If there is a party of the Original Sin in Indian politics, it is the Congress. It has been the 800-pound gorilla of Indian politics for so long, anything and everything can easily be blamed on it.
Now that it's severely stunted, more puny monkey than imposing gorilla, it cannot throw its weight around anymore. And anytime it makes protesting noises about anything it can be swatted away with a quick bit of whataboutery.
That was pretty much what the BJP's Venkaiah Naidu just did in the Rajya Sabha when he mocked the Congress as the "Devil quoting the scriptures" for its protests over the use of Article 356 and the dismissal of Congress governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The Congress objected to the phrase but it cannot wish away its import. The shoe does fit.
The BJP's Prabhat Jha told the Congress: "You have no right on this issue. Your party has forced President's Rule as many as 123 times and barring the two newly-carved states Telangana and Chhattisgarh, no other state has been spared from it."
Naidu too pointed out that the Congress "has misused Article 356 at least 90-100 times" during its long tenure in power and said it has no "moral right" to protest now.
That's not true. Everyone has a right to protest - even the worst of criminals. And your past history of wrongdoings does not mean you lose that right. But yes, it requires a particular kind of brazenness to accuse others of what you have done routinely and not just once or twice.
It requires a particular kind of brazenness to accuse others of what you have done routinely and not just once or twice.
And the BJP has a long way to go to catch up with those kinds of numbers which by no means implies that it's OK for it to use Article 356 to topple state governments. Or that Congress cannot protest until the BJP topples at least 25.
However it does highlight the Congress' peculiar problem as an Opposition party. Its can be accused of about every kind of misdeed it can accuse the current government of.
What makes the Congress' predicament even more peculiar is that it's a family business.
In the US, the Republican Party was shaken and shamed by Richard Nixon and Watergate. But the current generation of Republican leaders do not have to carry the weight of that disgrace. They can legitimately claim that that sorry episode is something that has nothing to do with them anymore. Donald Trump, for example, has placards that read "The Silent Majority Stands with Trump" which the Daily Beast says is "a direct lift from Nixon's oft-resuscitated slogan, which was meant to resonate with the 'non-shouters, non-demonstrators' during the Vietnam War."
But when ABC's George Stephanopoulos compared him to Nixon in another context, Trump retorted "I don't use Richard Nixon as necessarily the guide. OK. I mean, you know it's an interesting person to use, but don't use it." Thus Trump and indeed any other Republican has the manoeuvring room to cherrypick from Richard Nixon's record.
I don't use Richard Nixon as necessarily the guide. OK. I mean, you know it's an interesting person to use, but don't use it.
The Congress has no such luck because it cannot disavow anything, not even the Emergency really, because it would mean disavowing the family. It's a party that finds its hands tied by its own history, stained by its own bloodline.
Rahul Gandhi, whatever his personal feelings, can never say or do anything that casts aspersions on his grandmother or great grandfather or implies they were less than perfect. And with that bloodline still going strong all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten that little hand symbol of theirs anytime soon. What makes it worse for the Congress in its current doldrums is that its present leadership has inherited all the family baggage of the past but little of the old dynastic charisma.
The BJP knows this. That is why, while they should have been on the backfoot about Arunachal and Uttarakhand in 2016, Prabhat Jha could turn his guns on Congress instead by talking about sterilization of unmarried youth during the Emergency.
Or Naidu could remind the Congress that he was arrested during the Emergency just for inviting Jaiprakash Narain to his college. It can dig up that old history over and over again because it knows the Congress can do little except squirm.The real victim in all of this is the Indian voter. Even when they elect a new party with a sweeping mandate the new broom does not necessarily sweep clean.
The real victim in all of this is the Indian voter. Even when they elect a new party with a sweeping mandate the new broom does not necessarily sweep clean.
The BJP can point fingers at the checkered record of the Congress when it is accused of pretty much anything. In the same way a Mamata Banerjee in Bengal can always point to the excesses of the Communists in their 34-year tenure to brush off any allegations against her administration.
One is used to justify the other as opposed to being a clean break from a compromised pockmarked past. The Congress' shabby record of using the Governor's mansion as a toppling ground for a non-Congress governments cannot and should not be used as cover for the BJP to do the same. But because politics is a game of "it's-my-turn-now" that's exactly what it becomes.
No wonder the BJP is modifying its stance from Narendra Modi's boast of delivering a Congress-mukt Bharat. "We never said 'Congress-mukt Bharat' (Congress-free India). We want a party like the Congress to be our main opposition so that we are always benefited," said Naidu.
He's right. Nixon famously told the press after losing the California gubernatorial race "just think how much you're going to be missing. You don't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."
The BJP is understanding that a Congress-mukt Bharat might not be what they want after all. They'd much rather have a Gandhi-led Congress to kick around.
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