Old organizations often find it hard to change. Politics, however, is an arena of constant change: ideas, parties and governments are in a constant state of ferment. Any political party that does not heed the winds of change risks losing relevance. The past weeks have shown how badly prepared the leading party of the ruling coalition, the Congress, is for changes that have occurred in the country’s politics.
Two recent episodes illustrate this very well. After the second-generation (2G) spectrum controversy broke out, the Manmohan Singh government displayed extreme reluctance in agreeing to the formation of a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to investigate the matter. Instead, the party was more comfortable with the idea of the public accounts committee (PAC), led by Murli Manohar Joshi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, taking a lead in the matter. In late December, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to the PAC chairman signalling his readiness to appear before the committee. The original objection to the JPC was that since it could “summon” the Prime Minister, it could have been a source of political embarrassment for his party. Less than four months later, his party members of parliament—along with those of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam—are now creating problems for the PAC. On Friday various non-issues, such as the 2G case now being sub judice and that a JPC was now seized of the matter, were used as an excuse to disrupt its proceedings.
Another example is that of the sullen hostility towards Anna Hazare and his group that are now part of a joint panel attempting to draft the Lokpal Bill. There are serious problems with what Hazare and his supporters have in mind, but what the leaders of the ruling party are displaying is hostility of the kind that comes after “losing” a bout. Hazare may be wrong in his approach, but dealing with him requires politics of a different kind than that of inspired leaks and calumny that is being witnessed now.
Both instances display the kind of political arrogance that is reminiscent of the politics of 1970s: the ruling party is right, come what may. Apart from the fact that it is bound to be counterproductive—for this government is facing a crisis of legitimacy—it is in complete ignorance of the fact that India is a changed country. It is not merely social media and middle class awareness that is at work, but mass yearning for a better, result-oriented, politics. The Congress, and many of its supporting parties are not willing to accept this reality.
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