No government more deserved to be dumped in history’s dustbin than the one just thrown out by India’s voters. But the only people who seem not to know this are that government’s former ministers. I have in the past week run into these newly jobless politicians in this city’s fine restaurants and celebrated drawing rooms and, to a man, they exhibited bitterness and incomprehension. The election results have taken them so totally by surprise that they find it hard to conceal their hatred of Narendra Modi or their anger about having to move out of the rarefied environs of Lutyens Delhi. So conversations usually go something like this. ‘You think this lot can do better than we did? Well, you have no idea what you’re talking about. We did a really good job and if we couldn’t win, it’s not our fault.’
More often than not, the ex-minister who says this sort of thing has not even managed to win his own seat, so the bitterness runs deep. I try in my usual gentle way to explain what went wrong, but this is interpreted as an attempt to provoke so I end up being accused of ‘hating’ Sonia Gandhi and ‘promoting’ Narendra Modi. And a political discussion becomes impossible. But it is one that the Congress needs to have, if not publicly, then at least with its ‘high command’, so as a political pundit who correctly predicted what has come to be, I feel emboldened to give some free advice.
India needs a strong, vigilant opposition party as much as it needs an effective government, so the Congress needs to make a serious effort to rise from the ashes of its worst-ever defeat. This will not happen if men and women who till yesterday were holders of high office continue behaving like petulant schoolchildren. They must scrutinise their record of the past decade with integrity and without prejudice, and if they do this, they will realise that the record is a dismal one.
Sonia Gandhi placed at the highest levels of government people she chose on grounds of loyalty and not merit, so vital ministries like Defence and Home were in the hands of family retainers. External Affairs was in the hands of a minister so oblivious of external affairs that he once read a speech in the UN General Assembly that was written for Portugal’s foreign minister. While we delve for a moment into history, let us remember the sickening helplessness exhibited by every senior Congress leader after the worst terrorist act committed on Indian soil. Of 26/11 let us also remember that Digvijaya Singh released a book that described it as an RSS conspiracy and that Rahul Gandhi told an American ambassador that he was more worried about continued…