New Delhi: Why is the Congress party struggling to escalate its campaign targeting foreign minister Sushma Swaraj for her impropriety in office? Is it because the Congress carries its own legacy of corruption? Or is it the fact that the subject matter is cricket, something that every political party dabbles in to avail the opportunity of patronage?
While the Congress party has put a fair amount of energy in its campaign, holding press briefings almost everyday since the issue came to light and organizing demonstrations in Delhi against Swaraj and in Rajasthan against chief minister Vasundhara Raje, it has not been able to deliver a knockout punch that any other opposition party could have on an issue like this, especially against a government that’s only a year old.
Of course, part of the reason is that most opposition parties have chosen to not pursue this aggressively, mainly because it involves cricket, in which leaders of almost every major political party have a stake. The Congress has been unable to get other parties on board because, for most of them, a strong attack runs the risk of exposing them more.
However, for the Congress party in particular, the problem is the baggage of corruption. Corruption was the nemesis for the party-led United Progressive Alliance, which was voted out of power last year. During its tenure, there were several allegations of financial impropriety against its high offices and senior ministers with the trail going as high up as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being summoned in the coal block allocation issue.
While party leaders are well aware that they themselves are facing a severe perception crisis, they will continue to attack the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to firm up the party’s opposition status.
“Public perception was against the Congress and we lost. Senior leaders and ministers from our party are named in scams and that is a fact. But the point is we cannot stop attacking four people from the ruling party because we want to protect two from ours. We will actively follow our attack, it will not stop here,” a senior party leader said, on condition of anonymity.
Swaraj is accused of helping London-based former Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman, Lalit Modi, obtain travel documents despite the fact that he is wanted by the Enforcement Directorate on charges of financial irregularities. Modi fled to London in 2010 and needed the papers to travel to Portugal, where his wife was undergoing cancer treatment.
Now, Raje is facing heat over the issue as she is allegedly part of a witness statement that supported Lalit Modi’s application for immigration and has close ties with him. The Congress had asked its senior leaders from Rajasthan, including state party chief Sachin Pilot and general secretary in-charge Gurudas Kamath, to mount an attack on Raje.
Interestingly, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has remained quiet on the issue, though she took an aggressive stance when Singh was summoned in the coal block allocation case. Instead, party’s second in line Rahul Gandhi is vocal against the government demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should sack Swaraj.
However, the bigger challenge which awaits the Congress party on this issue is rallying other opposition parties in the Lok Sabha on this issue. The party has a strength of just 44 members in the 543-member lower house and, therefore, needs the support of other opposition parties to bolster its attack.
“Whatever the case, we will continue to attack them. Being in the opposition, if we don’t do this effectively, then what else?” the leader cited above said.