It is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. Old proverb.
The Grand Old Party is shedding young and bright talent with metronomic regularity; like it’s going out of fashion. Troubling times ahead with dark clouds gathering over the horizon. Some of the more prominent faces who have been given ‘the big ignore,’ and elected to exit stage left (pursued by a bear) include the likes of Jyotiraditya Scindia and Hemanta Biswa Sarma, who have seamlessly walked into the loving and capacious arms of the ruling BJP. To the Congress Party’s predictably boring accusations of chicanery and skulduggery on BJP’s part, the latter have invariably responded by expostulating, ‘What do you want us to do if you are unable to mind your own house, and the disaffected young Turks choose to move in with us?’ That’s a tried and tested response by the ruling party, while the Congress in its chagrin, flails its arms in righteous and helpless indignation.
As we pen this missive (or depress the keys at any rate), another young Congress Turk, Sachin Pilot, finds himself at odds with his erstwhile, long-in-the-tooth chums at his party in the state of Rajasthan. The state’s Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, has even gone so far as to accuse Sachin Pilot of being young, good looking and blessed with an ability to speak good English! Case closed. Top that for damning with faint praise. Matters have come to a pretty pass, such that eminent lawyers in flowing black silk and judges donning white wigs (speaking metaphorically) are flailing their own arms in court, adducing arguments suggesting foul play on Chief Minister Gehlot’s part, while the CM’s legal counsel are not to be found wanting in the arms-flailing department in defence of the canny, veteran Chief Minister. Everything said and done, it’s clearly open season for arms flailing.
A quick aside is in order at this point. How and why did the term ‘young Turk’ come about? I am at a complete loss to ascertain the etymology of this expression. Google is parsimonious with its explanation, merely confining itself to saying the term ‘young Turk’ is employed ‘to signify a progressive, revolutionary or rebellious member of an organisation, political party, especially one agitating for political reform.’ Most of the rebels we have come across are agitated primarily in the matter of career advancement, or rather, the lack of it. Witness Sachin Pilot’s recent saga. I guess I will have to dig deeper into Turkish history to glean arcane facts, possibly about some firebrand youngster in Istanbul who set himself aflame for a noble cause. For the moment I will live with that imagined explanation of my own making.
To revert to the point at issue, while seeking your indulgence for that brief Turkish diversion, the latest Congress worker, another bright young spark (57 can be considered young by political standards), Sanjay Jha, has decided to go on the front foot in his denunciation of his party, though he fully anticipates a swift expulsion from the high command any time now. Sanjay Jha was once a cricket writer and has written a cricket anthology titled, ‘11 Triumphs, Trials and Turbulence: Indian Cricket 2003-2010.’ That being the case, playing on the front or back foot should come naturally to him and he has put his podiatric agility to good use during his still maturing political career which may, for the nonce, have ground to a screeching halt. While it is debatable how many triumphs he has experienced, there is little doubt that he is facing considerable trials and turbulence at this point in time, stemming primarily from what is being seen by his party apparatchiks as his intemperate and untimely remarks about the Congress’ ongoing troubles. For a politician who, as one of the party’s spokespersons, has been indefatigably eloquent on our television news channels on a variety of issues in defence of his party and the Gandhis, which is the same thing, his current fall from grace is a telling commentary on the Congress party’s firm resolve to root out dissent in any way, shape or form. From being removed as one of the party’s mouthpieces he has subsequently been suspended and, by his own admission, is in clear and present danger of being shunted out from the party altogether. Overly fond of the phrase ‘end of day,’ let’s hope the expression does not come back to haunt Mr. Jha.
Sanjay Jha, incidentally, is not new to controversy. In a series of gaffes over the years, he has claimed that BJP veteran, firebrand Subramanian Swamy was a CIA agent, a faux pas for which he had to issue an unqualified apology ; non-compliance would have denuded his bank balance to the tune of a few crores. Prudently, he said sorry. Further, his description of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as India’s ‘weakest PM,’ drew BJP’s intense ire and found even his own Congress party deep inside the crease on the back foot, to stay with the cricketing metaphor. He also made this strange comment that the current PM Narendra Modi ‘has white hair, but he sounds more like a blonde.’ Exactly what he meant is hard to fathom as no elaboration or reference to context was forthcoming. It’s a good job, while on the PM, that Jha has refrained from invoking the tiresome ‘56 inch chest’ analogy, as that is the registered copyright of his soon to be ex- boss, Rahul Gandhi. Clearly Jha’s contrition is now beginning to manifest itself in the form of a strong antipathy towards the Congress and, who knows, presaging yet another young Turk (there we go again) gravitating towards the leviathan BJP. After all, in politics the past is past and only the present counts. Even Sachin Pilot’s earnest denials about moving to the BJP tend to sound much like Lady Gertrude in Hamlet, ‘The lady doth protest too much.’
Consistent with his outré observations, Sanjay Jha concluded a recent piece in the Times of India, a coruscating commentary on his party’s decline and inevitable fall with the elliptical words, ‘Everything has an end, only the sausage has two.’ A master of inexplicable one-liners, our man Flint! The mind boggles as one gropes for a plausible interpretation of this aphorism. The source is evidently from the Germans, who consume more sausages than we have hot dinners – ‘Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.’ The translation has already been helpfully provided by the latest rebel in town, Sanjay J. That said, the bizarre significance of the sausage motif continues to elude me. Why sausage, what is so peculiar about its two ends, and what has all this got to do with the price of fish? Let ‘end of day’ Jha fill in the blanks.
It was never my intention to flatter Mr. Jha by devoting so much column space to him. This may be interpreted as purely symbolic of the Congress party’s ongoing contretemps with its young, ambitious and articulate brigade. A man with far greater political nous and experience, Pawan Varma, a former civil servant whose studied and scholarly observations can be read in our leading papers and seen frequently on television news channels (whenever he can get a word in edgewise, thanks to some of our obstreperous anchors), had some pearls of wisdom to impart, once again in The Times of India. This is as lustrous a pearl as any to sum up the Congress Party’s dilemma, the horns of which are now beginning to cause irreparable hurt – ‘The basic truth is that the party is now held hostage to a family that could only take its total tally from a shocking 44 to 52 over two general elections. Who will win a Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi contest is a no-brainer. The ‘grand old party’ needs a fundamental revamp, in its leadership and organisational apparatus, to create a credible opposition, which any democracy needs. Congress members must realise that to ask for change is not subversive; nor is blind endorsement of the status quo, loyalty. Frankly, it is now or never.’
We know Elvis Presley has the rights to that concluding line, but you said a mouthful there, Pawan ji.