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'Nothing is rocking, bhaiya'
Sheela Bhatt on board flight IA 839 |
January 21, 2006 04:17 IST
Indian Airlines ---now known as just 'Indian'-- ferried some real government heavyweights aboard its Flight 839 from Delhi to Hyderabad on Friday.
These included Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who almost runs the government, heading as he does some 30 Group of Ministers ( GoMs) formed to debate different issues; Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Mrs Sonia Gandhi [Images] ( Patel loves to be modest: "please don't say advisor. I am her secretary and not advisor!" he tells journalists with a straight face); Former Chief Minister of Chattisgarh Ajit Jogi, who has an amazing survival instinct; Jairam Ramesh, known to be master in preparing briefs and notes on a huge variety of issues for Mrs Gandhi but quite unpopular in the lower ranks of Congress; Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Salman Khurshid, whose failure to revitalize the party has serious consequences for Mrs Gandhi and the party's future, and Saifuddin Soz, the Kashmiri leader whose one vote in parliament created history in 1999, bringing down the Vajpayee government because of his rebellion against his party whip.
There were also more than dozen Congress workers, and many MLAs from Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
It's always fun to report on political parties mega events.
One, because the high and mighty leaders, usually inaccessible, are forced to mix with the aam janta of their party.
Two, because it's only by attending such melas and tamashas --which are given fanciful names like plenary sessions and chintan baithaks -- does one fully understand how cunning, difficult, complex, spoilt and emotional the Indian voter is.
Such political shows also expose how the cream of the Indian political leadership, like Pranab Mukherjee and Arjun Singh [Images], seem helpless when it comes to giving directions to ensure electoral success for their party.
But flight 839 was sending out other signals too: Rahul Gandhi [Images] has arrived, at last.
All the Congressmen we talked to said that Rahul is in the news and will be the star of the next three days. "It will all depend on how he is projected," said an MLA. "He says we should not 'corporatize' the functioning of Congress party."
But the more profound quotes came from some of the 'smaller' leaders of the party aboard flight 839.
Without taking names, here are some nuggets:
"Jairam Ramesh and P Chidambaram should be asked what they know about politics. Value Added Tax is going to rebound on Congress party. Please write it down. Consumer is paying tax which is not reasonable while middle dealers are refunded. Stock marker is booming, yes. But for whom? For how many? I come from a village, so please don't give me the bogus argument that sensex is sexy for economy. I am unable to handle my voter's aspirations. I don't know how to give them more revenue."
- "Congress leaders have now less and less emotional relation with party. Congress party has turned into a huge structure and a kind of country-wide facility which helps Congressmen earn their money. Congressmen are more interested in having more businesses with help of their politics. Those who work and do some political thinking are no different than us who are in businesses. Those who work for Congress spending Rs 200 make sure that Madam Gandhi knows about it. While talking to her they will project that they have done a job worth Rs 2000! No one is silently working without trying to grab Mrs Gandhi's attention."
- "Rahul Gandhi is taking very slow lessons, he should learn fast. Samay kahan hai? We are very lucky, its God's blessing that in last election we won. We think it's a historic election that saved Congress. One whole generation of India would have gone untouched by Congress if BJP would have been in power today. Now that we are in power it's percolating down and we are having some good money too."
- "Most Congressmen believe that mother Sonia doesn't want two power centers in Congress so she is opting for beta Rahul. Since PM Manmohan Singh [Images] is only doing business of running government and not party we think Sonia should now do something and say something that can bring us votes. I don't think success of Indo-US relation can bring one vote in my constituency, where people don't have a glass of drinkable water. When I visit them they give me Bisleri bottle. I feel ashamed. Let Rahul's coronation business get over and we can start political campaigns by talking to people about the Congress and its vision. Enough is enough. Although we have government but we are not communicating to people. Nothing is rocking, bhaiya. Government is not like Vajpayee government when we thought it will remain for years."
"Congressmen everywhere are winning only on their own prestige and not because they are fighting on symbol of Congress. Do you know any seat in India which can be said exclusively Congress seat?"
As the delegates and scribes streamed out of the airport at Hyderabad, they were bombarded with huge cut outs of Sonia Gandhi. And hoardings that scream: 'Rahul is the Best.'