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Congress leaders should look at themselves in the mirror to know the reason for rejection

Probably on cue from Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress leaders are now venting their spleen on the voters. Handed down a crushing defeat in the parliamentary poll, they have taken to rebuking voters for the rejection of the party in favour of Modi’s BJP. Accusingly asking the people what they saw in Modi, Congressmen and their allies most brazenly, and publicly, vow not to address people’s grievances. The other day, Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, who heads a coalition with the support of the Congress, contemptuously flung aside the petition from villagers seeking water and roads. Pointing an accusing finger, he said angrily, “ You vote for Modi and come to me to solve your problems. Go to him, I am not going to do anything for you.”

Post-defeat, this was supposed to be the beginning of an outreach program to reconnect with the people. Kumaraswamy intends to spend a night each in select rural villages throughout the State to try and win back voter popular trust. But he has to behave, he did a sleepover in, he better abandon the idea because it will further alienate him from the people. Aware that his JD(S)-Congress alliance, which has a wafer- thin majority, had now become all the more vulnerable after its complete wipeout in the parliamentary poll, he lives in dread of a snap election. People are disgusted with the coalition what with daily factional fights and public recriminations between alliance partners --- and, crucially, with former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah remote- controlling the government. Kumaraswamy is living on borrowed time.

He is known to get emotional in public, openly crying, muttering between sobs that he was being held prisoner by the Congress which did not allow him to function. His pain could only have grown following the clean sweep by the BJP in the Lok Sabha poll. That his father, H D Deve Gowda, founder of the JD(S), and a former prime minister to boot , was humiliated --- and, therefore, would not be able to sleep through the raucous Lok Sabha proceedings any longer, must have come as a shock. But no less painful would have been the defeat of his own son, Nikhil, while his nephew, Prajawal, son of older brother and senior minister, Revanna, emerged the lone winner from the ruling alliance. The other 27 seats went to the BJP. For Junior Revanna, his grandfather had vacated his own safe seat, Hassan, while he himself moved to another constituency only to suffer a humiliating rejection.

Lest we forget, a night’s stay in the aforesaid village where Kumaraswamy most rudely snubbed the villagers, cost the taxpayers nearly a crore and a half in special arrangements, including air-conditioned quarters for the honourable Chief Minister and his entourage. More such night- stays in a number of villages are planned --- never mind the financial burden on the people who even in the State capital, Bengaluru, suffer from perennial water shortages, terrible roads and intermittent power outages.

Now, if Kumaraswamy can slam the people for not voting for the JD(S) candidates, the leader of the alliance partner in Karnataka, Siddaramaiah cannot be far behind, especially given that it was his beloved leader, Priyankaji, who had provided the inspiration. Visiting Amethi and Rae Bareily after the result, her Imperious Highness accused the voters of betraying the Family, the only heaven-born around with the divine right to rule Indians in perpetuity. A sense of entitlement came naturally to those who in the early decades after Independence had habitually come to treat people as lower beings, nay, biped cattle to be led by the nose.

Smarting under the impression that the old mai-baap syndrome which had kept the poor masses in ignorance and degrading poverty would still persist, the Gandhi scions could not come to terms with the new reality, the democratic reality, the slow but steady deepening of the democratic process. All elections, beginning with the first in 1952-53, have served as a learning exercise for the voters; each leaving them more politically aware and wiser than the previous one.

As a result, the last one virtually sounded the death-knell of dynastic politics. Witness how a stunned and duly chastened Rahulji now deigns to send condolences on the murder of a little-known party leader in Haryana who had drifted to the Congress from Chauthala’s Lok Dal and had multiple criminal cases lodged against him in various police stations in the State. He was accused of extortion, intimidation, attempt to murder, violence, etc. And witness how an error in tax computations of a small unit of the armed services, the Congress, nay, the Grand Old Party is aping the BJP, creating noise in the hope of winning the trust of the armed forces.

To regain relevance Congress does not need to become the BJP’s second team. It needs to offer a new idea, an alternative program. But if the Gandhis are unwilling or unable to shed their ingrained sense of contempt for the people, and continue to suffer from the illusion that they alone have the divine right to rule over Indians, it is unlikely that followers several notches down in the party hierarchy would abandon their superciliousness.

Therefore, nobody should be surprised that Siddaramaiah was quick to follow his Leader, rhetorically asking people what they saw in Modi and what he had given them that they should vote for the BJP. In his own Assembly constituency, Badami, he lambasted the voters for rejecting `development’ and voting for Modi. “I have brought grants of Rs. 1,300 crores to Badami, but the people have given a lead of 9,000 votes to the BJP.”

Why should people of Badami be ashamed of themselves for voting Modi? It is people like Siddaramaiah and his leaders who ought to really feel ashamed for the way they have been flung aside by the people. Nothing is wrong with the people. (And, of course, you cannot change people.) The Congress leaders, beginning with the Gandhis, should look at themselves in the mirror to know the real reason for their humiliation. In short, introspect and correct yourselves.

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Navjot Singh Siddhu in deep funk

Navjot Singh Siddhu, the lowbrow but loud comic given to laughing at his own non-jokes, finds himself in a mess. Of his own making. And no one is surprised, really. He proclaimed from housetops during the election campaign he would quit politics if Rahul Gandhi lost Amethi. Rahul did. But Siddhu did not quit politics.

Soon after, he riled Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh who undertook a reshuffle of his ministry after the Lok Sabha results. This time Siddhu thundered that he would quit if he changed his portfolio. The good Captain did, stripping Siddhu of Local Self Government, Tourism and Culture. Instead, giving him the Ministry of Power. Immediately, Siddhu undertook a well-publicized trek to Delhi to seek protection of the Gandhi siblings.

Weeks later, the Captain refuses to budge. And Siddhu has virtually gone underground, neither taking up his new charge nor displaying the courage to quit, as promised. Meanwhile, the vigilance department has begun investigations into complaints of malpractices and corruption in the urban improvement trusts while these were under Siddhu.

Please don’t think Kapil Sharma would reinstate him as a self-guffawing standby jokester on his comedy show since he has quite a few better comics without anyone of them insisting to the audience `lagao taali’ as the self-centered Sidhu did.

One hopes Arun Jaitley rues the day he organized Siddhu’s defence to overturn his conviction in a case of culpable homicide.