A small news item from Raipur in an English daily says that a Union Minister of State in the Manmohan Singh Government is ready to sweep the floor of the Congress office if Sonia Gandhi asks him to do so. The minister concerned is Charandas Mahant holding the charge of Agriculture and Food Processing. In the latest reshuffle of office bearers of the Congress and Union Ministers, Mahant has been given additional charge of Working President of the Chhatisgarh Congress Committee.
“I am ready to pick up broom and sweep the floor of the Congress Office if Soniaji asks me to do so”, this is what the Minister said in response to a question from reporters in Raipur on Monday.
There are many others in the Congress Party who seldom hesitate in saying that they are ‘humble servants’ of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. This is the order of the Party affairs in the Congress whose leaders swear day in and day out that their Party is truly a democratic organization where Party workers and leaders have the right to dissent.
It reminds me of the years when Indira Gandhi was ruling the country. Giani Zail Singh was brought from Punjab to the Centre as Union Home Minister in 1980s. And from Home Minister he was the Congress nominee for President of India. He subsequently occupied the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He too in the moment of gratitude to his leader had said that leave aside my shifting from the Punjab scene to New Delhi as a Minister and from there to Rashtrapati Bhavan, I would be too happy to sweep the floor with a broom if asked to do so by Indiraji. People still remember the famous quote of Dev IKant Barooah, the then Congress President who had said, “India is Indira and Indira is India”.
Nothing has changed since then. Congressmen with ability to pick up broom rise in the hierarchy of power. Look at the latest reshuffle in the government. Oscar Fernandes who was considered useless in the government four years ago and dropped from the ministry by the same government returns as a Cabinet Minister. Not that the Prime Minister has suddenly discovered Oscar’s talent to induct him in the government but the signal came from 10, Janpath that Oscar be rewarded for his loyalty to the family. Another man Sisram Ola who too was dumped by the Prime Minister four years ago is back again as Cabinet Minister. Others who found their berths in the government owe it to their readiness to pick up broom and sweep the floor of leaders.
Today, the Congress and its fellow travelers are raising the bogey of autocratic style of functioning of Narendra Modi saying that there is no democracy in the BJP. Had there been no democracy in the BJP, Nitin Gadkari would have remained the Party President. Had the BJP run its affairs without democratic values, Rajnath Singh would not have been elected as the new President of the Party. BJP runs its affairs with broader consensus and consultations. Narendra Modi was given the charge of the elections campaign committee only after majority in the Party favoured it. By the same token, the opinion of the senior leader like L K Advani was not entertained when it came to elevating Modi because the BJP honours majority view before taking any decision.
In sharp contrast, the Congress is a party of nominations. Whether it has to appoint or dismiss a Pradesh Congress Committee chief, the leadership never takes opinion of its workers or state leaders. It simply issues ‘firman’ (order) to impose its decision on the Party.
Those who follow political course would remember that Andhra Pradesh chief minister T Anjiah was unceremoniously removed from office just because he had failed to lay a red carpet welcome to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 at Hyderabad Airport. This is the (un) democratic style of functioning of the Congress Party!
~ R. K. Sinha