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Parliament logjam: Gandhis winning no respect; it’s PM Modi who should be playing the vendetta card

The Gandhis and the Congress definitely look ugly when they mix up a rather private court matter with matters of Parliament. They have been getting a bad press, political parties, even friendly ones, are wary of their tactic and well-wishers of the economy are unhappy at their stalling tactic in the Upper House. Yet you can trust them not to stop their disruptive ways, GST, economic reforms and critics be damned.

They have many excuses for stalling Parliament, some stated, others not, some unreasonable, others downright illogical. They did it when we were in power, didn’t they? Isn’t the government hounding us? Isn’t Subramanian Swamy a BJP member? We have heard it all, and in the final analysis nothing justifies stalling of Parliament. If the BJP was being irresponsible during UPA II, that’s all the more reason for the Congress to show restraint and maturity in its conduct; the National Herald case began when the Congress-led government was in power and it’s a matter of the court now; and the likes of Swamy and Ram Jethmalani have minds independent of the parties they belong to.

It is understandable that the Congress would be prickly about the Gandhis – the family name has stopped getting the votes or raise expectations among the masses, but it still serves as the glue that holds the faction-ridden party together. Neither Sonia nor Rahul has proved to be a mass leader with a vision, yet if the party has to survive in the states where it is still alive it has to bank on their appeal. But what about the Gandhis themselves?

They have decided to make the National Herald case a high-stakes personal battle. Obviously, some thinking has gone into that. They are either too sure that they would come unscathed in the case, in which case they have to milk it to the maximum for positive perception building or they are aware that things are dicey, in which case they have to prepare ground for public sympathy. Playing the victim card works well for our leaders.

If drawing attention was the primary intention, it would have served them better had they made a public show of anger through rallies and meetings. That has not been the case. They want Parliament to be disrupted and all its proceedings to halt. There could be a reason behind this. It’s not a normal case of witch-hunting, it’s a case of cheating and fraud. It’s difficult to find public support for it. Why would they support the Gandhis if they were involved in something corrupt? Again, party workers would be uncomfortable seen to be siding with something apparently wrong and immoral.

The truth may be somewhere else entirely. They want the whole reform agenda of the government halted or sufficiently delayed so that it has no impact on the ground till the next election is around. The Congress knows the Union government has to deliver quickly before it gets into the election mode at least one year before 2019. Reforms delayed by one year means it would be easier to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who still remains a hugely popular leader despite a couple of electoral failures. For the Gandhis a personality battle against Modi is difficult to win, they have to target his performance. That means they would have stalled Parliament in any case, with or without the National Herald case.

Whatever the truth, the Gandhis have chosen a wrong issue to wage a battle against the government. It’s neither winning them popularity points nor respect of any kind. The prime minister, who has shown incredible flexibility in approach to several issues in recent times, looks to be the victim now. He should be playing the vendetta card.

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