BY VIJAY PHANSHIKAR
And That Matters
New Delhi, March 14 (The Hitavada Delhi Bureau): In an embarrassment to the Congress, Tom Vadakkan, once seen as a key aide of Sonia Gandhi, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday, saying he was “deeply hurt” over the Opposition party’s stand post-Pulwama terror strike, and that his decision was “not about ideology but patriotism”.
Vadakkan joined the BJP in the presence of Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and later met its President Amit Shah, said, ... “the attack by Pakistani terrorists on our land and the reaction by my party was sad indeed. It hurt me deeply when the integrity of the Armed Forces was questioned. ... If a party takes a position which is against the country, then I had no other option but to leave it”, the 60-year-old leader told Reporters.
POLITICS apart, but Mr. Tom Vadakkan has made his point well. It was only natural that the Congress party did not lose a single minute in mounting a counter-attack on the man who, until yesterday, was a close confidant of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi for the past 20 years. But as he left his political abode of two decades, the man expressed his sense of deep hurt and underlined that his decision was made on the foundation of patriotism and not on ideology. That makes a great sense and point. It is necessary for the Congress party to reconsider the stand it has taken on issues as sensitive as national security, though its leadership is less likely to do so.
No matter what Congress President Mr. Rahul Gandhi and his sister and newly-appointed General Secretary Mrs. Priyanka Vadra say or do in response to Mr. Vadakkan’s decision, the common people realise that the present leadership of the country’s oldest party has lost touch with its history and tradition. In all likelihood, they have never devoted any time to study the truth of history.
It was not without reason that the common Indians regarded the Congress as truly a people’s own party. Its leaders of the past might have made mistakes. They might have faltered on occasions. Some of them might not have been able to grasp the importance of a given moment in the overall scheme of things. Yet, through one-and-a-quarter centuries of history, the party really became a true people’s voice on all matters. And this was so because its leaders looked at the issues not as electoral matters but as something essential to national and democratic discourse.
The same cannot be said of the current leadership of the party. In the past five years since the loss of power, the Congress leadership has spent itself by mounting senseless criticism on Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi in particular and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance in general. Let us not raise the issue of the ugly epithet Mr. Rahul Gandhi has given to Mr. Narendra Modi -- Chowkidar Chor Hai. But it is our bounden duty to remind Mr. Gandhi that his utterances have hurt the feelings not just of the common man, but also of an inner-ring leader like Mr. Tom Vadakkan.
If Mr. Rahul Gandhi spends some time in talking to common people and really listening to their opinions with respect, then he will arrive at an invariable conclusion that his statements have hurt truly the sentiments of the common people who are dumb-struck that someone can question the integrity of the Armed Forces when terrorists target not just an Army convoy but also the whole country through its symbolism. The common people also are shell-shocked that someone can ever raise doubts about the integrity of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the success of its Balakot airstrike. They do not understand why somebody is so hell bent on accusing the Government of bad handling of every issue of national importance.
It is in this context that we have to look at the statement of emotional hurt made by Mr. Tom Vadakkan whose contribution to the Congress organisation has often been praised. Mr. Vadakkan makes a pertinent point -- that his sense of patriotism was deeply hurt when his party started questioning the integrity of the Armed Forces and directly pushed the ‘failure’ theory.
No matter what kind of counter-argument Congress party offers in response to Mr. Vadakkan’s statements, but it is obvious that its reaction would carry no substance. In fact. right in the face of the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, no party with its senses intact would indulge in raising of such issues. But blinded as it is by rage that its chances of winning elections are only minimal, the Congress leadership has refused to see sense or listen to wise counsel. Mr. Vadakkan’s sense of hurt comes from this reality.
Of course, Mr. Vadakkan has also talked of how the Congress party followed a ‘use-and-throw- policy. In response, the Congress party may describe him to be a disgruntled leader who was not rewarded suitably. But factually, Mr. Vadakkan’s entire political career was spent on the sidelines or lobby of direct action. He might have nursed certain ambition for himself. But it is clear that the leadership seemed to have ignored his counsel on post-Pulwama situation. In the current scheme of things, the Congress leadership does not have time and inclination to think calmly and deeply.
Let alone what Mr. Tom Vadakkan has to say, the whole country finds itself distressed with the brazen expression of doubt about the integrity of the Armed Forces or any of the State institutions or agencies that includes even the judiciary. What happens by way of electoral outcome may form one part of the story, but the bigger part is the sense of hurt the statements of Congress leadership are causing to people.
And that matters.