At an iftaar reception hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee, Congress president Sonia Gandhi was relaxed, smiling and willing to listen to suggestions and complaints from guests. That was the very day bushfires had broken out in two Congress-ruled states. But the party chief didn’t have the demeanour of someone who, after a catastrophic election result, was alarmed about new storms building on the horizon.
The next morning, she told Congress MPs they have to be more aggressive and articulate in Parliament. A party leader who believes the leadership is grappling with a real problem says, “Of the 44 MPs who are in the Lok Sabha, most are not experienced speakers or parliamentarians. The good speakers have all lost or didn’t contest at all.” The Congress contingent in the Rajya Sabha is more impressive, but at the iftaar reception, it was Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) who was complimented for his speech on the Gaza crisis during a Rajya Sabha debate. The Yechury admirer even told Sonia that the Communists had done a better job of raising the Gaza issue than the Congress. A smiling Sonia responded that she always likes to hear the criticism first!
In Maharashtra, the Congress tally had gone down from 17 in 2009 to just two in the recent Lok Sabha elections. In Haryana, the tally fell from seven to one. Chaudhary Birendra Singh, a senior Jat leader and CM-hopeful, has openly declared the “party will lose under Bhupinder Singh Hooda because he has only done development for one section of society”. BJP leader Rajnath Singh has been sounding out Birendra Singh for some time now, since the BJP too is in search of a Jat leader, but Congress managers believe he has been in the party too long to jump ship now. Sources say Birendra Singh was bitter because he had expected a ministerial post in UPA-II, but the orchestration of a minor internal scandal involving the circulation of CDs did him in. But, says the source, “He’s still a veteran and was at one time very close to Hooda, so let’s see.” He has met Sonia twice in the past month to argue his case, but party sources say there will be no change of leadership. Birendra Singh doesn’t buy that. “When a party is headed for disaster, you must change the chief minister,” Singh argues.
The Congress is in power in 11 states, so there is still something left to lose. The rumble in the states is a natural consequence of defeat, panic, and competing ambitions for a shrinking space. But there is the next level of problems confronting the Congress: Rahul Gandhi and his coterie. After the complete rejection by the electorate, the old guard has been leveraging that to get rid of the Rahul gang, which includes Madhusudan Mistry, Mohan Prakash, Mohan Gopal and Kanishka Singh. So far, Sonia has not ceded any space on that front, and the decision to project Mallikarjun Kharge as the Lok Sabha LoP is seen as a sign of that. But Congressmen say there will have to be changes after the assembly polls and the expected defeats in the states take place. This is what they seem to want: Rahul will have to play a restricted role and cannot be projected as the face of the party; Priyanka is not a real option. The answer, say old-timers, lies in Sonia not retreating but taking charge yet again.
Apropos A Harvest of Disasters (Aug 4), that the Congress is a doomed ship is a foregone conclusion. None of the present lot of the Nehru-Gandhis—no, not even Priyanka—has either the charisma or the acumen to get it afloat again. They could have relied on the party satraps, but they too are a bunch of sycophants who do not give a damn as long as a few breadcrumbs are thrown their way.
P.H. Bhanage, Mumbai
Sonia does not have any leadership qualities, she survives on her total control of Congress funds and lack of challenge by any member of her coterie. Her son is deficient in maturity and drawing power. Also the taint from her son-in-law Robert’s misadventures in real estate and the issue of National Herald etc will keep haunting her, besides all the scams of the UPA regime. Given this, a revival for the Congress seems unlikely in the next decade, if not beyond!
Kumaraswamy Nadiminti, on FB
The Congress’s woes do not seem to have ended with its crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha election. Bickering over who was the first to flash the divorce documents, in Kashmir the National Conference and the Congress have parted ways. The brewing dissension in Maharashtra and Assam, and the organisational weaknesses in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana underlines the total loss of authority of the party high command. The writ of the mother-son duo seems to have run dry.
J. Akshay, Bangalore
Rahul’s pathetic interview on Times Now, Priyanka’s arrogance in asking ‘Smriti, who?’, Sonia’s uninspiring ‘secular’ speeches, the braggadocio of frontline jokers like Digvijay Singh, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Manish Tewari…it was more than what the Indian voter could tolerate.
S.S. Nagaraj, Bangalore
Poor Rahul. He just does not have it in him to fulfil his mother’s ambition of seeing him become the prime minister of the country.
Swamy N.K., Hyderabad
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
If BJP can fulfil half the things they promised they will do, Congress will be decimated further in 2019.
Saba never fails to tell us how liberal she is. A leaked letetr shows her true colors.
Sly Brahminical attempt!!!!! If some one from the right had used "Sly Muslim attempt", all hell would have broken loose.
But you can say anything about Brahmins and jews. That is being liberal and succular.
If this is what happens to a party that has been trounced in recent elections then it's a case of tragedy turning into a farce. Congress is asking for schadenfreude not sympathy.
Comedy of Errors. How long will these sycophants cling on to Sonia's saree or Rahul's coat tails. My God. Even God cannot save these guys. The party should get marginalised further and would retreat into oblivion.
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