There is no denying the element of schadenfreude among the many detractors of the Congress after the party’s abysmal performance in the Lok Sabha elections. And while there ought to be no pride in kicking someone when they are down, India’s oldest political party isn’t helping its own cause by giving the silent treatment to the media.
The party leadership’s decision not to have its spokespersons appear on TV news debates for one month does, arguably, make strategic sense. As it picks up the pieces of yet another electoral rout and contemplates assigning blame, or shielding people from it, it may be best to do so without its leaders making, or being provoked to make, any untoward public statements. But the manner in which the maun vrat has been announced, and is being imposed, is a tactical error. First, as anyone who has ever thrown a tantrum — or been at the receiving end of one — will tell you, the “silent treatment” loses much of its edge when no one’s actually talking to you. In the wall-to-wall coverage following the BJP-led NDA’s massive win, there appears to be little space — except among mean detractors and disappointed supporters — for what the Congress wants to say. Second, the request by the Congress media cell to channels not to invite its spokespersons to their shows betrays a lack of faith in its own. Why the advisory to journalists if Congressmen know this is a time to be circumspect?
The reason for keeping mum may be neither strategic nor tactical. India’s Grand Old Party has been most visibly in crisis since 2014, and the 2019 verdict has provided no hope of a revival, no galaxy of new leaders that can catapult the party to future success. Perhaps the imposed month-long silence of its leaders is a means to stoically contemplate these questions. Or maybe, Congressmen just have nothing to say.