G R O U N D   Z E R O

Rahul reads out the writing on the wall
Raj Chengappa

Rahul�s outburst could be seen as him acting on his conscience and distancing himself from the tainted legacy of the UPA government. It was the sign of his increasing frustration and impatience with the old guard in the Congress who were refusing to see what was obvious.

Raj Chengappa
Raj Chengappa

Manmohan Singh usually comes into his own when he is on an official tour abroad. Not this time though. On the morning that we were leaving Frankfurt, after a night halt there, for Washington DC, the Prime Minister woke up to the news of the dastardly terror attacks in Jammu. It was his birthday and a cake had been organised for him on board the PM�s special aircraft. Manmohan Singh rightly dispensed away with such celebration at a time when the nation was grieving.

The next morning, hours before his important bilateral summit with US President Barack Obama, the Prime Minister was again woken up, but this time the attack was on him from the unlikeliest of quarters. His aides briefed him about Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi�s dramatic outburst trashing an ordinance that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet had wanted promulgated in unseemly haste. The ordinance, designed to bypass a Supreme Court order disqualifying legislators who are convicted, was cleared by his Cabinet prior to his departure.

Suddenly, a trip that was to be Manmohan Singh�s last hurrah on the world stage threatened to be an ignominious goodbye to public life. There was much sympathy for Manmohan Singh as without doubt Rahul�s passionate denunciation of the ordinance, replayed over and over by TV channels, had severely damaged the Prime Minister�s credibility. Manmohan Singh didn�t show the hurt when he met Obama at the White House. Despite the age difference, the two leaders shared an excellent chemistry and Obama broke protocol to see Manmohan Singh off after their luncheon, showing both respect and grace.

In New York, his next stop, the Prime Minister must have mulled over his future course of action, even as he addressed the UN General Assembly yesterday. Today he meets Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif but the much anticipated first encounter between the two has already lost its sheen. By the time he returns to Delhi late Tuesday night, Manmohan Singh would have had sufficient time to ponder over his next course of action. Unlike Rahul, he is not known to act impetuously. Manmohan Singh has already indicated that apart from Congress President Sonia Gandhi he would consult Cabinet colleagues before taking a decision.

The raging debate now seems to be not over what Rahul called for but the timing (when the PM was on an important trip abroad) and the manner in which the Congress Vice-President expressed it (tear up the ordinance and throw into the dustbin), which has considerably lowered the prestige and dignity of the Prime Minister�s office and thereby Manmohan Singh.

That, though, may not be the only way to look at the discourse. The trigger was the ordinance that was being pushed through in a shameful hurry. Manmohan Singh cannot take recourse, as his aides had tried to do, in claiming that Sonia Gandhi was party to the decision or he was following the Congress� diktat. An ordinance is an executive fiat and ultimately the Prime Minister�s call. When many political parties had expressed differences in Parliament as the government sought to amend the Representation of the Peoples Act to nullify the Supreme Court order, why rush through such an ordinance? Was the Prime Minister acting in the best national interest or to protect some of his political allies who faced immediate disqualification?

That the ordinance was a blunder by the UPA government was evident. But there was far more at stake for the Congress. If promulgated, it would become a symbol of how the UPA had trashed all political principles to survive by any means in its second term, especially after several Opposition parties, including the BJP, had opposed it. There is already widespread revulsion across the country over the various scams that have beset the UPA government. The middle class has expressed its disgust by coming out into the streets to protest against corruption � a movement that saw the rise of the Aam Admi Party.

Increasingly, Manmohan Singh, known for his personal probity, was seen as presiding over a corrupt and effete regime. That the party had lost its moorings, and although the Congress had done much for the economy in the past decade and for the uplift of the poor, it had become identified with the venal, greedy and the rich.

Rahul�s outburst could be seen then as acting on his conscience and distancing himself from the tainted legacy of the UPA government. It was the sign of his increasing frustration and impatience with the old guard in the Congress who were refusing to see the writing on the wall that the party was heading for its worst electoral defeat in the next general election if it didn�t mend its ways. Manmohan Singh was no more the darling of the middle class. From being the solution, the Prime Minister is now increasingly viewed by his party as the problem. As for Rahul, he has rolled the dice, but has yet to show if he has the staying power and skill to play the game.

[email protected]





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |