Political Gup-Shup: Mum’s the word for the Congress

The Congress high command's silence has unsettled the party more than the poll rout

Given the not-so-cordial relationship between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani, party colleagues are wary of spending too much time in the latter’s company, lest it is misunderstood by the powers that be. That’s why when Mr Advani decided to visit jailed former Union minister Yashwant Sinha in Jharkhand last week, not many BJP leaders were enthused about accompanying him. Former Lok Sabha deputy speaker Karia Munda, who hails from Jharkhand, apparently wriggled out of accompanying Mr Advani on his trip. And when others from the state, like Arjun Munda and the party’s Jharkhand unit president, Ravinder Rai, were contacted, their first reaction was, “Why is Advaniji coming here?” According to the grapevine, Mr Sinha was equally nervous when told about Mr Advani’s visit even though he is miffed that no senior BJP leader enquired about him after he was jailed for leading a demonstration against prolonged power cuts in Hazaribagh.
After calling on him, Mr Advani went on to heap praises on Mr Sinha, declaring that he was an excellent chief ministerial candidate for Jharkhand. Under normal circumstances, Mr Advani’s endorsement would have been welcomed by
Mr Sinha. But given the current situation in the party, Mr Sinha is scared that Mr Advani’s statement might just end up spoiling his chances of becoming Jharkhand’s chief minister.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s stoic silence after the party’s humiliating defeat in the recently-concluded Lok Sabha polls has unsettled the rank and file far more than the electoral rout. Upset party workers and leaders who have been meeting Mrs Gandhi to give feedback about the elections have repeatedly urged her to take drastic steps to overhaul the party. But from all accounts their pleas have fallen on deaf ears as the Congress leadership continues to be in a state of shock.
Angry leaders are now openly questioning the long mourning. “How long can we continue like this… even when there is a death in the family, the mourning period does not last longer than 13 days. Everybody gets back to business after that,” remarked a down-and-out defeated MP. Apparently, a loser attempted to enthuse and encourage the Congress president by citing the example of Indira Gandhi’s defeat in 1977, which was followed by her remarkable comeback: “When the Congress lost, everybody in the party said it is all because of Sanjay Gandhi. And when it won, they said the same… it’s all because of Sanjay Gandhi.” The message has been delivered. But is anyone listening?

The Congress is not the only party which is in a state of mourning. The Left parties, which have been virtually decimated in these elections, are equally shell-shocked by their dismal performance. But even before the Left Front parties sat down for some serious introspection, CPI leader
D. Raja was given a talking-to by his university-going daughter on the ills plaguing the Left. “The Left is in a serious state of crisis,” she told him and then went on to enumerate how and why it had lost the support of the youth who were once ardent followers of the Left movement. Not just that, Mr Raja’s daughter even gave him a few tips on how the Left could win back this constituency. It is not known if these suggestions were placed for discussion before the CPI think tank but party chief A.B. Bardhan was clearly impressed when Mr Raja told him about his daughter’s proposals. “She is right… absolutely right,” he repeatedly told Mr Raja.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first foreign trip to Bhutan began on what the hosts described as an inauspicious note. When Mr Modi landed in Bhutan, his counterpart moved forward to place a traditional scarf on his shoulders. However, a strong gust of wind blew it away and the scarf landed on the ground. Since it had become a little dirty, the host decided to hand the scarf to Mr Modi instead of putting it around his neck. The Bhutanese were upset at this turn of events as they believed it to be an inauspicious development. But they were soon singing a different tune when it poured heavily shortly before the reception organised for Mr Modi later in the afternoon.
Mr Modi’s visit, according to them, had proved to be lucky. Bhutan had been going through an unusually long dry spell, and the rains that accompanied Mr Modi were most welcome. Not one to take any chances, all the subsequent scarves were handed to Mr Modi most ceremoniously.

The inaugural of the Press Information Bureau’s Media Centre on Raisina Road last year had been a star-studded affair as the then information and broadcasting minister, Manish Tewari, ensured the presence of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi at the function. Now that the Congress-led UPA government is out of power, the Narendra Modi government lost no time in claiming ownership of this building. The new I&B minister, Prakash Javadekar, who went to the building last week, made sure that the role of the previous NDA government in giving a push to this project was duly acknowledged. A stone plaque announcing that the foundation stone of the building was laid by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2001 in the presence of Union ministers L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar has been installed prominently at the entrance.

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist

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