How long will a party that has ruled – or misruled – India for long decades, blame the ‘system’ for ordinary folks continuing to live a miserable existence?

The Congress has managed to checkmate the Opposition from forcing an early General Election on the nation; neither Mualayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party nor Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party can right now afford to rock the boat. And hence, with the elections a good 15-18 months away the Congress leadership could well afford to sound the bugle of second generation economic reforms, and speak the language of investment and FDI at its show of strength in Delhi last Sunday.

Nearer the election, of course, our resourceful netas will come up with some ingenious scheme or the other to harvest votes of the poor and voiceless sections of society.

Expected to be some kind of a frontrunner for Rahul Gandhi to be officially anointed his mom’s successor in the party, and of course, later in the government, the Ramlila Maidan rally hardly sprung too many surprises. Among the first of the triumvirate to address the meet, Rahul, the Gen-next Congress chief, put his approval stamp on the controversial FDI, reiterated his belief in the yuva of the country, and then went on to express how much his heart bled for the aam aadmi.

The treacherous system!

“The political system”, we were told “is the biggest problem, its doors are closed for the common man, the weak. The closed system hurts… the youth dreams, but the system trips him.”

Grand-sounding words, but the problem is that the Gandhi scion has been blaming this evil, treacherous system on and off right from the time the UPA came to power in 2004.

Now, this being a speech and not a press conference the most crucial question which needed to be raised could not be asked.

And that is: Pray what have you, who have held such an important position in the party, the Congress party itself and the two successive UPA governments it has led, done to change this all evil, horrendous “system”, which has been torturing, cheating and denying the common man his due?

But then the beauty of the overall system that collectively incapacitates all of us, aam and khas, mango, pineapple and leechi people combined, is that our politicians can go on leading us down the garden path and then turn around and shed crocodile tears for our misfortune, deprivation, or whatever. All this without batting an eyelid.

Combative Sonia

After Rahul Gandhi had told us how important FDI was to the nation, Sonia Gandhi too endorsed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s stand on FDI in multi-brand retail, and then did one better. At her combative best, she not only stressed the need for opening up the country to investment, she also told Congressmen not be on the defensive while facing corruption charges.

In an obvious reference to the anti-corruption campaign by Arvind Kejriwal &Co, she thundered: “Our conscience is clear, our record is clean and our intentions are good. There is no need for the Congress to be on the defensive.”

There was more than a veiled message to the BJP; it should put its house in order before attacking the Government or the Congress on corruption.

The point of reference of course was the plethora of corruption charges against the BJP chief Nitin Gadkari.

Sense of revulsion

Those of us who felt a sense of anger or revulsion listening to the mother and son can hardly be blamed. How long will a party that has ruled – or misruled – India for long decades, blame the “system” for ordinary folks continuing to live a miserable existence?

And how can Sonia Gandhi, against whose immediate family members - first Robert Vadra and now Rahul Gandhi – charges of corruption have been raised, take the high moral ground with such a confident and combative spirit?

She did not only this but also warned the Opposition that “those who dig ditches for others find a well ready for them”.

In effect, what she was saying was that all of us – Congress, BJP, SP, BSP, and whoever else – is in the same boat, so be careful before punching holes in it.

Unfortunately, the one single message that came out loud and clear from the Congress rally, meant to announce the arrival of Rahul on the forefront of the Party leadership stage, went thus: You have no need to feel ashamed about all the charges of corruption. And this, not only because “our conscience is clear” but because the Opposition stands exposed too! Bravo!

Corruption is such a great leveller; it embraces the rulers and their rivals alike, without fear or flavour.

Double bravo!

And then there was this gem from Rahul… on the system of course. He thundered, as best as he can: “You are tired of this system. I know you want to change the system. I am with you.”

Wow! Lucky us, the people of India. First Rahul Gandhi’s ancestors created this debilitating stranglehold of a system. But we need not worry. Now he is with us in the mammoth task of cleaning up the system.

But where Rahul impressed me the most was in being savvy enough to stick to the time tested and prosaic description of the commoner as aam aadmi. No mangoes for this member of India’s Family No1!

Responses to rasheeda.bhagat@thehindu.co.in and blfeedback@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 5, 2012)
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