(Published in Sify.com, on October 2, 2013, retrieved from http://www.sify.com/news/when-the-prince-turned-king-cong-imagegallery-2-national-nkcpRxjjaha.html)
Nine years after Mama Sonia heard her infamous inner voice, Rahul Gandhi found his. And both the Gandhi voices put Dr Manmohan Singh in a spot.
When Sonia Gandhi spoke, the celebrated former Finance Minister became the country’s Prime Minister, a position in which he would earn several unflattering epithets, including “lame duck”, “mute” and “PM by proxy”.
And if her son’s outburst to the media results in the ordinance on convicted lawmakers being withdrawn, October 2, 2013, will go down in the history of the Congress Party as Rahul Gandhi Jayanti.
It will also be one of the most humiliating days of Manmohan Singh’s tenure as Prime Minister, the culmination of a week during which he was asked whether he would resign in the wake of the “young Gandhi’s” statement.
It was one of Rahul Gandhi’s many dramatic forays into the front pages of newspapers. The inheritor of the Congress leadership pretty much hijacked a press conference and announced that the ordinance his own party was desperate to pass, an ordinance that will help them tremendously in the 2014 General Election, was “complete nonsense”. He added, Arnab Goswami style, that it should be “torn up and thrown away”.
The incident, occurring as it did when the Prime Minister was all the way across the globe, and when Ajay Maken, the minister fielding the press conference, had no clue what was to hit them all, sent the Congress as well as the media into a tizzy.
Of course, it didn’t take long for conspiracy theories to start doing the rounds – was the ordinance an elaborate ploy to make a hero out of Rahul Gandhi, for him to prove his credentials as an honest, forthright leader who would even call his own party out if the need arose?
That conspiracy theory doesn’t hold up for several reasons.
First, it would be the stupidest way to make Rahul Gandhi the poster boy for an anti-corruption movement. It would be the equivalent of shooting oneself in both feet, of cutting off all of one’s features and then shaving one’s head to spite one’s face.
Second, it wouldn’t have made Congress’ army of spokesmen bumble so much more than usual if it had been as practised a move as the theorists thought it was.
Third, it would have made more sense to wait for Lalu Prasad’s conviction and Rasheed Masood’s sentencing before staging it.
Fourth, it wouldn’t have left an embarrassed Manmohan Singh fielding questions from the media throughout a transatlantic journey.
The usually reticent Manmohan Singh acted out of character even in the US, making strong statements against Pakistan and Narendra Modi within a span of 24 hours.
On board his aircraft, he was forced to say he wouldn’t resign, and would speak to Rahul Gandhi about why his declaration was made in public, and why it “had to be this way”. Eloquent words from a man whose short, unsure sentences have become the subject of much parody.
What Rahul Gandhi’s assumption of the conscience-keeper post has effectively done is to make it appear as if a coup has been staged in a party whose selling point is stability.
In the wake of the Muzaffarnagar riots, it has become difficult for the Congress to blame all communalism on the BJP.
In its second term at the centre, the UPA has brought in a host of dictatorial policies, clamping down on the media and arresting cartoonists on charges as severe as ‘sedition’.
It has also been at the centre of several scams, including the Commonwealth Games, 2G, Coal, Adarsh Housing Society, the cash-for-vote scam, and the Antrix-Devas deal – enough for the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to remark that he could show voters an ‘ABC’ of the UPA’s scams.
With its credibility in question at so many levels, the last thing the Congress can afford is for fissures to appear in the party.
Whatever decision the Cabinet arrives at now will only provoke derision from voters.
With each of the scams, the UPA’s first move was to undermine the checks that would expose it, and to try and get away on technicalities. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)’s role was questioned. Union Minister Kapil Sibal tried to peg the loss to the exchequer at zero.
The ordinance is repugnant to any society that believes in justice – to have criminals becoming lawmakers is shameful.
Whatever steps the Congress takes now to backtrack, the ordinance will be remembered for two reasons:
- It proves that the Congress is willing to sacrifice credibility to win
- It undermines all notions of the Congress’ stability
Welcome to politics, Rahul Gandhi. May your family’s monopoly on government end with your ascension to the throne.