Arun Jaitley
A file image of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley| Facebook
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Does it behove a national party to take such fringe positions on issues like India’s geographical integrity, EVMs, or even the CJI’s impeachment?

The Congress was regarded as the grand old party of Indian politics. For five decades after Independence, it dominated the political centre-stage of India. Its ouster from power, either from the Centre or states, was considered an exception. Its evolution witnessed the party recede from a conventional political party to a dynastic organisation. It became a crowd around a family. A challenge which dynastic organisations face is that their popular appeal or acceptability is co-existent with the current generation of the dynasty. The fact that the Congress has been reduced to a two-digit party and is being ousted from state after state demonstrates the non-acceptability of its current leadership.

However, the most alarming aspect of the party has been that from a grand old party which occupied centre-stage, it is being pushed to the fringe. It is not only electoral arithmetic where it occupies the fringe position, but also in terms of the position it adopts on several mainstream issues.

When its current president, along with certain Left party leaders, visited the Jawaharlal Nehru University when the slogans of “Tukde Tukde” threatening India’s geographical integrity were raised, I had questioned its leadership in a parliamentary debate — whether earlier leaders would have ever allowed a Congress member to identify itself with a national disintegration campaign. But its current leader preferred a fringe position. On the use of technology, he opposes EVMs and wants to go back to ballot papers. On digitisation, he prefers cash over the digital mode of transaction, and having pioneered the original idea of a unique identity number, he has allowed his party to question it both in Parliament and in the courts. On economic reforms, the party takes a position hostile to any reform measure and wants to go back to retrograde policies. The leader has no qualms of releasing his photographs with a convicted ally whom he had once opposed. The fringe party, having got a miniscule number of votes in Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections, celebrates the victory of the Samajwadi Party.

The latest attack on the judiciary

The Congress party’s impeachment motion against the Chief Justice of India was wholly misconceived. It was poorly drafted and lacked in substance. Many of its traditional allies were not willing to take on this confrontation with the judicial institutions. Finding a divided court, the Congress wanted to fish in troubled waters. If the motion for impeachment was unsustainable, the writ petition challenging the order of the Chairman, Rajya Sabha, was unarguable. The rejection of a motion by the Speaker or the Chairman is a part of the legislative process. It was a well-reasoned order. The rulings of the Chair on whether to admit a motion or otherwise are not subject to judicial review. But wanting to fish in troubled waters, the Congress conceived of a strategy to chose a court of its choice for mentioning for constitution of the bench to hear the matter, so that an unarguable matter could be arguable before a more receptive court. The Congress party was looking for a friendly pitch to bowl on.

The judgment in the unfortunate death of judge Loya has already exposed the false hallucination of the Congress party, where it concocted the unnatural death theory. It now wanted a sword to hang over the Chief Justice, and hence, the Apex Court. Its efforts of “forum shopping” having failed, it refused to argue its unarguable case on merits.

Does it behove a national party to deviate from the mainstream and take such fringe positions? Fringe organisations have no hope of ever coming to power. They can, therefore, afford to take positions which they will never have to implement. But can a party having ruled India for such a long tenure, push itself to take fringe positions one after the other? This, in reality, is the price which each Congressman will pay, because its leader has decided that fringe positions are better than the mainstream one. The Congressmen in Karnataka will be the immediate victims.

This post was originally published as a note on the author’s Facebook page.

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