By Ashutosh Roy
It'sa lonely road for the solitary reaper of Congress. Smt Sonia Gandhi has taken on herself to counter the BJP. Forget carpet bombing being planned by the BJP, the Congress arsenal led by the Italian-born general is virtually devoid of foot soldiers to face the BJP's onslaught in the states.
Smt Gandhi'sroad shows, which are often being dubbed talk shows, have been moving from state to state. Unlike BJP, none of the central Congress leaders are allowed or rather can be seen hopping from one state to another. The entire outfit is now looking at Smt Gandhi. The Congress camp had argued that unlike Smt Gandhi, almost all the central Congress leaders lacked national appeal. Even the reach of its stalwarts like Ashok Ghelot, Digvijay Singh, Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee are confined to the respective states. Devoid of any second line, the Congress today lacks mass leaders like Venkaiah Naidu, Narendra Modi, Uma Bharati, Pramod Mahajan, Vasund-hara Raje, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. If Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister, Shri L.K. Advani, campaig-ned in one corner of the country, the second line with its appeal and oratori-cal skill spread out in other parts. Congress leader, Salman Khurshid, might have the required polish to appeal to the English-speaking urban pop-ulation, but he lacks the grit, organisational skill and zeal to work at the grassroot level like BJP'sMukhtar Abbas Naqvi. Leader of this rag tag outfit, Smt Gandhi, therefore has no other option but to move on her own and occasionally take the help of her children to redeem the party.
Incidentally, if one looks at Congress history, from the time of Indira Gandhi, there has never been any second line worth mentioning. But then Indira Gandhi had her own advantages and she was like a giant in the national scenario. Sonia Gandhi, who aped her mother-in-law in her attire, lacks her charisma, political acumen and being from a distant land has not been able to feel the pulse of the nation and people of India. Driven by insecurity, Smt Gandhi has surrounded herself with leaders, who never ever won a Lok Sabha election barring a few. Toeing the family line, Smt Gandhi is also dependent on her children to carry forward the Congress. Priyanka-Rahul, the duo would replace her, once the Congress is routed in the forthcoming polls. The Congress leaders, who are not willing to accept each other would throng the Gandhi family for survival.
The Congress, as someone had said, is like the Titanic at the last stage, sinking rapidly. But unlike the story of Titanic, the captain of the Congress ship, has steered the vessel towards the iceberg. Hit by a death-wish, the blind crew of the Congress vessel, continue to latch on to their steward and her family.
Now for some hard facts. Apart from not getting any leader to win votes, the party was also not getting much of the leaders to contest on the Congress tickets, particularly from the BJP strongholds. It was learnt that an active Congress leader from Indore who had been asking for a Lok Sabha nomination for the past few elections, never could make it to the list. This time the scenario altered. The Congress approached the leader to contest from Indore. Knowing fully well that defeat was certain, the particular leader has now come up with a condition. He is willing to accept party nomination, only if it promised that he would be re-nominated during the next general election. The sinking Congress is thinking.
The Congress heavyweight, Motilal Vohra, is not willing to contest from Chhattisgarh, Smt Ambika Soni is not willing to try her luck from Hoshiarpur and same is the story of Manmohan Singh, who rejected a ticket from Punjab on health ground. Pranab Mukherjee has reportedly been reluctant to accept a ticket from Jangipur in West Bengal. Shri Mukherjee, who has never won a single Lok Sabha election, is now busy hobnobbing with CPI(M) leaders in the state, to make his berth secure. After not being able to find a single leader to contest against Trinamul Congress supremo, Ms Mamata Banerjee, the Congress sought the help of socialite, beauty queen and actress Nafisa Ali. If Smt Ali manages to save her deposit, it would be one of her greatest political achievements?the feeling runs in Congress. The Congress first approached Shankersinh Vaghela to face Deputy Prime Minister, Shri L.K.Advani at Gandhinagar in Gujarat. Vaghela was in no mood to lose his deposit. The backroom boy and Congress? Gujarat strategist, Ahmed Patel is also against exposing himself in public from the state.
Speaking of Patel, an article in a leading national daily read, ?There are only two kinds of Congressmen today: those on this or that side of Ahmed Patel, who controls access to 10 Janpath.? The article went on to state, ?Small wonder then, that this 54-year-old political survivor, who grew up in a village near Ankleshwar, which knows him as Babu Patel, never returned home after tasting politics in Delhi in 1977, when he first became an MP. Now a member of Central Election Committee and the political secretary of Madam, Patel is the guy every Congress ticket seeker has to reckon with. In Gujarat his detractors blame him for all the problems that beset the Congress.?
The hardcore Congress spokesman, Jaipal Reddy has left to contest from Andhra Pradesh, leaving the job to Kapil Sibal, who apparently is rapidly running out of ideas to counter the BJP. It was learnt that an internal assessment by the Congress party has given the outfit a total number of 130 seats. Speculation is also rife that the party would field either Priyanka or Rahul, only if it is certain to cross at least 150 seats. So far there has not been any decision to field the heirs to the throne!