Sunday, October 30, 2011

Power & Politics_Prabhu Chawla_The Sunday Standard/October 30, 2011

The mission has been decided. The targets identified. And the instruments sharpened. The Congress party, it seems, is not afraid of any political party. Instead, it fears some people more than any organised opposition. The BJP is hardly a threat. It doesn’t care about the vanishing Left and regional parties. However, Narendra Modi, Mayawati and Team Anna are its worst nightmares. The party is equally worried about the Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai’s future moves. Its leadership is convinced that if these few individuals are neutralised, a decisive victory in the 2012 Assembly polls and the 2014 general elections will be easy. For the past few weeks, it has unleashed political and administrative instruments to demoralise and demolish these individuals. The objective is clear: if you can’t defeat them, defame them. Maverick motormouth Digvijaya Singh deserves full credit for diverting public attention from a very powerful agenda to some personalities. His allegations may sound ridiculous or bereft of credibility, but Diggy succeeded in sowing seeds of suspicion among those fighting to cleanse the system.

Last week, the target was Kiran Bedi, one of Team Anna’s most articulate members. Suddenly, her tour bills and income tax details appeared in the public domain. Instead of prosecuting her for misdemeanours, the attempt was to paint her as one of the ugliest police officers ever. Her NGO’s accounts were placed und
er close scrutiny. Earlier, Arvind Kejriwal was served an ultimatum by a former employee to deposit a few lakh rupees and also explain other acts of omission and commission. It is for Bedi and Kejriwal to defend their deeds or misdeeds. But one thing is clear: they have shaken the Congress more than even 2G, especially after the party lost its deposit in the Hissar by-election. The Congress wasn’t expected to win anyway, but the H-Bomb (Hazare Bomb) blast shook the party’s confidence.

The Congress is particularly unnerved by Anna’s political forays into Uttar Pradesh. Despite a massive smear campaign, Kejriwal and Bedi drew huge crowds at their public meetings in the state. The party doesn’t want Team Anna to create an anti-Congress wave in the state; the results will decide Rahul Gandhi’s political leadership. Kejriwal told me on my talk show Teekhi Baat on IBN7 that they have decided to pitch camp in Rae Bareilly and Amethi, if the Government fails to pass a powerful Jan Lokpal bill this Winter Session.

The fear of losing Uttar Pradesh again is causing panic in the Congress. Although Mayawati’s government has lost popularity, the Congress doesn’t seem to have gained any lost ground. Since it isn’t sure about its post-election alliances, Mayawati has been chosen the primary target. The Congress has pressed into action various Union ministries, commissions and even NGOs to unearth irregularities in her government. As part of the plan, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh suddenly discovered massive malfeasance in the implementation of MNREGA schemes. He asked Maya to order a CBI inquiry. Interestingly, he hasn’t found fault with any Congress-or BJP-ruled state. The chairman of the SC and ST Commission and Congress Lok Sabha MP P L Punia ordered an FIR filed against a few officials in the case of alleged rapes in Bhatta-Parsaul. If Diggy Raja is aware of various plans of the RSS and Team Anna, so is Mayawati about the hidden agenda of the Congress. During the next few weeks, the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, is going to roll out Operation Destroy Mayawati. Behenji is a gigantic roadblock in Rahul’s journey to Raisina Hill, because the Congress has to win more than 50 Assembly seats in UP: almost double its current tally of 22.

The party also wants to establish Rahul’s leadership in Gujarat, where Assembly elections are due in November 2012. After having failed to create an alternative leader to Modi, the Congress has now mobilised all its energy to create dissensions within the bureaucracy and dig deep into land allotments to various companies, including the Tatas. It is not going to raise the 2002 riots issue but wants to demolish Modi’s image of a development icon. The party has put together a crack team comprising a few retired journalists, civil servants, advocates and even ad agencies to draw up the road map for forcing Modi into a corner. A Gujarat victory may also help the party to win the 2014 general elections, even if some allies fare badly or even ditch the Congress.

Strangely, the Congress party isn’t deterred by the silence of its allies who disapprove of the vilification campaign against civil society leaders and other political parties. However, for the Congress, the quality of the means has never been an issue for achieving its end. But the Congress has entered a murky tunnel which doesn’t seem to have an end.

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