'Now is the winter of our discontent,' said English King Richard III, succinctly summing up the feelings of most active Congressmen. But this winter seems chillier with senior party leaders not seeing eye-to-eye on how to muster up a consummate opposition in parliament and is made bitter by the poor morale of the senior leaders who feel they are being sidelined by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, says R Rajagopalan.
There is a growing concern within much of the Congress party leadership that senior leaders are being sidelined and approaches are being taken to disrupt Parliament, which certain senior leaders feel are self defeating.
Some of the more educationally elite MPs, such as Jairam Ramesh and Balchander Mungerkar seem to be fed up with the agitational approach of the Congress.
According to informed party sources, some of the senior leadership had asked the high command to "Give the government a year.”
When the suggestion was allegedly disapproved by the party high command, such Congess leaders began taking the lengthy global lecture circuit tours to avoid further acrimony with the higher-ups.
During private interactions with Congress MPs of both houses either at their premises or at Central Hall one gets a feeling that the Gandhis have to do much more to boost morale.
For any national party the parliamentary wing should compensate the loss at the organisational defeats. While the house is in session, Rahul does not supplement the efforts of Mallikarjun Kharge and Jyothiraditya Scindia -- the two faces of Congress in the Lok Sabha.
Some leaders say that Rahul Gandhi wants to copy the Aam Aadmi Party’s modus operandi using agitation as a tool to disrupt the proceedings of the house.
Those in the know say that Kharge is opposed to cheap publicity stunts but Rahul made him bow to his demands, when Congressmen wore black armbands and protested outside the house.
“Voters blackened our faces in the polls. Now we take it a step further with this black ribbon approach,” a senior congress leader said.
Another complaint partymen seems to have against Rahul Gandhi is that he does not lead or contribute to the debates in Parliament.
A four time Lok Sabha MP of Congress said that Rahul Gandhi makes guest appearances inside the Lok Sabha.
“My future in politics is linked with Rahul Gandhi. If he does not show interest should I now look for alternate area to operate?” asked the MP.
There are many who say that Rahul Gandhi is distrustful of certain senior Congerss leaders. This, say some, is the reason for the conspicuous absence of Kamal Nath, who has been a Congress party loyalist and a nine time MP, from the Lok Sabha.
Similarly, Sardar Maharaj Amrinder Singh, the Deputy Leader of Congress Parliamentary Party, also makes irregular appearances at the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament.
Of the 44 Lok Sabha Congress MPs, some 18 are reportedly irregular in attending the sessions, a behaviour that has been ascribed to them being fed up with the party and feeling sidelined by Rahul Gandhi.
If Lok Sabha is disappointed with Rahul, it’s no surprise that Rajya Sabha feels even worse about him.
“Rahul Gandhi left the RS MPs in a lurch,” confesses a senior MP.
“Shouldn’t Anand Sharma give an opportunity to the 65 other MPs to speak in the Upper House,” the MP asks.
There is a feeling brewing amongst many Congress MPs that Anand Sharma, who is the deputy leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, prattles on each and every subject while the house is in session. This dominance is also being attributed to the absence of other party veterans.
Gulam Nabi Azad absence is felt by some, as is that of A K Antony, who is unwell. Manmohan Singh attends the Rajya Sabha for exactly an hour. And while Karan Singh does attend, like Manmohan, he does not interfere in the proceedings.
Senior partymen feel that the Congress, if it is serious about coming back to power in 2019, should keep quiet in the house while organising street corner meetings and undertaking massive people contact programmes outside. Frustrating the government with sophistic skills is not enough. After all, the business of the house needs to move forward as well.
It is as M Venkaiah Naidu says, “Morning disruptions by the Congress lead to evening discussions in Parliament.”