Can Congress be a party of Gandhi?


What Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has done quite clearly, while inaugurating a conference on Monday on grooming party spokespersons, is to lay down the law about not losing one’s bearings when sending out the party’s message to the people, and not being downright foolish.
It beggars belief to think that Indian Mujahideen (IM), the Pakistan-instigated terrorist outfit that targets this country was a response to “BJP’s communal politics”, and in particular to the violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.
Office-bearers of the Congress who gave currency to the silly idea, even if it originated from some national investigation agency, have not understood the meaning of communalism and have certainly not understood that the deep state in Pakistan has floated dozens of anti-India extremist outfits even before the violence in Gujarat was perpetrated.
In the event the ruling party has done well to distance itself from the laughable notion of the proposed origins of the IM, and cautioned its cadres and leaders from shooting their mouth, or going over the top in trying to appear original, and giving vent to their hobby horses.
Fundamentally, Gandhi has asked his party to be sober, to stick to the party’s political line and ideology, to not hit back in crude language even when there is provocation.
These are fine sentiments, especially in the election season. It is to be seen if the Congress vice-chief’s admonition will have the desired effect.
Sometimes disciplinary action may be needed to rein in the die-hards, and there are so many of them. The unguided missiles may sometimes suffer from delusions of grandeur, but they have to be told where to get off.
There is alas much vulgarity in our political discourse these days, and too much name-calling. No party stands out as being not guilty.
The personal targeting of prominent individuals, distasteful allusions to people who head public institutions and remarks aimed at hitting at the dignity of those holding high office is a relatively recent phenomenon in our polity.
Some believe it arises from the democratisation of the political landscape, from the sharpness of political competition and from thinking that indecorous language against opponents impresses voters.
None of this is true, of course. Voters make up their mind based on their experience and their assessment of parties, policies and leaders. They also disdain high decibels and abhor self-glorification and the denigration of others. The Indian electorate cannot be taken for a ride by low-brow language or thought.
Gandhi has done well to remind colleagues that the Congress is the party of Gandhi (although the Mahatma was never its primary member). A well-intended invocation of Gandhi is certainly called for.

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