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Capital Grapevine  
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Capital Grapevine  

Virendra Kapoor

Much ado about a goody-goody manifesto promising the moon without homework

Congress’s past and fiscal numbers make it a work of fiction to be binned after poll

The pseudo-liberal commentariat is so impressed with the Congress manifesto that it cannot stop gushing. Defying decades of experience of such election-eve documents being put into the wastepaper basket immediately after the polling is over, the manifesto has come in handy for it to bare its deep-seated animus against the current ruling dispensation. Accumulated anger against acts of omission and commission of the last five years seems to have induced a rather generous applause for the manifesto completely unmindful of the track record of the party while in power.

At one level, the Congress is the natural habitat of the left-liberal pseudo-intellectuals. For decades they had basked under its patronage. Therefore, it should have come as no surprise when they visualized a new awakening in the Congress manifesto. They seemed to be waiting eagerly for this day. Some of them helped write it for the super-intellectual president of the party who is so engrossed in saving the country from the ruling fascists that he has had little time to give it even a cursory look.

But whoever wrote the manifesto was a brave man. We are told there was more than one author. The task was forked out to a committee which, in turn, crowd-sourced inputs. And the result is a mish-mash of a charter of high- fluting liberal principles, promises of social and economic justice, the party’s hoped-for mantra-for-power, the Nyuntam Aay Yojana carrot to the hapless poor, and much more in that vein. It does not reflect the character of the party leadership which has remained aloof from the struggles and miseries of the toiling masses while itself living it up in style on stolen billions.

Dewy-eyed intellectuals can wax eloquent about the goodness of the manifesto even though they too would know it will end up as a mere piece of paper since the Congress stands no chance of being in a position to implement it after May 2019. The voters don’t go by manifestoes. They go by the track record of leaders. And here the less said the better for the Congress dynast.

As for the contents of the manifesto which made headlines, be it secularism, national security, sanctity of constitutional institutions, agrarian distress, a slowing economy, lack of jobs, increased spending on defence, health, education, etc. And on each of these counts, the Congress cannot shrug off the immeasurable damage it did while in power. Those rushing to pat the party of their first preference for making all those promises have to be either too credulous or too naive to lend any value to the manifesto. For, whether it is the flagrant violation of the secularist ideal, or sanctity of institutions, or the agri crisis, the Congress remains a prime accused. It ran roughshod over institutions, it supped with crony capitalists while paying lip service to the common man, it worked for a committed bureaucracy, a committed judiciary and, above all, encouraged a lapdog media.

As for the much-vaunted Naya scheme, it is curious that when the NDA actually implements its promise to give Rs. 6,000 to farmers in three equal installments, P. Chidambaram calls it `an open bribery of voters’ and beseeches the Election Commission to step in. And when Chidambaram’s Great Leader offers Rs. 6,000 a month to 20 percent of the people whose monthly income is under Rs. 12,000, he calls it social justice. You know about that phrase about goose and gander, don’t you? PC doesn’t. Let voters do the telling this summer. Whether the scheme would cost the taxpayers 3.5 percent of the GDP or more, Rahul Gandhi is not clear how many people would actually benefit: 12 crore? 25 crore? Or 25,000 crore? But, then, why bother with clarity when the entire idea is to hoodwink the people into believing that this is Garibi Hatao – II. Had the original Garibi Hatao succeeded there would have been no need for the grandson to rehash the great con trick all over again.

Before we forget, we must talk about that promise to delete the sedition law and to review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Pray, who put AFPSA in the statute book in the first place? And why did you not think about it in the ten years you were in power? The promise to align AFSPA with the prevailing humanitarian concerns must have led the entire jhollawala types linked to foreign-funded NGOs to break into a celebratory jig. But it must have sent a tremor of trepidation down the spine of every Indian soldier whose task it is to defend the country against Islamists and ISI jihadis in Kashmir and elsewhere where insurrection enjoys external sanction.

Pundits ignore another fact while commending the manifesto. In an age where ideology matters less and less in the global political arenas, to latch on to the promise of a liberal-leftist state sounds hollow. While in power, the Congress under the mother-son-duo was neither liberal nor left. Indira Gandhi in the early years was --- and to what ruinous effects we all know full well. Nehru did embrace a genuine leftist-socialist path and thus put back the task of lifting the tens of millions of Indians out of an abject poverty by a decades.

When a mandir-hopping, janeyu-wearing Rahul Gandhi woos sectarian Hindus he is neither secular nor communal. He is a pragmatist desperate to survive in a cut-throat political environment. That image of the Congress dynast directly militates against anything he might promise in the manifesto about ushering in a truly secular, liberal order. Why, even in this election he is obliged to don the skullcap in the Muslim-dominant Wayanad and a tilak and janeyu in Amethi, once the family fiefdom but no longer. If the commentariat waxing eloquent on the Congress manifesto cannot see this contradiction in promise and practice, it needs to remove the blinkers from its eyes. Politicians pursue power, not ideology.

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Lawyer gives away the game

It should have rung a bell when Christian Michel James, the middleman in the Augusta Westland scam, hired Aljo K Joseph as his lawyer. Nobody had heard of Joseph as a lawyer, though he had figured in news reports as a junior-level functionary of the Congress Party, having headed its social media campaign in the recent Madhya Pradesh Assembly poll. Quite clearly, VVIP bribe-takers were so brazen they did not mind revealing the Congress connection to Michel rather than risk him spilling the beans. But spill the beans he did, as the meticulous investigations by the Enforcement Directorate bear out. Now the bribe-takers bank on dragging the case for decades so that public attention moves elsewhere. Meanwhile, it is interesting to notice a couple of media friends featuring in the charge-sheet. The amount of money taken by one of them is written down in detail, complete to the last paise. It will be interesting to know who this gentleman mentored in the media and to what purpose?

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Two-in-one

Last but not the least. A report by a respected journalist filed from battlefront western UP ends thus: “ The bottom line is: People want Modi but not necessarily the BJP.” Yes, but the question is: Can you get one without the other?