The underminer

Digvijay Singh declares victory for himself,in his attack on Chidambaram...

Written by The Indian Express | Published: July 19, 2010 4:14:56 am

I’m liberal,” declares a character in one of Robert Frost’s poems,and explains:

“I mean so altruistically moral/

I never take my own side in a quarrel.” That pretty much sums up Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh,as he justifies his open criticism of Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s “intellectual arrogance” and insensitivity towards the wretched context that produces Naxalism. Singh’s April broadside against the home minister was widely seen as undermining his executive control at a moment when he needs all the support and political capital he can get to tackle the insurgency. But now Singh defends his stand,providing as evidence “support” from the party leadership — “You have seen the article in Congress Sandesh (Sonia Gandhi’s letter to the party) and the statement by the prime minister in Parliament. That should make things clear,” he said,adding that now,the “socio-economic agenda has been brought out.”

Even as Singh expresses satisfaction at a hatchet job well done,he seems to puzzlingly think that it took his personal intervention to bring attention to the “root cause” of Maoist trouble. Or that strengthening the forest,mining and land acquisition act or panchayat extension in scheduled areas are light-bulb innovations that everyone but he is oblivious to. After he got away with his political indiscretion,Singh’s blindingly obvious bromides are now laced with the sense of being (or being seen as) the party’s line-setter on these matters. Lest anyone accuse him of further flame-throwing at his own colleague,Singh added that he approved of Chidambaram’s decision to have a unified command for the Naxal-affected states,but “the real issue is you have to win people’s hearts.”

It has once again put the Congress’s worst tendencies on display,the attempt to signal an ideological wedge between the party and the Manmohan Singh government,one that lets the party coast on empty promises while offloading resentment on one or two individuals. The UPA is now becoming an arena for individual grandstanding,which corrodes its collective credibility. Within parties and governments,criticism should display a sense of stake,certainly not the casual way Singh laughs at being an “opposition leader in the UPA.”

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