This was a wrong rally by Congress

Deepak Joshi

New Delhi: The principal opposition, the Congress party, remains a prisoner of the past and refuses to believe that India has moved away from the 1970. To seek solace in the 1970s in 2019 with a different individual at the centre stage is to exercise living in a make believe work.

This, in many ways, sums up the reaction of the grand old party in the past three days.

The manner in which the opposition party rallied behind not-so-popular Palaniappan Chidambaram, the former Home Minister and Finance Minister, looks like it is clinging on to the hope that Chidambaram’s arrest would revive the Congress’ fortune just as it had happened in 1977 with the arrest of Indira Gandhi.

What the party does not realise is that the former minister is disliked by many within its ranks, and that the Congress today is a pale shadow of what it was in 1977-80 when Indira Gandhi lost to the Janata Party. In spite of electoral debacle in North India, the Congress had 152 Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha and a sizeable support of the party was intact.

As the Janata Party floundered, the people opted to rally behind charismatic Indira Gandhi. But presently, Prime Minister Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) still remain largely popular. The popularity grew more after the abrogation of Article 370 — which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir — a longstanding demand of the core BJP voter.

The current behaviour of the Congress can be best summed up in Karl Marx’s wry comment, “History repeats itself first time as a tragedy and second as farce”. The political philosopher in his famous essay, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, more than 160 years ago was reflecting on the assumption of dictatorial powers by Napoleon and the later emergence of his nephew Napoleon III while comparing their ascent to office.

With the special CBI court accepting the plea of premier national investigation agencies to grant four days time (till August 26), the last vestiges of seeking solace in the events of the past is lost. The trial court in the jeep case of Indira Gandhi had quashed the first information report and set her free.

All the legal eagles of the Congress — Kapil Sibal, Vivek Tankha, Salman Khurshid and Abhishek Manu Singhvi — could not rescue Chidambaram. Way back in 1977, RK Anand had been more than a match to all the luminaries Morarji Desai could field.

The Congress must realise that more than 70% of Indian voters were not even born in 1977. The party has to reinvent itself and adapt to new realities.

It may take years before the courts decide on the charges levelled against Chidambaram and his son in the case related to approvals given by Chidambaram as the head of Foreign Investment Promotion Board.