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Politics does sometimes change abruptly, hitting a cusp when suddenly new possibilities open up which were not there the day before.
British Prime Minister Jim Callaghan in 1979, on the eve of the election which brought in Mrs Thatcher and sent the Labour Party into exile for eighteen years, said, "There are times when you can see the tide shifting and there is nothing you can do to reverse it."
Till two days ago, Congress/UPA was faced with such a tide. The election was running away from it. It was a tired old government of old Cabinet members incapable of doing much. We were all waiting impatiently for the game to be over and for an early election to be called.
Now it is all changed. Politics does sometimes change abruptly, hitting a cusp when suddenly new possibilities open up which were not there the day before. Within minutes of Ajay Maken defending the 'Ordinance to Protect Criminals', Rahul Gandhi came and made an intervention which has forever changed the game. Rahul Gandhi has been an unknown, almost unknowable, quantity. We did not know what the point of Rahul Gandhi was. He was a reluctant heir apparent who was too coy, not to say disdainful, about the prospect of power being thrust upon him. He had not succeeded in making waves in UP, Bihar or anywhere else. Faced with a vigorous politician who is also a masterly public speaker, Congress could only be dismissive of the invitation to declare its own Prime Ministerial candidate.
With his dramatic intervention on Friday, Rahul Gandhi has opened up a possibility which has not been there since the days when Jawaharlal Nehru somewhat feebly tried to reform Congress by supporting the Kamraj Plan. It was a piece of Congress hypocrisy to get rid of Morarji Desai. Since then, Indian political culture has thrived on hypocrisy, with code words and signals used to hide embarrassing truths. The Ordinance is a classic, indeed somewhat shameful classic, of its kind. Criminals in politics had to be saved from the long arms of justice. Shameful political practice had to be salvaged with all party connivance. The Cosy Club had to protect its criminal members.