Congress in an Aquarium

In the third and finally instalment on the Indian polity on the eve of elections, Amit Sengupta spotlights the Congress party, the ostrich in the sand.


The Congress party is like a self-centric amoebic creature in an abstract aquarium floating in a flat, infinite quagmire. The whole world can see it, but it refuses to see itself.

Indeed, in its stagnating jelly fish like sustained stasis, it seemingly has neither a self consciousness of its fated suspension of disbelief, nor does it have any desire to change its shape, sensibility or contour. It moves from stasis to stasis, like crisis to crisis, with eyes fully shut, unable to multiply, unable to grow, incapable of retrospection or introspection, destined to remain just what it is, a selfish amoebic jelly – half-flesh and half-body, hanging neither here nor there, cut-off from the bitter realism of its own history, its present continuous, or its uncanny future, trapped in so many kaleidoscopes of sizzling scams, refusing to act or react.

So much so, self-denial itself has become a permanent state of atrophy, a paralysis of both policy and perspective, singularly bereft of any collective political commitment or conscience, any ideological and ethical moorings. It is bereft of even an iota of the struggles and sacrifices of the protracted freedom movement – of the revolutionary movement led by Bhagat Singh and Ashfaqullah Khan, among all the eternally forgotten others – or even Gandhi’s stoic values.  It is even bereft of Nehru’s dogged secular pluralism, despite the Nehru-Gandhi Family remaining as its only anchor and scaffolding. They are a parasite leeching on the Family like a public spectacle, but they can neither perform nor penetrate, trapped in the failed circus of its own relentless failures. And if the Family withdraws, or is unable to connect to the vast and fragmented electoral machine of an invisible, gigantic creature like India, what will happen to this blind aquarium on tottering stilts?

While the ‘honest’ and ‘apolitical’ prime minister hardly sets its foot on Planet India, least of all in the interiors of its wounded body and condemned conscience, while he remains solely obsessed and focussed on his trickle-down theory of neo-liberal market fundamentalism, pampering the millionaire and billionaire fat cats of big business, the Congress party chooses to walk upon the dirty waters riding on the frail shoulders of a ‘reluctant inheritor’, whose personal decency, absence of hard political training, and troubled half-shaven face, tells more than it hides.

Indeed, if there is a policy paralysis, the great economist who is the PM, should be the first to explain the failure of this dogmatic paradigm. If this neo-liberal formula is becoming botched and distorted, and if the pampered fat cats have become so impatient and cold-blooded, then, can’t he and his closest buddies see the sinister signs in the ominous sky? If this is the corporate formula which has compelled a big chunk of these corporates to now back a muscle-flexing, megalomaniac monster in the looming spectre of fascism, then, is it not a historic fact that neo-liberalism in India is becoming a direct and dynamic catalyst of the ideology of neo-Nazism which is stalking the land?

So, is it not the PM’s singularly botched up political economy which is leading a fascist right on to the red carpet towards the Red Fort in Delhi? And if the Congress party can’t see it, wallowing as it is in self pity and stagnation in its cocooned anti-catharsis, who will show them the damned mirror?

Indeed, if economists, especially those obsessed with market fundamentalism, have little sense or understanding of politics, history, ideology, social sciences, literature, or the aesthetics of arts and culture, this is a transparent example of a tunnel vision posing as a grand vision of the great growth story of a tragic nation where the vast underbelly still remains floating in the truncated hope of physical and social salvation. For instance, what is the use of SEZs, or nuclear energy, or the vast, ravaged land and forests destroyed by mining, if the wheels of under-employment, farmers’ suicides, or sustained poverty and malnourishment stalks the land – all the while with fascists promising to usher in an instant nirvana?

Ten years of official rule in Delhi by the Congress party, and they still can’t even book a top IB official who has been directly shown to be involved in the fake encounters in Gujarat, especially the fake encounters of Ishrat Jahan and three others.

Every indication on the ground tells you that they don’t give a damn. They neither care for the ossified, tottering, clueless government in eternal fall, nor the rudderless party, nor the future of India. They seem to have already lost the battle in the top most layers of the power apparatus, as much as on the ground in the remotest parts of India.

