'Save democracy': Zealous speeches not enough; Cong needs to do much more

For once, the top Congress brass – Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi  – courted arrest together, that too in close vicinity of the Parliament. The stated purpose of doing so was to “save the democracy” in India.

Right around the time the entire Congress leadership walked inside the Parliament Street Police station in New Delhi on Friday – to make a symbolic surrender before the police, apparently for defying a prohibitory section 144 order that is generally enforced whenever the Parliament is in session, senior Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury asserted that, “we will march to Parliament till we drop dead”.

The whole process of the symbolic arrest before the police, however, was over in about 10 minutes.

 Save democracy: Zealous speeches not enough; Cong needs to do much more

Manmohan Singh And Sonia Gandhi at the 'save democracy' march in New Delhi on Friday. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost.

Sonia, Rahul and Manmohan walked out under the protective cover of the Special Protection Group (SPG) and proceeded in their respective vehicles to go to Parliament or elsewhere to attend to scheduled their programs.

The police maintained total restraint, nobody suffered any injury. The few Congressmen whose clothes were torn or dusted during the ordeal were responsible for it themselves as they tried too hard, with all the force in their command to make their presence felt to Sonia and Rahul, but were pushed away by the SPG and rest of the security personnel.

For a while, there was a great deal of chaos outside the police station. Some climbed over the barricades but the Congress bosses took a small detour to sneak inside the police station.

Renuka Chowdhury placed herself in a picture perfect situation – she climbed onto the boundary wall of the police station, holding the iron grills. That way, she couldn’t have been hurt yet be noticed for her 'save democracy' valor.

Another thing worth noticing was that in the small walk from Jantar Mantar to the Parliament street police station, Sonia Gandhi placed her protective arms around Manmohan Singh. The latter after all had never been a part of agitation politics.

That way, Congress workers were reminded of Singh’s continuing position in the organisational hierarchy. At Jantar Mantar, the former prime minister spoke after Rahul Gandhi and before Sonia Gandhi.

Whenever Singh’s position has becomes critical, Sonia has given him protective cover – be it when UPA was in power or in March 2015 when he was issued summons by a lower court in the Coalgate scam, when Sonia marched to his residence to assure him that she (meaning entire Congress) stood behind him.

Today again, Singh’s position has become critical in the AgustaWestland scam or Choppergate. Even if he is not being directly targeted by the BJP, the statements made by Ahmed Patel on news channels saying that he was there to protect himself, his leader (Sonia Gandhi) and his party (not the government headed by Manmohan Singh) has raised eye brows both within and outside of Congress.

Addressing a modest crowd of MPs, MLAs and other leaders gathered at Jantar Mantar, Singh said “Congress bahti Ganga hai, chahe jo ilzam lagaiye, chalti rahegi (Congress is like holi Ganges, howsoever you may try to pollute it, river will keep flowing on course) ”.

In saying so, Singh perhaps would have realised that this Behti Ganga idiom has a different connotation – effortlessly subsume all negatives.

The rally also sent out a clear message to those concerned that if Congress’s first family is targeted then the entire Congress will stand up to rally around them. After all, the Congress’s structure has evolved this was over the years – Congress means Nehru-Gandhi family and Nehru-Gandhi family means Congress.

The 'Loktantra Bachao' banners seen at Jantar Mantar had pictures of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Robert Vadra and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Sonia and Rahul featured in all the banners whereas Robert and Priyanka appeared alternately in banners towards the middle. Priyanka and her husband Robert though, were not there. But as members of first family, they could not have been left out and thus the Congress workers made their presence felt, pictorially.

Though none of the speakers spoke on the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam directly, it could be made out from the highly aggressive combative pitch of Sonia Gandhi that she was referring to her being targeted in Choppergate and prior to that in the National Herald case.

She thundered, “Hume darane ki, badnam karne ki koshish ki ja rahi hai...hm jhukne wale nahi, hume jiwan ne sangharsh karna sikhaya hai...unhe maloon nahi Congress jan kis mitti ke bane hai (Attempts are being made to scare us, demean us...we will not bow down, we have been taught to struggle in life...they don't know what Congress people are made of). ”

She charged that the Modi government was dancing to the tunes of RSS in Nagpur, and that in the two years (in power) it has destroyed everything that Congress had built over the years.

"Sab pareshan, sab chehre udas (all are hassled, all faces look saddened)," she said. She then warned that nobody “should make the mistake of underestimating Congress”. Ending her speech, she appealed to Congress workers to go to the remote corners of the country and expose the Modi government.

Following her speech, she marched on to 'save democracy', which the Congress leaders repeatedly said had been “murdered” by the Modi government.

In a brief speech of about five minutes Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi targeted Narendra Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat directly:

"These days voices of only two persons, Modi and Bhagwat, are heard. Whosoever speaks against him is targeted with false allegations,” Gandhi said. He then touched upon Arunachal, Uttarakhand, and the drought.

What should worry Congress is that even the high pitched aggression against a “vindictive Modi government” and the 'save democracy' slogans by the top leaders couldn’t energise the ebbed moral among the Congress rank and file.

Weeks of meticulous preparation – with senior leaders from all states – couldn’t charge up the atmosphere at Jantar Mantar. The turnout of Congress men and women was just above modest.

The Congress leadership clearly needs to do a lot more than just playing nationalist songs like Lata Mangeshkar's Vande Matram and Mohammed Rafi’s watan ki raah mein naujawan shaheed ho. They need to move beyond just routine speeches in order to rejuvenate its cadre and challenge the Modi government.

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Updated Date: May 06, 2016 17:44:33 IST