At a time when the Congress should have been sitting a little smug over the issue of the Lokpal Bill – now that it has been introduced in Parliament and has become its property – it is displaying signs of having been bitten by the madness bug again. In August also, this bug had stricken the Congress; and the results of that had been devastating for the party. But it looks like the party has not learnt any lessons at all.
Most people agree that the Congress had scored a self goal in August when Manish Tiwari went on TV to call Anna personally corrupt. No one believed him and he was forced to apologize to Anna for this goof up. Further, when the party arrested Anna and sent him to Tihar of all places, it made sure that a huge wave of support rose for him. A few days before the next round of fasting is to start in Mumbai, the Congress appears to be scoring a self goal yet again.
This time around, it is an inane charge that Congress minister Beni Prasad Verma is making – saying Anna had “run away” from the Army – calling him a deserter. As if this were not enough, Digvijay Singh is showing some “proof” that Anna worked with some senior RSS functionary – Nana Deshmukh – in the 1980s – thus painting him as a deceitful BJP/RSS politician. This is ridiculous – any political green horn would know that the consequences of such an attack would be disastrous.
At a time when there is a distinct turn in the tide against the movement, such political stupidities are bound to build support for Anna. The Bombay High Court yesterday gave a stinging order against Anna’s movement – going way beyond passing an order on the particular matter that it was hearing. Today, the Chief Election Commissioner has said that Anna’s movements during the election campaigning in the five states going to the polls in February would be monitored closely. If Anna campaigns against a single party, that would be a violation of the rules. Most MPs have sounded some sort of a cautionary note that Anna’s demands were impossible to meet – and that Parliament’s wisdom would be final. Most journalists are also displaying fatigue in covering the next round of fast – many are also critical of the attitude and the self-righteousness of Anna’s team.
At a time like this, why should Congress issue statements that provoke fringe – and tired – supporters of Anna or those who are getting a little wary – to rally in support of the old man? By calling Anna a deserter from the army – even if it is true – the party is extending an invitation to lay people to come out in support of Anna in huge numbers. Attacking Anna as an RSS agent, the Congress is again provoking many opposition parties to rally around the man. Recent developments have brought politicians together on the Lokpal Bill – but this round of inane statements is bound to give rise to another round of opportunistic support to Anna.
The ability to mobilize large numbers is an art well known to some politicians. For eg. Modi routinely provokes the Hindus in his state to come out and vote activel for him by making it appear that the Muslims have decided to unite against him. One remembers an ad that appeared in the papers a few days before a state election, apparently released by a Muslim organization urging Muslims to vote against the BJP. This was enough for the Hindus to vote for Modi. It is rumored that the ad was probably released by Modi himself! While Modi’s would be called smart politics, what the Congress is doing now would be called stupid politics. By attacking Anna personally at this crucial juncture, the party is helping revive the Anna movement.
Unless – and I am not sure at all if this is the reason – the Congress believes that by “proving” that Anna is part of the RSS/BJP camp, it can deflect the fall-out of Anna’s campaigning against the party in UP. The logic could be that if Anna was seen as an RSS agent, it would provoke the Muslims to vote en-masse against the BJP and hopefully for the Congress. Honestly, this looks like a far fetched possibility.
If the Congress wants the movement to fade away, it has to maintain a certain dignity in the way it handles Anna from this point on. By placing the Lokpal Bill in Parliament, the party has attempted to make it into a Parliament v/s Anna issue rather than a Congress v/s Anna issue as in the past. By giving a discount to Anna for the MMRDA ground rental, the party has presented a friendly face. The Congress has to appear gentle – leaving PR to the team of Salman/Pranab etc rather than Manish Tiwari or the new and aggressive minister in the PMO, Narayanswamy. The party surely needs a lesson in PR – and one in politics as well.
The real truth is that the Congress may well score another self goal in its struggle against Anna. And if that happens, it would give the fledgling Anna movement another lease of life. One wishes that the issue is amicably settled at the earliest – so that the country can go back to work. But such political ineptness is bound to make the state of policy jam linger on much longer…..