Of rats and other survivors

The first column of a new year should have an element of good cheer, a hint of levity, so I cannot make the Prime Minister's dreary press conference the core of this piece. At the same time, no responsible political columnist can totally ignore so rare an occurrence as a press conference by Dr Manmohan Singh, so I shall bring it in tangentially. In any case, it relates to the subject I planned to write about before he chose to speak to the media for only the third time in a decade of deep silences. Why did he choose this particular cold winter's day? What did he expect to achieve? I do not know.

What I do know is that, if he thought that by giving his government a good report and pronouncing that history would judge him kindly, he might lessen the disenchantment and defeatism that envelops the Congress, he was wrong. The rats of Lutyens Delhi, dear Prime Minister, are already beginning to desert the ship. Among those quietly building bridges with the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party are high officials, low officials, big businessmen and small, high-minded editors, lowly reporters and even socialites and shopkeepers. That is how it always has been in this city that has been ruled by conquerors, kings and more recently by the most powerful democratically elected Dynasty in history.

First, let me give credit to the friend (she knows who she is) who gave me the idea to write a piece on 'turncoats'. It was at the inaugural of a BJP chief minister and behind us sat an array of famously obsequious Congress sycophants. What were they doing at a BJP gathering in which the loudest cheers were for the hated Mr Narendra Modi? These people, who for years have used 'secularism' as their reason for being devotees of the Dynasty and for despising the BJP, had overnight changed their political stripes. Why? For the simple reason that they have noticed that the Congress has virtually conceded defeat. In private conversations and public, senior Congress leaders admit that the only hope they have of stopping Modi is Arvind Kejriwal. When senior leaders start speaking this way, it does not take long for rats and other survivors to get the message.

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