Shorts In The Dark
Why the Congress is on auto-pilot mode
Think of the Congress as a rusty swimmer with a heavy body, palms swatting the water rather than splicing through it with finesse.
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The Congress can now only be understood in metaphors. It’s an active volcano that erupts ever so often, spewing ash and lava into the sky. The GOP is the Himalayas whose geology is determined by the ongoing collision of the Indian tectonic plate with the Eurasian plate, making it susceptible to earthquakes. The old guard of the Congress is the Indian plate; Rahul Gandhi, the younger Eurasian one.
A party in disarray
That the Congress has been witnessing a battle of generations for some time now, is open knowledge. It’s an internecine rivalry that benefits nobody. The citizen who votes for the Congress is often left holding the handle of the umbrella while the umbrella is blown away in the wind.
The internal squabbling in the Congress makes it an endearing neighbour to have. If one lives next door, one can hear pots and pans being flung around; glass tumblers being smashed. One hears the ageing uncle scream names: nikamma, nalayak. The Congress is like a transparent neighbour. They have no dark secrets to hide. Occasionally, the security guard – the BJP — turns up outside the noisy house, shouts ‘Fifty-yearold adolescent!’, and returns to the guard’s cubicle at the main gate.
The latest troubles in the Congress come just as when we were heaving a sigh of relief about the Gandhi siblings laying down roots. Priyanka’s househunt, a la the Netflix show, Selling Sunset (about selling real estate in the Hollywood Hills), took us from Lucknow to Gurugram to Sujan Singh Park. Rahul was settling in nicely into his new role as a charming and empathetic You Tube anchor. Unfortunately, this is when the new episode of Indian Matchmaking took an unexpected turn, with Gehlot and Pilot’s marriage turning sour.
Gehlot, in an interview, blamed Pilot’s ‘undesirable over ambition’. He went on to say that the party had given Pilot ‘more than what one can validly aspire to at this early stage of life as compared to his contribution to the party.’ ‘Over ambition’ is a very desi pejorative. Over-ambition, in the Indian context, leads to moral turpitude. An overambitious person then becomes, to use another desi-English term, ‘proudy’. Pilot had become too proudy. Of course, by Gehlot’s logic, Rahul too should bide his time as there are several other elephants in the Congress who are much older than him and have contributed to the party for a longer time and in more substantial ways.
The other problem Gehlot has with Pilot is that he is handsome and fluent in English. That he is handsome I can vouch for. I was in the same batch as Pilot in St. Stephen’s. No solace for Sachin He featured regularly in the unofficial college rag, Spice. Spice brought out ‘stud’ and ‘chick’ lists, which was a changing top ten chart of the bestlooking, hippest kids in college. Pilot was a permanent fixture. Gehlot is absolutely right in calling out Pilot for his unacceptable good looks. Ugliness is a prerequisite for success in Indian politics. Even Rahul has suffered on account of his sexy dimples. What happens now? Pilot’s sweat and toil in Rajasthan is not under question. He was not rewarded for this. Yet, it’s also true that in the incorrigibly provincial of Indian politics, Pilot is still an outsider. His family hails from Uttar Pradesh; the Pilots are linked to Dausa, in Rajasthan, not by blood (unlike Jyotiraditya and Guna-Shivpuri), but strategic electoral reasons. At the same time, ‘rebel’ Pilot has the support of legislators who have won with huge margins of 10,000 to 40,000 votes. At present, Pilot has ruled out joining the BJP; he had won by a margin of 55,000 votes from Tonk, a Muslim majority constituency. He will lose this support if he switches sides. As late at as June 26, Pilot had batted for Rahul’s return as Congress party chief, a post I feel Rahul should never have vacated in the first place. As I’d said at the beginning of this column, one cannot understand the Congress without taking resort to metaphor. Rahul entering and exiting at will reminds one of a bicycle whose chain keeps coming off. The Congress, for a long time, has resembled a ghost ship, sailing in the misty seas with no radio signal.
Virus vs politics
The captain has long been thrown overboard; a cabal of old pirates hold the steering. Or think of the Congress as a rusty swimmer with a heavy body, palms swatting the water rather than splicing through it with finesse. When it dives, it lands on its belly eliciting derision. Or think of it as a short wave radio. The citizen fiddles with the knobs; sometimes, the signal is clear; mostly, it’s wavy and undulating.
Metaphors aside, one has to credit both Pilot and Scindia for adding some excitement and frisson to Indian politics in the time of Covid. While most of us have been holed up at home, the two have spent their time waltzing in and out of resorts and hotels, troops in tow. When Scindia tested positive for Covid, it proved that in the battle between the virus and rajneeti, it’s the virus that always prevails.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)