At 74, P Chidambaram was fading quietly into the limelight. He had had a checkered career, first as finance minister, then as home minister, whence he had often clashed with the grand old doyen of Indian politics, Pranab Mukherjee (the arrogance of PC!) and made his legendary gaffe on granting Telangana.
Then he got put in jail and slept on one hard bed after another. He seems to have developed a spine, and a voice. Now he wants to do a Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and travel to Kashmir. He cannot stop railing against on this issue, that issue, every issue. The Congress may have found its new president.
Except that the interim president, Sonia Gandhi, looks hale and hearty (touch wood!), none the worse for any wear and tear. The former prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is writing one scathing editorial after another. What has come over the grand old party? Its old were supposed to be its dead wood, now they seem to be the wood keeping the party afloat.
Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot–the young turks–all seem to be sulking and absent from any meaningful debate. Rahul was against the alliance with the Sena, and with his Savarkar jibe, seems intent on jeopardizing it. But his mother, guided by olden-goldies like Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge, Prithviraj Chavan, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, went for it and put the Congress in pole position in Maharashtra.
Where were all these gentleman from 2009 to 2014, when the UPA government careened? From 2014 to 2019, they seemed shellshocked by Modi. The brave Kapil Sibals and Ghulam Nabhi Azads and Anand Sharma all seem to have now developed courage in the face of Modi and Shah. Perhaps the prospect of being 10 years in the wilderness is enough to embolden anyone.
Yes, she, Priyanka Gandhi, is the solitary young exception. Her mother seems to have finally uncaged her little tigress. She is here, she is there, she is everywhere. Yes, the BJP is taken aback by the rearguard action of the Congress’s old guard, but it is her that they fear the most. Expect the demolition job soon.
Even the banal Congress ministers, the Kamal Naths and the Ashok Gehlots, they who are so reviled by the young turks, are shedding their banality. No CAB (or is it CAA–when does an act become a law so it can be called CAL?) or NRC or anything that the BJP has propounded in their states. No Scindia or Pilot too if only that were possible.
Why does Sonia Gandhi call herself interim president? Her party’s web site does not mention the word interim. Who is she being interim for? Rahul Gandhi? Now come on, we have tried that experiment before. Perhaps Rahul should cross 70 before he can take over. And Sonia, she should call herself not just the Congress’s longest president, but its lifelong president.
NDA3 seems to be falling the pattern of UPA2. The second term always seems to come apart at the seams and that too very early. Remember how Sonia Gandhi hauled Manmohan Singh over the coals over the Sharm El Sheikh agreement. And before you knew it, one scam after another overtook UPA2. NDA3 too seems to have started with all fire and fury. 370, Chidambaram, Maharashtra, removal of SPG security, CAA, NRC, Jharkhand, it seems to be a thrill-a-minute government.
I guess it needed more than minute thrills for the Congress’s old guard to be woken up from their slumber. And hopefully they have woken up not just minutely. Because, beware they must, the empire will strike back.