to Anna Hazare saying his government is committed to not only the Lokpal bill but also electoral and land reforms. It is not clear whether the Prime Minister is also writing in his individual capacity or as the leader of the Congress-led government at the Centre.
The Congress core committee which met on Tuesday evening discussed the Hisar by-election and the role played by members of Team Anna in taking credit for the possible defeat of the Congress candidate. It also discussed Telangana which has now become a daily ritual but still there is no clear-cut game plan which can help resolve the issue.
Interestingly, the core committee also discussed BJP leader LK Advani’s sixth Rath Yatra and sources said that there were some concerns about the law and order problem, particularly in those states through which he would be travelling since Advani is keen to remain in the public eye but more than that in the eyes of the RSS as a serious contender for the prime ministerial sweepstakes.
Sources said that Congress chief ministers are being alerted to keep a keen eye on the law and order situation and not to hesitate to take pre-emptive action if there is the slightest hint of trouble brewing during Advani’s speeches.
A senior minister said that the UPA had enough trouble on its hands and could ill afford any law and order issues during the BJP leader’s yatra.
With Sonia Gandhi having virtually sidelined the Congress Working Committee (CWC), refusing to call a meeting to discuss as serious a matter as Telangana and depending on just a handful of leaders (many of them unelected with no experience at grassroots level) to resolve issues concerned with governance and key policy matters.
Even on the issue of Lokpal, there has been no meeting of the CWC with some ministers having been given charge to take decisions and most of those in the government have a different call on the issue from those in the party. The fact that the Law Minister is announcing late in the night that it will be a constitutional body makes it look like a knee-jerk reaction from a government which is on fire and is firing from all directions hoping one of its arrows would hit the bull’s eye.
By Renu Mittal