September 13, 2020
The Congress Party goes for a re-jig and ousts Ghulam Nabi Azad from the organizational position. The High Command – whatever that means in a supposedly democratic institution – has settled the score with the senior leader for thinking of reviving the party without having got the mandate to do so from the High Command.
A person who was born in some nondescript village of Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir manages to become the President of the Indian Youth Congress at 31 and a junior minister in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet at 33, and after a close to five decade career with the party, has been projected as a rebel. It defies logic that an attempt to clean the house should be looked at as an anti-establishment activity – unless the organizational objective of the Congress Party is to remain in a moribund state.
The Congress as a national political outfit cannot boast of having a legacy of intra-party democracy. All that they have is a party constitution that defines a robust process for the election of the members of the CWC, AICC, PCC, etc but the practice in use has no semblance to the process defined in the constitution. The party has a history of deceit and manipulation: CWC electing Sonia as the President despite her not being a member of the Congress; the locking up of Sitaram Kesri, who wanted to give a fight to Sonia, in a room at the AICC HQ to let her take over the party; or the sacking of Sharad Pawar, Tariq Anwar and PA Sangma from the party when they raised the issue that because of her foreign origin Sonia couldn’t be a Prime Ministerial candidate are just a few examples.
After the twenty three party-men wrote the letter to Sonia, the party seems to be clearly divided into two distinct camps – those who are loyal to the Gandhi family and just cannot imagine a Congress without a Gandhi leading it and those who desire to revive the Congress by doing something disruptive – even if it means asking the first family of the party to take a political holiday.
There were twenty CWC members that made Sonia the Congress President after Rajiv’s assassination and now we have twenty three Congressmen who write a letter to Sonia urging the need to resurrect the party. Interestingly, there is only one common name in the two lists and that is of Ghulam Nabi Azad and that clearly indicates both his faith in Sonia and his disillusionment triggered restlessness. What did he do to warrant to lose his General Secretary’s position and invite the wrath of so many important and unimportant Congressmen? The letter that he signed along with his colleagues did not show any sign of rebellion. It was a letter that put things in perspective and Sonia should have felt happy and proud about the fact that some of her colleagues can think and put a plan together for the revival of the party. The letter was like a report from a top notch independent political strategist and required assimilation, introspection, discussion before using it to put an action plan together.
A rejig to oust one of the senior most members is a blatant display of authority of the Gandhis in the Congress and, ironically, they are fighting the authoritarian approach of the two leaders who drive the BJP. No wonder the voters who are disillusioned with BJP continue to stay with the party because the Congress is not able to project itself as an alternative that offers something different or better. The mammoth intellectual capital of the Congress is going waste and the energy and hope of the ‘loyal for generations’ Congressmen is just not being rekindled . A large part of the Congress leadership seems to be perpetually in the foetal stage and believes that it cannot survive without being connected to the ‘Gandhi’ umbilical cord and the other smaller part is behaving like teenagers who are restless and want to share their agony but are too scared to do so with their ‘political matron’.
There was a news item in circulation yesterday that Surekha Sikri, a noted theatre, TV and film actress and a three time winner of the National Award for Acting, who suffered a brain hemorrhage ten months back, was admitted in a hospital for retention of fluids in her lungs. The story also indicated that she was short of funds for treatment. However, this story was later refuted. For the little while, till the rebuttal surfaced, it was rather agonizing to live with the thought that the actor who brilliantly played the dominant yet indulgent mother-in-law in the 2018 blockbuster ‘Badhai Ho’ is struggling for life and the nurse taking care of her had indicated that Surekha Sikri did not have enough money to pay for her treatment. .
There is a class of creative people pursuing their dreams who lack discipline, have contradictions programmed in their behaviour, enjoy splurging and lack the ability to save and secure their future and if they try and change themselves, they would cease to be creative. Some of them receive awards from the various government and professional bodies. It is time that the government and these bodies think in terms of giving pensions and lifetime medical cover to these award winners along with the commendation. It would go a long way in ensuring that these people remain committed to pursuing their dreams and are not tempted to compromise on their creativity for reasons of securing a post retirement livelihood. There have been a number of stories in circulation about the suffering that some artists and actors had to go through because of their attitude through their younger days. The faux pas of Surekha Sikri’s nurse should initiate a debate on this possibility.