Editorial: The missing sympathy wave that Congress needs

Editorial: The missing sympathy wave that Congress needs

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, March 29, 2023, 09:21 PM IST
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Representative Image | File

The Lok Sabha Secretariat restored the membership of Mohammad Faizal, the NCP’s member from Lakshadweep, on Wednesday. He was convicted by the sessions court in a case of attempted murder on January 11 and disqualified on January 13, 2023. However when on January 25 his conviction and sentence was stayed by the Kerala High Court, the LS Secretariat lacked dispatch in restoring his membership. On Wednesday, when the Supreme Court was to hear his appeal for direction to the LS Secretariat to reverse its earlier order, the latter did the needful, rendering the SC appeal infructuous.

The episode holds significance for Rahul Gandhi. Were he to appeal against the Surat court order convicting him in a defamation case which awarded him a two-year prison term, a stay is more or less guaranteed. It is another matter that some of his “well-wishers” argue that his serving the prison term is bound to bestow the mantle of victimhood on him and thus help gain popularity. Whether he decides to become the proverbial sacrificial lamb for those seeking confrontation with the Narendra Modi government or plays safe will be known in the next couple of days. All indications are that an appeal is to be filed soon, which could result in the reinstatement of his status as an MP. Barring the perfunctory criticism of his expulsion from the Lok Sabha by leaders of various non-Congress Opposition parties, the public reaction has been muted. Despite the Congress party’s bid to hold a nation-wide protest, there was hardly a ripple even in Rahul’s own parliamentary constituency on Monday. Even in Wayanad the protest fizzled out despite the local party leaders trying desperately to whip up support. Clearly, the expulsion has barely registered with the ordinary voter. Soon after the expulsion Rahul was issued a notice to vacate the official bungalow allotted as an MP. Some people might tut-tut at the indecent haste in proceeding against Rahul, but any sympathy it may generate is unlikely to turn into votes for his party. For the truth is that despite being an MP for nearly two decades the Gandhi dynast has failed to connect with the people. His leadership does not inspire, and try what he will he cannot convince the voter to elect him for the top job in the country, especially when Modi is the alternative. Therefore, anyone expecting Rahul to repeat the feat of his grandmother in 1977-78, and emerge on the top of the electoral field in 2024 is day-dreaming. Despite the loss in the “Nasbandi” election in 1977, the Congress was still a formidable organisation, while the ruling party was a motley group of factional leaders fighting like Kilkenny cats and, thus, forfeiting any public support they might have had at the time of the formation of the Janata Party.

Now the Congress is a pale shadow of its former strong and omnipresent self while the BJP is a vibrant organisation with an able and strong leadership adept in the art and science of winning elections. Besides, there are strong regional groups which have rendered the Congress a minor player in several states. Also, the stubbornness of the Gandhi family to insist on heading any Opposition front that may emerge to challenge the BJP is a huge obstacle.

Meanwhile Rahul may again be blundering by targeting Modi for corruption without evidence to substantiate the charge. On the eve of the last poll he had gone around shouting “chowkidar chor hai”, citing the Rafale deal as the basis for his accusation. Now, he has latched on to the Adani case to virtually rehash the same script. Neither in the Rafale case nor in the case of Adani is there any suggestion that Modi personally gained financially. If Adani was indeed favoured for more and more permits and licenses his precipitate decline in market value of his companies following the Hindenburg report is just deserts for excessive greed. Wearing black and constantly barracking the presiding officers may be the norm for parliamentarians these days but this is unlikely to endear the party to the voters.

Clearly, under the Gandhis the party’s leadership has atrophied, unable to summon a new imagination and a clear vision to counter the challenge of the BJP which under the Modi-Shah duo seems to have turned into a veritable election-winning machine. Even now it may not be late for Rahul to tone down his bombastic and often incomprehensive rhetoric, and return to the path of cooperation with the other Opposition groups to craft a common strategy for 2024. And before that in Karnataka this May. Otherwise, Modi will be unstoppable.

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