Soul-searching by a Congressman !
By Paladugu Venkata Rao, MLC & Vice President of APCC
Leaders had won, but the people lost heavily in the recent general elections. I came to this conclusion not because the Congress party was trounced. I have been brooding over the people’s loss ever since the election results were announced. I might hurt someone if I were to state facts. But I cannot forget the facts and be a silent spectator shoving them under the carpet. There would be no scope for constructive debate if the facts are not told dispassionately and pointedly. All the readers may not agree with my opinion. Some might even hate me. But it amounts to deception and self-deception if the facts are not disclosed to the people.
I assumed until the last elections that I was also an important participant in Gandhi Bhavan politics. I had erased that impression soon after the elections were over. I have had relationship with four generations of Congress leaders. The philosophy I believed in has been that the needs and aspirations of the people are of paramount importance and they are the ultimate arbitrators in democracy.
The saying that the world revolves around money has been reverberating in my ears during the last four decades. I did not, however, take cognizance of it and moved about holding my head high. From the first general elections held in 1952 till the last elections in 2014, the people have been the decision makers in every crucial transformative phase. Against this background, I imagined that a generation that does not believe in narrow considerations of money, caste, religion, region and language would emerge to take the nation forward. But, alas, that was not to be. An entirely different milieu had descended on us. Votes are being purchased with money with reckless abandon. The fact that the financial muscle and community card are deciding the candidature and the winner rather than the qualities of heart and mind.
A renowned economist, Dr Manmohan Singh, had ruled this country for ten years. People trusted and respected him as a spotless person. But at the end of the tenure the very same people had changed their opinion drastically and roared their disapproval throwing out the party he represented as Prime Minister. The Congress was handed a miserable and utterly humiliating defeat it never ever tasted in its hoary past. Manmohan Singh had not been a party worker. He ruled like an outsider. He could not provide a popular governance. That was responsible for the strong bitterness among the people against the party.
Moreover, the Congress was in power for the last ten years of united Andhra Pradesh. YS Rajasekhara Reddy, a Congressman with vast experience and an acknowledged popular leader was in office for a little more than half of the duration. The rest of the tenure was filled by senior most Congress worker Konijeti Rosaiah and Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy, a lackluster leader who could manage to become a chief minister directly without ever being a minister, thanks to the hereditary politics in the vogue, his father being a minister and a senior Congress leader. The verdict by the people on their rule was shattering. Congress may not face this kind of a black day once again in future.
What happened in 2014 elections was not Narendra Modi’s victory but it was the Congress leaders’ defeat. They forgot the welfare of the people when they were in power and were smashed by the thunderbolts of popular resentment and anger. As a leader who lives among the people, I talked about the party’s defeat with thousands of people. The astonishing feature of the feedback was that none of them felt sorry for the Congress party. The party with an illustrious history of 125 years has been humiliated like never before and there was none to express a word of sympathy. Those of us who strutted on the stage posing as people’s representatives are not feeling ashamed.
Moreover we are deceiving ourselves with explanations and passing the buck. There has been no sincere attempt to study our performance and identify the causes for our unprecedented failure. No review on cause and action was ever undertaken. It is truly astonishing to see the leaders who enjoyed absolute power till yesterday shrugging off the responsibility for the debacle and behaving normally as though nothing untoward had happened. There has to be a purposeful debate, keeping the future of the party in mind, on the commissions and omissions of the party government in the State and at the Centre. The moral aspect should have been scrutinized dispassionately. Whom to blame for the popular anger? Was it on account of the economic reforms implemented by Dr Manmohan Singh or the way Chidambaram went about managing the finances of the country? Was it because the government was seen as incapable and unwilling to put an end to corruption? None took the trouble of discussing these and other aspects and draw correct conclusions.
When the reputation of the Congress party which ruled the country for 60 years went up in flames, the leaders have been sleeping as usual, unconcerned and unrepentant. What is hard to digest is the audacity of the so called leaders to behave as though no house was gutted and everything is fine. Some persons might be angry with me for openly questioning in this manner. Some might accuse me of washing dirty linen in public. But my simple and straight question is this: Is any one of the Congress leaders thinking about the plight of the mother (the party) who brought him up and gave him the power and pelf, fame and name? I am like a child whose heart is bleeding at the sight of its mother being humiliated. Does any one of them understand? Does anybody care?
I would like to disclose my personal experience in this context. I came to know that a friend is about to desert the Congress party as elections were looming. I went to him with a hope of dissuading from ditching the party. I told him, “You were in power during the Congress rule and earned enough wealth. Be satisfied with it and let us work hard to save the party.” When the friend replied in peals of derisive laughter saying, “You are still talking of the Congress! Where is that party?”, I could not believe my ears. I wondered if it was the same leader who behaved like a staunch loyalist of the party till the other day. How can we understand when another leader who was in power for full five years of the second term and then jumped onto the bandwagon of a rival party when his own party, that made him a minister, was in dire trouble? Should we assume that these leaders lack a sense of history and courage behaving like turncoats and cowards. The lines of Mahaa Kavi (Great Poet) SriSri in which the politicians were described as pigs roaming in streets come to mind on occasions like this. Does anyone remember the memorable line of another great poet C Narayana Reddy, Gnyan Pith Awardee, that, “ Even if all the wealth in the world is on offer in lieu of mother, I would ,without hesitation, opt for my mother. The committed Congress workers have to see that the opportunists would not get any foothold in future politics and force them into oblivion. They should be politically buried fathoms deep by waging a just war. It should be emphatically declared once and for all that those who change political colours like chameleon would end up in the dust bin of history. Otherwise, this country would not be the same.
The Congress workers may not be able to decorate Mother Congress with gold, diamonds and pearls, but they whole heartedly pray that their mother should be hale and healthy. They take respite in her presence. At least such kind of devoted workers have to come forward to review the omissions and commissions of the Congress rule for ten years in the State and at the Centre. The saying that ‘all those who are gone are good’ would not be applicable here. The economic offenders, the looters of natural resources and the backstabbers have to be tried and hauled up in the presence of the people.
I am now seventy plus. It is almost impossible to be aggressive at this age. Even though age is not cooperating, the mind and heart are willing to put the opportunists to the political sword. My heart exhorts me not to breathe the last before seeing their end. One can only imagine the number of people who suffered acutely due to the selfish politics of the opportunistic leaders. Lord Krishna, the charioteer for Arjuna in the great war of Kurukshetra said that whenever Dharma is threatened he would take birth to protect it. Those who undermined Dharma have to be done away with. Slaying of Narakasura is a essential. The campaign for the restoration of Dharma has to begin with leaders, workers and employees known for their integrity. We have to think of the sacrifices made by great patriots like Bala Gangadhara Tilak, Lala Lajapati Roy, Tanguturi Prakasham Pantulu, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh to motivate ourselves before plunging into action.
Look at the history of any political party or a nation; change would be the harbinger of progress. The change has to take place for the good of the people. The common man would like to lead a happy life. He does not have bigger desires or longer wish list. The revival of the Congress would be possible only if it carries on tireless struggle for the welfare of the people and resolution of the problems faced by them. I earnestly hope and trust that the committed workers of the Congress party would move resolutely in this direction.