The Rajya Sabha passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill on 5th August 2019 with two thirds majority, 125-61. The Modi government also abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A through a Presidential order. In one stroke it fulfilled ‘one nation one law’, the long-cherished dream of Jan Sangh, RSS and BJP.
The Congress party appeared confused as a headless chicken. To support or not to support, in the end after a meeting of Rajya Sabha MPs, and given the shorter time frame, it decided to oppose the Bill. However, clear division could be seen within its party rank and file. Its chief whip in Rajya Sabha, Bhubaneshwar Kalita resigned from the party and Upper House citing party’s opposition to scrapping of Article 370. He has been PCC Chief of Assam for over a decade.
“The ideology of Congress today looks like it is committing suicide and I do not want to be a part of it. I do not want to accept this whip and I am resigning from the Congress party,”he said in the letter referring to the whip to ensure party lawmakers attend Rajya Sabha during the discussion on Article 370.“Congress party’s leadership is doing the work of completely destroying the party. My view is that no one can save this party from being devastated,”he added.
Rahul Gandhi has not made any statement on the subject, neither tweeted. When NDTV asked about the divide within the ranks on the Kashmir move and the possibility of an emergency meet of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to thrash it out, Rahul Gandhi told the channel he “cannot call a meeting as he is no more Congress president”.
No more Congress President? But he is the President till a formal alternative arrangement is made. Then how has he been making appointments in the party. As recent as July 31st, less than a week ago, as per a AICC release, Congress President appointed NabamTuki as PCC Chief of Arunachal Pradesh.
The party was clearly unprepared. MPs were missing. Whip was not in place. The deployment of 25,000 troops in the valley, abrupt ending of Amarnath Yatra, whatsapp forwards and BJP whip for its MPs to be present on 5th – 7th August, 2019, all pointed that the BJP was planning something big.
As per party’s tweet, ‘The J&K Policy Planning Group of the Congress Party met today (2nd August, 2019) and expressed concern about the actions and reports emanating from the Govt which are causing a panic in the general populace.’So, it had the inclination that something was brewing up. The speeches made by the top leaders (Ghulam Nabi Azad, P. Chidambaram) in the Upper House lacked punch.
With no captain of the ship, who would take the lead to call meetings and discuss issues? Nobody is really bothered in the party it seems! BJP’s whatsapp machinery has been able to paint the Congress again as anti-national and pro-Pakistan. Its opposition is clearly against the mood building up in the nation. Indira was called as Durga by Atal Bihari Vajpayee after her deft handling of the Indo-Pak war to create Bangladesh.
Senior Congress leader, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, admitted on a NDTV debate that the party had been outfoxed. “We have been politically outwitted as we are among four or five parties alone that have opposed it. I wouldn’t say we didn’t know about it because I think everybody in our party, from Ghulam Nabi Azad to P Chidambaram, have been talking about it for the last one week. It was the closest to an open secret, but obviously one could not be sure. But yeswe are now in a very small number of parties which argued and opposed and voted against it, but a democracy is a democracy… you have to go by the numbers.”
The divisions within the party were clearly visible. Since the party had not formed any official stand on the issue, and members were not informed in advance, some statements made by senior leaders put the party in an embarrassing position.
“My Personal Point of View : I support abrogation of Art 370 (as opening words say it’s temporary) but Only and Only in accordance with provisions and methodology provided by the Constitution of India which mandates consent of J&K State Assembly -any other way is Unconstitutional,”tweeted national spokesperson, JaiveerShergill.
Deepender Hooda, senior Congress leader from Haryana, tweeted: “My personal view is that there isn’t a need to have Article 370 in the 21st century. The move is not only in the interest of the country but also for the benefit of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. It is the responsibility of the government to implement the move in a peaceful environment.”
Congress veteran Janardhan Dwivedi told news agency ANI that a historic blunder had been remedied. “My mentor Ram Manohar Lohia was against Article 370 from the start…. My personal view is that this is a matter of national satisfaction. A mistake made during independence has been corrected, even if belatedly.”
What is the ideology of the Congress party? As Rasheed Kidwai puts it, “Right from its inception the Congress Party worked like a big tent which accommodated ideologies of all hues.”The party stood for socialism, secularism and democracy.
BJP has managed to successfully brand secularism as minority appeasement and majority antagonist for which the party has paid heavy price. According to Rajya Sabha MP, Rakesh Sinha, Modi has delivered the goods to the poor without using the word ‘socialism’.
The grand old party which has a rich history and is credited with getting India independence from the British appears to be out of touch with the new realities and issues on the ground. The position is such that even senior leaders don’t dispute big losses in state elections of Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand to be held later in the year. The party faces huge exodus from its ranks if it doesn’t get its act right and puts its house in order.
Image courtesy: english.manoramaonline