Sunday / May 19.




By Amulya Ganguli


The Congress’s barefaced conduct in Kerala is typical of the coarseness, which Natwar Singh said he had detected in Sonia Gandhi in his autobiography, One Life Is Not Enough.


Oommen Chandy’s decision to stay on in the chief minister’s post by claiming that nothing has been proved as yet against him in the solar scam will not surprise the general public who are aware of the average politician’s fondness for the seat of power. They prefer to stick to it till all the options are exhausted. Given the slowness of the legal process, Chandy can hope to remain ensconced till the assembly elections.


What is unacceptable, however, is his move to reinstate even those who had left his ministry on various charges of corruption. These include the excise minister, K. Babu, who had been implicated in the solar scam and finance minister K.M. Mani, who resigned last year in connection with what is known as the bar bribery case.


Chandy probably believes that with all his colleagues standing by his side, he can lead the charge against the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) with renewed vigour. It is doubtful, however, whether the line-up of the tainted, including himself, will refurbish the image of Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in the eyes of hoi polloi.


As it is, the difference between the two traditional rivals is less than one per cent. In the last assembly election, the UDF had secured 46.03 per cent of the votes against the LDF’s 45.06, thereby edging ahead of the LDF by winning 72 seats against the latter’s 68 in the 140-member assembly.


Since then, there have been signs that the LDF has managed to retrieve some of the lost ground as the outcome of the local elections has shown. In any event, it has been a longstanding feature of the Kerala polls that the two fronts win alternatively. From this standpoint, it is the LDF’s turn this year as the voters are likely to punish the UDF for its wrongdoings just as they did to the LDF in 2011 by ousting it from power.


The Congress probably does not realize that it has made the LDF’s task easier by turning a blind eye to the scam-tainted. Evidently, the party has learnt nothing from the ignominious fall of the Manmohan Singh government presumably because it has convinced itself, as various spokesmen have asserted, that it lost in 2014 because it could not convey the various “achievements” of the government to the people.


To the latter, however, the only “achievement” which stared them in the face was the sleaze in which the government was embroiled ranging from the 2G spectrum scam to the Commonwealth Games embezzlements to the Adarsh housing society scandal to the dubious allocation of coal blocks. Now, the solar scam has been added to the list along with the familiar propensity of the party to shield the accused as it did in the case of the former telecom minister, Andimuthu Raja, till he was jailed by the Supreme Court.

As a party which lost two general elections because of the charges of corruption against it – in 1989 following the Bofors howitzer scam and in 2014 – at least a show of adherence to the straight and narrow path might have been expected. Instead, the Congress appears to have chosen the tactic of unrelenting aggression, evident in the disruption of parliament, and the brazenness of Chandy.


In displaying such effrontery which cocks a snook at public perception, the party is evidently being guided by the “Machiavellian” Congress president – to quote another of Natwar Singh’s words for Sonia Gandhi – who is the only one who matters in the party along with her son, who plays a supportive role. The party’s behaviour is seemingly a replay of its conduct during the Emergency of another mother-and-son duo, Indira and Sanjay Gandhi, who had little time for popular opinion.


By siding with the tainted, the Congress is playing into the BJP’s hands because it will not be able to turn its guns against the latter on the issues of the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh or the Lalitgate affair in which external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje are supposedly involved. Even on matters which have nothing to do with sleaze, such as the Dalit student’s suicide in Hyderabad, the BJP will be able to deflect the Congress’s charges by raising the Kerala affair.


The obvious truth is that the Congress does not appear to have anyone at the top who sets great store by morality. Instead, it follows the seemingly convenient expedient path which may not disturb the status quo, but is damaging for the party in the long run. Yet, the feudal  traditions of the party prevent any insightful deliberations on its various acts – such as disrupting parliament or allowing Chandy to continue in office – since contrary opinions are apparently not tolerated by the powers-that-be.


The likely result is that the party will continue to sink in the political morass since the average voter does not take kindly to the cynical serving of partisan interests. (IPA Service)