When I picked up The Indian Express on Tuesday morning, and read that Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid had told an editor of the paper that till now the Congress has seen “only cameos of (Rahul Gandhi’s) thoughts (and)…he has not weaved all of this into a grand announcement,” I knew that we would have to wait only a few hours before Khurshid called a press conference and issued a clarification. Sure enough, that happened, and one should be thankful that the minister did not deny having said any of the stuff quoted in the newspaper. Because in much of what he said, he sounded uncannily like those media columnists who have worn out their keyboards in the last three years pointing out all that’s terribly wrong with UPA-II. For example:
“In UPA II, governance and politics have all got intermingled. The political props have got mixed up. It’s a scattered situation. The stage has to be set up again and only the Congress president can do it. She is the one who has the stature. The Prime Minister can then run the government, but he cannot set the stage.”
“The problem with mixed-up props is that you know the lines but you suddenly realize that things around you are not the same. And we have also not had the time because events are forcing the pace, they are leading us.”
“It’s not only economic reforms that have slowed down. Even political and administrative reforms have not happened because of this situation.”
No columnist could put it better. What a perfect metaphor the man has used—that of theatre! He has compared this government to actors who mugged up their lines and went on stage only to find that it’s a different play. And the new lines that can save the day for the actors and bring some coherence back to the play can be written only by Sonia Gandhi.
But the audience has started heckling and booing, and Sonia Gandhi is nowhere to be seen. Neither, as Khurshid admits sadly, is Rahul. “The fact is that he is undoubtedly and unquestionably the number two leader in the party. Yet he has not taken up the mantle or accepted a functional responsibility. He is so far not willing to accept the number two position. In such a situation, we have to wait. This is a waiting time.” What Khurshid does not say, though any fool can make out that it’s worrying the hell out of him, is that while the hapless actors wait for the new script, the audience is losing all its patience, especially since there’s not too much running time left for the show. If something is not done quickly, they’ll possibly burn the hall down or something. There’s less than two years left for the next general elections.
It is interesting—but entirely unsurprising—that Khurshid’s later clarifications extended only to his remarks about Rahul Gandhi. “My urging of the young and new leadership of our party to prepare themselves to lead from the front, to prepare themselves to take on the challenge of our times is something you must see in the right context rather than in the negative context,” he said. After which, he sulked about the media projecting everything said by those in government or in the Congress “in a negative light”, and that he “on reflection,” felt that “this (discussion about leadership) is something which we should restrict to within our party forum.” However, one suspects that that last statement was actually a “refraction” of the inevitable rap on the knuckles he had received from the Gandhi family about speaking honestly as a worried Congressman to a journalist.
It should be noted that in his press “clarification” press conference, the only time he spoke about the government, he reverted to lines from the old play, stuff that he himself said was incongruous, given that all the stage props had changed: “We are determined as a government to face the global challenges that have an impact here as well and those local domestic issues that have arisen, we will face them with confidence.” Clearly, he knew now that he had misunderstood the situation. The Congress President and her son see nothing wrong with everyone reciting the old lines, even though the play is different.
Or they can’t think up any new lines. In other words, they have lost the plot.
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