This is reflected best in UP, the electoral epicentre, where the fascists want to gain their numbers – from a measly count of ten MPs to an overwhelming majority. It is reflected across the political terrain – from the fully informed, absolutely anticipated, engineered riots, killings, and rapes in Muzaffarnagar and its western UP villages, where thousands of Muslims are still languishing in open-air camps, and where the virtual, diabolical divide and polarisation at the demographic grassroots between communities advantages the BJP.  All of this is planned openly and meticulously by the sinister masterminds of Amit Shah and the RSS/VHP. This is as much reflected in the way they have been so alarmingly slow in responding to all the communal carnage and fake encounter cases in Gujarat, despite repeated and stunning evidence from across all quarters, including government agencies.

Ten years of official rule in Delhi by the Congress party, and they still can’t even book a top IB official who has been directly shown to be involved in the fake encounters in Gujarat, especially the fake encounters of Ishrat Jahan and three others. While Amit Shah struts around all over UP communally polarising the countryside along with the multiple fronts of the Sangh Parivar, with tacit help from Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and its sinister communal underpinnings, all that the Congress now has is a new godman called Shobhan Sarkar who is dreaming of 1000 to 20,000 tonnes of gold under miscellaneous temples. How many temples and mosques will they dig up to make India a secular, democratic, modern nation?

While Feku’s crude, chest-thumping rallies are covered live across all the media channels, all of them salivating in this highest ethical standards of journalism, drumming up the fascist monologue with fake statistics of development and stunningly fake claims, all of them proven bogus, Rahul Gandhi’s ‘decent’ rhetoric in his weak rallies invoking the perennial sentimental cliché of motherhood and ‘Mother India’ seems totally lost in the drum beats of the rabble rousers.

The Congress, still gloating in the past glories of 2004 and 2009, refuses to see the damage which the BJP and NDA inflicted on the body-politic and Indian society during its bad faith regime. While war cries across the Pakistan border continued with ‘Operation Parakaram’ endlessly, and fake encounters, pogroms and ethnic cleansing were glorified as ‘successful projects’, and even while the saffronisation of education worked in synthesis with the penetration of the Sangh Parivar across institutions and agencies, and nooks and corners of the civil society, it was the concerted and collective effort of the entire secular spectrum which defeated the fascists. But the Congress party does not care; for them, there is no scam in the ashes of their coal dust or CWG dust or 2G spectrum dust, or even Robert Vadra dust. Like a bloated jelly fish, they move from one stasis to another stasis, gloating in the suspension of self belief.

A young Congress insider, working in an alleged ‘war room’ of the party, was informed that the Congress has decided to lose the elections, “for the time being”. To the fact that Feku does not have the numbers, and a wobbly third front would collapse eventually, sooner than later, he cynically replied, “What if Feku rides the bandwagon of complicit allies and opportunist ‘socialist rump’ turn-coats like Nitish Kumar, who sat inside the BJP’s lap for 17 years despite the Gujarat carnage, etc, and manages to capture Delhi? In that case, forget to come back to power for the next 20 years.”

In that case, it will be yet another beginning of the end. It will be further the Hindutva redux of the relentless, breathless, long-term civilisational agenda of ‘one-culture, one nation, one religion’ that the RSS has pushed, Modi as their monster and mascot. In this new dictatorship of the Hindu rashtra, all that will remain, finally, are ravaged memories of Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas. Go across the ravaged, ghettoised, polarised template of Gujarat, where the Muslims have been reduced to third class citizens, or the recent bloody sugar cane fields of western UP, and you will see Tamas once again. Like a stark documentary.

The line in blood has been drawn on the ground. But, as we can see so clearly see, through the stagnating waters of the aquarium’s cracked mirror – the Congress doesn’t give a damn.

Amit Sengupta started journalism when he was 19, even while he was working in the relief camps as a student of JNU after the State sponsored genocide of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984. Since then, he has been an independent president of the JNU Students' Union, writer, activist and editor, closely involved with multiple people's movements and conflict zones in contemporary India. He was Executive Editor, Hardnews magazine, South Asian partner of Le Monde Diplomatique, Paris. He has earlier worked as a senior editor and journalist with Tehelka, Outlook, The Hindustan Times, Asian Age, The Pioneer, The Economic Times and Financial Chronicle. Till recently he has been a professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.

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