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Sai's Take: Congress-mukt India?

May 21, 2019 08:44 IST

'Why has the phrase gone missing from Modi's vocabulary?' asks Saisuresh Sivaswamy.

Congress national President Rahul Gandhi

Of the many phrases that have gone missing from Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's vocabulary for Elections 2019, is 'Congress-mukt Bharat', which he made famous five years ago.

Perhaps he believes that the objective has already been achieved.

Perhaps he has had a rethink on the subject, and come to believe that a strong Opposition was vital to democracy (haha).

Perhaps he believes that it was mission impossible, especially after the Hindi heartland elections last year that saw the Congress snatch 3 states from the Bharatiya Janata Party, and decided to not spend time on unattainable targets.

Whatever.

So it was interesting that a solitary voice from the Opposition went hammer and tongs at the Congress for its inability to stanch the spread of the BJP in the country and called for its winding up.

Even more interestingly, given the standing Yogendra Yadav, formerly of the Aam Aadmi Party, holds in television studios, where he represents the kind of voice 'Lutyens media' or 'Khan Market gang' hold in great respect, it was even more interesting that his remarks, which should not carry any sway beyond the narrow confines of the TV studios, should be thought worthy of a prime time debate the next day!

 

At least two channels saw it fit to spend time on the Congress's utility or otherwise on Monday night, perhaps testifying to the paucity of subjects in the interregnum between exit poll results and the actual results.

Mahatma Gandhi too is said to have favoured the disbanding of the Congress after Independence, and its conversion into a social service organisation.

Thankfully, wiser counsel prevailed, since the need of the hour for the fledgling democracy was a strong political party mired in the national movement's ethos to see the country through the early years.

Through all its years in power and out of it, the Congress has seen numerous attacks on it, including, famously, on its centenary in 1985 by none other than its own president, then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who called it a party of power-brokers and promised to fix it.

Within two years of his famous remarks in Bombay, he had to turn to the very forces he spurned to ward off the attacks on him in the wake of the Bofors bribery scandal.

C’est la vie.

So did Yogendra Yadav's erudite sounding words merit discussion?

NDTV and India Today TV, where he had made the remarks on Sunday night and repeated them on Monday night, thought it did.

Given its projected pathetic seat harvest in the Lok Sabha polls, is the Congress a glue or hurdle to Opposition unity against the BJP, NDTV wanted to know. And Sudheendra Kulkarni, former advisor to BJP veteran L K Advani, was certain where he stood.

In the Congress party corner.

'Even the BJP was once upon a time reduced to just 2 seats in the Lok Sabha, in the 1984 elections when even Atal Bihari Vajpayee was defeated, and look at where it is today.'

'Only the Congress is committed to the idea of India, and it will resurrect.'

The Congress's Sanjay Jha was unfazed in the face of Rajdeep Sardesai's unrelenting verbal volleys.

'If the numbers hold,' the latter's favourite phrase from Sunday night, will it be double digits for the Congress for the second time running?

Will anyone be held accountable for its poor performance or will it be back to life as usual?

Is the Congress in crisis? Is it time for reinvention? Etc etc.

'I am not buying Yogendra Yadav's intellectual mumbo-jumbo,' Jha said, and 'I will patiently wait for the election results on May 23, when I will answer all your questions.'

Injecting some intellectualism of his own, Jha spoke of the Bradley effect whereby voters don't always disclose their true intent to pollsters, thus leading to different poll outcomes than the ones forecast.

But how did the allies view the Congress party? As big brother? Does the Congress add any value to the allies's vote and seat share or is it in for the free ride?

A Saravanan, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam spokesperson, came to the ally's rescue. 'The Congress helped us in getting the numbers,' he said.

The cadre to cadre network between the two parties was fine, the Congress halo was still intact, but its problem was it had no real leaders in Tamil Nadu who can leverage that.

Elsewhere, the comedy news central was chugging along just fine, with Arnab Goswami telling one of his panellists, either jocularly or seriously it could not be seen from his demeanour, 'I will slap you.'

Sai's Take

Talking of the Congress's future, or lack of it, I came across a rare interview (external link) by its general secretary (east), Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, who has been pulled out by the party to strengthen its fight against the BJP.

It was not a face-to-face one, but a written response to questions submitted by The Hindu. Among the things she said were:

'If I had fought him (Modi) in Varanasi, I would have given it my best; whether that would have been a serious challenge or not would have been for the people to say.'

'The Congress has fought this election well on its own strength. I expect our vote percentage to increase and am hopeful of improving on the number of seats we win as well.'

'There is no comparison (with Rahul Gandhi). He has been in politics for 15 years and I have entered politics 15 weeks back. He has massive experience, he has travelled all around the country, he understands this country, its religions, the forces that are at play within and outside it, better than most politicians I have come across do. He is far wiser than I am, and I learn from him every minute. So, to me this is a manufactured comparison.'

'I am her (Indira Gandhi's) granddaughter, it's natural that I should look like her. Sometimes, when I see older people waiting for me and greeting me with so much affection, I can see that they are reacting to me so emotionally because of her work and her commitment to our country. It makes me even more aware of what a formidable and courageous woman she was. So many years after her death, she is still remembered with love. It says a lot for the life she lived.'

Helicopter shot on May 23

Television channels are pulling out all stops to elevate their election results coverage, and it seems CNN-News 18 proposes to take it to another level, through the use of VR and such technology that will give viewers a helicopter view of the results as they come in.

Here's a screen shot from one of their on-air promos (I kid you not).

SAISURESH SIVASWAMY / Rediff.com
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