Dear Mrs Gandhi,
I have always admired the role that you played in Indian politics, at a very crucial juncture. At a time when the grand old Congress Party was fading away, under the non-inspirational leadership of Mr Sitaram Kesri, you took the reins and managed to hold the Party together. Many had given up on Congress Party; and that includes some of the star Ministers under current government. All of them left the Party for greener pastures and only returned when the Congress party became greener under your leadership.
Congress Party is blessed with many ‘larger than life’ egos but not many leaders. It would only be a matter of months, if not weeks, before these egos pull the Party apart in case a Gandhi name is not there as High Command, to keep them under tight control. Even opposition knows that and I believe most of the personalised attacks directed at you and now at Rahul Gandhi have their origins in this realisation!
I have also admired the way you managed the equations between Party and Government, along with Dr Man Mohan Singh, over so many years. In spite of all accusations against your role, including as the Head of the NAC, and the alleged remote controlling of the PMO, I have personally believed that the coordination between Head of the Party and Head of the Government was remarkable.
However, I must say that all of that is history. Amidst rumours of your illness and the drifting of the Government, it has become increasingly painful for people like me, who still believe in the important position that Congress Party occupies, to reconcile with the developments.
First of all, unlike UPA-1, the perception of UPA-2 is that of a non-functioning government. UPA-2 came into power with enormous goodwill, having managed to overcome all the challenges. However, very soon it began to be affected by various issues like ‘policy paralysis’ caused by incalcitrant allies and recurring scams involving enormous corruption. Roll back has become the hallmark of the government and impression of the PM is that of a Silent Buddha! All this time, those very fair-weather leaders, now senior Cabinet Ministers, were doing all possible acts and deeds to undermine the credibility and collective responsibility of the very Government that they are a part of.
With Rahul Gandhi’s induction into the Party, there were some signs of activation. But after the initial euphoria, none other than the die-hard Congress supporters could see any impact whatsoever from the hard work of Rahul Gandhi. Party does not give any impression of having a definite direction; rather it is moving like driftwood in an ideological vacuum. Lawyers and Dalals seem to be in charge! Even the kind of spokespersons representing Congress in public leaves a lot to be desired!
Look, for instance, at the latest incident that has triggered this letter. A Minister who placed the railway budget before the Parliament is not going to be the one to defend it. And to quote the PM’s words here, "Dinesh Trivedi presented a good railway budget. I regret his departure from the Cabinet. I received late last night a letter from Trivedi announcing his resignation. I will forward it to the President with a recommendation to accept it".
Additionally, to top this shameful incident, PM has now been forced to accept Mr Mukul Roy as the replacement for Mr. Dinesh Trivedi, even though reportedly Mr Roy’s name was rejected by the same PM in an earlier occasion. Madam, am I, along with lakhs of other Indians, missing some point here? Can you or any leader of your Party (not those lawyers please, we are not a court) come out and explain how and why this has happened?
Personally speaking, I will never work under a leader who does not have the backbone to stand up when I am in trouble on account of my work! More so, when my actions are in the interest of the very organisation that I work for! But look at our PM. 20 minutes is all that took for Ms Mamata Banerjee to convince our PM to accept his Rail Minister’s resignation! I know he will use the same old defence of ‘coalition compulsions’! But then we all know how hackneyed that phrase has become, over these few months.
What we are looking for is a strong leadership from both you and the PM; and not any flimsy excuses. Even when the Government was facing the largest ever corruption allegations, we have stood by the Party and the Government, by giving the benefit of doubt and understanding ‘coalition compulsions’. But, we can’t do that any longer.
I have often wondered why our PM, Dr Man Mohan Singh, acts (or does not act) in a way that only he can do! Half in jest and half in all seriousness, I have written a post titled Dr Man Mohan Singh’s Predicament: The Boatman’s Logic and Contemporary Politics, way back in August. I have tried to rationalise his behaviour by relying on an old Malayalam story about a cruel boatman instructing his son (who was to succeed him as the boatman on his death), to make people disembark from the boat while the water was still at their hip level. Soon, people who used to curse the boatman for making them get down in knee deep water were praising him!
I have genuinely suspected that Dr Man Mohan Singh was doing all that was possible to discredit himself so that when, ultimately, Rahul takes over as the PM, people will heave a sigh of relief! But with that event not to be seen anywhere in the horizon, I am genuinely concerned about the damage that is being done to the Congress Party right now. I can’t stop being concerned for the simple reason that the available alternative to Congress is, in my opinion, far more dangerous for the country and its people in the long run.
But how long can one hold on to that opinion? When a Government is neither able to perform nor able to maintain its credibility, how long can it be supported merely on the ground of ‘no alternative’? I must say, I am not a purist. I would perfectly understand if today, Government went ahead and indulged in some horse-trading so as to ensure adequate majority and stability. But, not to do anything and be at the mercy of unreliable allies is something totally unacceptable. . In all likelihood, Mukul Roy will roll back the very proposals that were, in the words of Prime Minister himself, part of a ‘good railway budget’. In all likelihood, what is good for the railways and the country will get sacrificed for the proposed continued support of Ms. Mamata Banerjee, until another issue is picked up by her for yet another blackmailing!
Now, look at the Sri Lanka issue. Prime Minister made a statement in the Parliament that his Government is "inclined to vote in favour of the resolution" even though the wordings of the resolution itself is yet to be finalised. Why? Is it because it serves strategic interests of the Country or because DMK threatened to pull out its Ministers? Is this decision taken in the long term interest of India and its relationship with a crucial neighbour? Would India support a similar resolution if it was to be moved against itself in matters like, Gujarat riots or Punjab counter insurgency operations, to name a few? Has the negative fallout of such a vote analysed in the light of China’s growing interest in the region? At least, the perception is that Government merely succumbed to the pressure tactics of yet another ally!
Be it 2G scam, CWG, Anna movement, NCTC, FDI in retail, DTC, GST, other reform measures....you know much more than me that the list of failures of this Government can go on and on! Forget about action, our Ministers have even forgotten the art of negotiations!
In conclusion, all I have to say is this. Madam, you did preside over the revival of Congress Party in the past. In my humble opinion you are now presiding over its downward journey, with fast eroding goodwill. Please do act, before it is too late; even if it means trying out an untested Rahul Gandhi at the helm of the affairs. Even otherwise, approaching the ultimate authority of people through a general election is far better political option than being seen as hanging on to power at the cost of nation's interests! Dr Man Mohan Singh has lived his utility. It is now time for him to retire gracefully. Let there be a change - for better or for worse. Anything is better than this nothing.