Congress and the art of staying in power – Seema Mustafa

Congress and the art of staying in power
DNA / Seema Mustafa / Friday, May 25, 2012 10:30 IST
Regional parties will realise that by standing around the Congress party when the government is bursting at the seams will not really endear them to their hard-earned constituencies. But then, perhaps after having won a state election and having ensured a five-year term in office, such leaders do not really care so long as their present is looked after, and their comfort ensured.
And that they all know the Congress party is very good at doing.
So, one day there was this spectacle of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh holding up the UPA report card of three years — dismal and blanks insofar as the people are concerned — as if it was his own achievement. The next day, he was rushing to cover himself with a fig leaf as the hefty hike in petrol prices sent the nation reeling.
Instead of working to fulfill the promises made to the people of Uttar Pradesh, a state barely touched by development and progress, Mulayam has done what he has always been doing for the past years. Come to Delhi to manipulate his political fortunes.
And when the elections near, he will be back again in UP hoping that the drumbeating will attract sufficient voters to keep him and his party in the corridors of power.
The broad smiles on the faces of the Congress leader as they presented their latest catch of the day to the media did not really make much sense to the common people even in Delhi, reeling from the burden of spiraling prices and inflation. The poor, as we can see from Planning Commission’s Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s concerns about the poverty line as he spends crores on his own trips abroad, are just the insignificant masses.
The Congress has come to the conclusion that the real trick to governance is to remain in power. And in an era of coalitions where regional parties are being strengthened by a desperate electorate there can be no better way than to keep the regional parties on its side. Singh and Sonia Gandhi barely travel within India. Except for the odd visit to Amethi and Rae Bareilly, a few halts during the election campaign, when was the last time one heard of the party president visiting remote parts of India, meeting the people and holding meetings? The prime minister is happy not to do anything of the kind, restricting his public appearances to foreign shores.
The Congress leadership is, in fact, uncomfortable with those in the party who have some kind of a mass following. These people have been completely marginalised with the floor being occupied by those who are as distant from the people as the top leaders, and spend more time in Delhi being subservient than outside dealing with the people. The ruse thus is for the Congress to attach itself to those who have the votes, be it Mamata in West Bengal (it was the Left at one point), the Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh, DMK — now overtures are being made to Jayalalithaa instead — in Tamil Nadu, and the party would love to get Nitish Kumar and Bihar on to its side except that he is too wily and independent to agree.
So, in the Congress mind there is no real need to govern intensely, with more time and energy being spent on wooing and keeping the regional allies happy instead of making the people of India reasonably secure. Its well-oiled propaganda machinery manages to keep a certain level of hostility among the elite against the regional parties, which are shown up as unreasonable, corrupt, strident and unreliable. The myth that the Congress is none of these things has been propagated to a point where intelligent people in Delhi accept this as the gospel truth so while there is a righteous outpour against Mayawati and her corruption, stories about a particular Congress son-in-law and the wheeling dealing within remain muted. No questions are asked about the obvious wealth of first families, and frankly, if Akhilesh Yadav were to disappear from the Indian political scene with even half the frequency of Rahul Gandhi without explanation, the Indian media would chew him alive.
The Congress, through astute media management, has managed to construct a halo around its First Family’s head that the media has accepted as impenetrable. One has to give credit to the party managers who have managed to peddle distance, disinterest and apathy as qualities of sophisticated leadership and turned all the flak of bad governance to the good doctor’s door despite the knowledge that he cannot even cough without permission.
The UPA report card is an impressive looking document as Mulayam Singh will vouch for, but that’s the best that can be said about it.


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