Arunachal fiasco: Ranting against BJP won't solve Congress's leadership vacuum

Raging against the waves remains a futile exercise. Congress's valiant attempt to blame the BJP top leadership for its reversal of fate in Arunachal Pradesh is tinged with no small amount of irony and perhaps even a touch of pathos.

It was a little tragic to see Randeep Singh Surjewalla, national spokesperson of India's grand old party, engage in desperate rhetorical gymnastics to mask the ineptitude of its central leadership. To impugn Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Ram Madhav for the switchover of entire Congress government and all but one lawmaker to People's Party of Arunachal (PPA) is the most convenient way to absolve itself of all culpability and pre-empt inevitable questions on an obvious leadership vacuum.

 Arunachal fiasco: Ranting against BJP wont solve Congresss leadership vacuum

A file photo of Randeep Surjewala. CNN News 18

His comments merely embodied the termite-eaten Congress culture that remains rooted in staunch denial even as its edifice crumbles all around and national footprint evaporates faster than "Jupiter's escape velocity."

It is ironic but not unexpected that Surjewalla would accuse BJP of "foul play" and castigate the Prime Minister for committing "fraud on democracy". As reported by IANS, he called PPA "the illegitimate child of the BJP's diabolical design to decimate democracy," and added: "mandate of the people of the border state of Arunachal has been robbed in broad daylight." 

It would be pertinent to ask just how "democracy got decimated" when the entire action took place within the Constitutional framework. Unlike in March, when Congress faced a similar rebellion and Kalikho Pul walked over to PPA leading the Supreme Court to "reset" the clock and restore the Tuki government, there appears to be no legal loopholes for the courts to intervene this time.

At best, Congress can raise legitimate questions on ethics. And here, history would be struggling to stifle a quiet chuckle at its attempts to take the moral high ground.

As PTI pointed out in a report, "the dramatic development in Arunachal brought back memories of the famous 'aya ram, gaya ram' episode involving Bhajan Lal who was heading a Janata Party government in Haryana and defected lock, stock, and barrel with all the party MLAs to the Congress after Indira Gandhi came back to power in 1980."

It is also unclear whose "mandate" got "robbed in broad daylight" when elected representatives of the people out of own volition joined another conglomerate which they reckon would better serve the interests of the state.

As CM Khandu told ANI in a statement: “It was a unanimous decision of all the Congress legislators to merge with the regional political party… We must face the fact that the aspirations of the people of Arunachal Pradesh are very high and these… are very regional in character. The politics of the state, therefore, has to be in tune with the aspirations of our people all of us, in the true spirit of Team Arunachal." 

A file image of Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu. Facebook

A file image of Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu. Facebook

It is no secret that northeastern states tend to gravitate towards the party in power at the Centre for better access to resources. Khandu made no bones about it while talking reporters shortly after the "coup" on Friday.

"PPA being an alliance partner of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a conglomeration of BJP and other regional political parties of the North East, we will develop a mechanism on how to get more development funds from the Centre," he was quoted, as saying by PTI

But there is another compelling reason why Congress lost its government at the northeast frontier state for the second time this year and is suffering the lowest ebb in its history. The party faces an irreversible decline, suffers from habitual electoral reverses and its candidates routinely lose their deposits yet the dynasty at the helm cannot rid itself of past illusions of grandeur.

Rahul Gandhi cuts a sorry figure as a leader and yet cannot avoid indulging in lordly pride. As the Chief Minister of his own party, Khandu was recently made to hang around for an appointment from the Congress vice-president but suffered no waiting period from the Prime Minister who met him even on a Sunday (24 July). Rahul Gandhi met Khandu the day after. 

As Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty elaborates in The Wire, "Khandu sought an appointment with party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday, and also with the Prime Minister. While they are yet to give him time, the response came immediately from the PM’s office. It has left Mr Khandu pleasantly surprised." The article goes on to quote a senior state functionary that "the leadership has not learnt anything from the past…" 

The small but not insignificant incident brings to mind a similar accusation from Himanta Biswa Sarma, the leader from Assam widely acclaimed for his organisational skills who walked over to BJP just ahead of the Assembly polls from Congress after 15 years, accusing the central leadership for being blithe about the internal implosion.

A NDTV report states how Sarma, who meant to alert the Congress vice-president about the precarious state of the party in Assam ahead of the polls, came away from the meeting with a feeling that "Mr Gandhi seemed preoccupied with playing with his dog instead of paying attention to the people surrounding him". 

It is not without reason that Congress's state unit chiefs have been forcing their MLAs to sign 'Gandhi bonds' to pledge their loyalty. Just look at what has been happening in West Bengal where the Congress, according to a report in The Times of India, is set to lose party stronghold Berhampore to the Trinamool Congress with 16 of its representatives in the city council expected to walk over.

These are times of unprecedented calamity for Congress. Blaming rival parties for its ills won't help.

Updated Date: Sep 17, 2016 16:57:30 IST