Herald View: What you see and what you get

Ghulam Nabi Azad has been around long enough to see that the Congress, even when it falters, manages to do better by its leaders than the people he is apparently flirting with

Herald View: What you see and what you get

Herald View

Ghulam Nabi Azad’s choreographed, slow-motion departure from the Congress was good OTT material. It played out over four or five seasons, and political observers will remember some moments of high drama. (Recall two weepy leaders in Parliament, for one).

If you are naïve enough to cling to the notion that the purpose of politics is to mould policy for public good, you might also seek refuge in the aphorism that ‘politics is too serious a business to be left to politicians’.

When politics is no longer about the public good, when it’s not about public service but about the perks of office, when it’s not about your loyalty to ideals but about your career track, when you carp and whinge if an office you covet is not yours for the taking, when your allegiance is to the highest bidder, when it’s okay to do business with parties who will go to any length to win elections, by hook or by crook – mainly the latter– or overturn elected governments when they couldn’t win… we shouldn’t be surprised.

Before the last Gujarat election, the Prime Minister floated a conspiracy theory about a dinner meeting in Delhi featuring former prime minister Manmohan Singh and the then Pakistan High Commissioner, where they allegedly discussed how to topple his government. Late Arun Jaitley apologised in Parliament later.

Union home minister Amit Shah once boasted to party workers that the BJP had acquired the capacity to make anything, including lies, go viral. The BJP has made no secret of its ambition to redraw our Constitution. It has promoted bigotry on a scale never seen before. Over the past eight years, while converting governance into an exercise in myth-making and memorialising (chosen heroes only), and grandstanding and promising the moon (Rs 15 lakh in every account, doubling farmers income by 2022…that list is endless), it has also systematically emasculated all counter-balancing democratic institutions, which act as its puppets. A tactical doublespeak (‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’) in the early days of power has now made way for a brazen majoritarianism.

Azad says his differences with the Congress were not ideological, that his faith in secularism is unshaken and that in J&K, he won’t add a single vote to the BJP, nor the BJP to him. Why, then, did he time his exit so precisely, with plans all ready to float his own party?

Surely, canny Azad has figured out whose prospects he will damage when J&K goes to poll, and who might reward him for the favour. If the BJP saw in him a worthy candidate for a Padma Bhushan, it might even do better. We’ll see.

Azad’s five-page letter of resignation, in which he labours to explain why he quit, also betrays his deep sense of entitlement. Even after disenchantment had set in, Azad persisted. He nursed his wounds. People might have imagined a Congressman committed to the old secular, democratic, pluralist ideals of the party, who wanted to set his house in order, who wouldn’t abandon ship when the sea looked rough.

The veneer began to peel when Azad was denied another term in the Rajya Sabha. The drift from the party was in full view when he accepted the Padma Bhushan award, conferred upon him by this government. It was too obvious an investment in the man.

Azad has been around long enough to see that the Congress, even when it falters, manages to do better by its leaders than the people he is apparently flirting with. But he is a seasoned politician and he has a sense of timing. He is not averse to a ride with people who can promise a bridge even when there is no river.

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