National Interest: First family, second nature

Usually, every time you start asking if the Congress party has lost its political instinct, it pulls off something entirely unexpected, like its successful backing of the nuclear deal, for example. That ruthless but quicksilver political craft was in evidence again as it isolated the BJP and humiliated Mamata Banerjee in getting the president and vice-president of its choice elected. Yet again, in the manner it was able to shift the "hawa" at least a bit with the sudden flurry of economic decisions.

And then, all of a sudden, it was back in the trenches. Firing the odd ill-directed fusillade at nobody in particular, but mostly whining. And all of it not because somebody had caught it, or its top leadership, doing something really awful. But because charges were hurled at Robert Vadra, whom the party describes as yet another private individual.

There is the evidence of the 2004 and 2009 elections to show that the Congress party is not brainless. Yet, what is it about the party that the moment a member of the Gandhi family is attacked, it loses its political judgement, instinct, discretion, everything? It ceases to respond like a political party. Its seniormost leaders and cabinet ministers, many with several decades in public life, instead of trying to leverage the qualities of experience and maturity that rivals like Team Kejriwal (mere "upstarts", as the Congress would describe them) may find hard to match, start behaving like panicky hitmen in some kind of political Gangs of Hastinapur.

The capital's political scuttlebutt now has it that word has come from the very top for the stormtroopers to shut up. But the more important question is, why was that self-defeating counter-attack launched in the first place? If Vadra is a private individual, married to a member of the Gandhi family who, too, is apolitical and thereby a private person, why did the party jump to his defence? And even if they did, why with such colossal incompetence and stupidity?

... contd.

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