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The churning in the Congress

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By K.N. Pandita (from July 4, 2019)

Rahul Gandhi’s resignation issue in the aftermath of Congress’ second consecutive defeat in the parliamentary election was dramatized for several weeks, albeit unnecessarily. People in the country and especially several rungs of the Congress hierarchy knew he had no option but to be out. Rahul tried to win as much sympathy as he could from the younger generation in his organization which is evident was noticed when he mentioned that some senior Congress leaders were pushing their wards, obviously against his wishes because he did not like the path blocked for the younger Congressmen.

The resignation dramatics and the grand finale made it clear that there is deep dissension within the party and the elders are loath to slacken off the fist. The revolt within has been brewing for quite some time and when the debacle happened, everybody wanted to pass the buck to the more vulnerable.

The crushing defeat suffered by Congress should have taught its leaders to make some introspection and an unemotional analysis of its weak points. Essentially, the long inning for so many decades had created an impression with Congressmen that an alternative to Congress was unimaginable with the Indian voter. They became over-confident and also haughty and in many cases arrogant as well.

Congress has done a good service to the nation during the heyday of its power. The economic progress that we see today in our country is the result of Congress’ contribution and service. The Congress in power might have made some mistakes also that caused harm to the nation but after all nobody can claim to be infallible. What pushed Congress out of public favour is widespread corruption eating into its vitals. The malaise became uncontrollable because the Congress leadership itself was not without blemish. Secondly, a clique in the Congress High Command ruled the roost. Intoxicated with political and money power, it failed to realize that its main opponent, BJP, was out to play the Hindu Sanskriti card on a massive scale something that had been unwisely put under the carpet by Congress stalwarts beginning with Nehru. The labeling of Hindu Sanskriti with “Hindu terror as greater threat” was a blunder that cost Congress very direly. Of course, it is Hindu revivalism but not in negative terms so as to be equated with global jihadist movement. Congress should have done some academic exercise to understand the roots of Hindu civilization before distorting and disfiguring it only to serve its narrow political objectives. The opposition cannot be blamed for exploiting the willing or unwilling ignorance of Congress ideologues on this subject. In politics, care has to be taken against the adversary turning the other end of the stick towards you.

Congress has lost the lofty ideals of nation-building, the deft handling of delicate values of a secular democratic dispensation and the astute fairness in disallowing bureaucracy tamper with democratic institutions. Worst, the Congress in the days of its sunset, tried to manipulate the judiciary and even the Supreme Court of India, the custodian of the law and righteousness of the world’s largest democracy.

By raising a clique around the Congress High Command, which ironically is nowhere near to what is understood by “high command” in a political party, Congress degenerated into a laconically stretched-out dynastic icon with no qualms of conscience in putting a seal to the theft and loot of the national exchequer by those who were enjoying the spoils of power. Congress weakened crucial democratic institutions in the country. The scurvy treatment which Congress “High Command” meted out to great nationalists like Narasimha Rao, APJ Kalam, Sitaram Kesri and others was tantamount at cutting the very roots of democracy. Secularism was trivialized and abused and the civil society was exposed to communal sickness.

Rahul Gandhi should have addressed these deficiencies soon after Congress was miserably ousted in 2014. Its second ouster in 2019 has put a very big question mark on its survival in its traditional form. The first and perhaps the most definite outcome is that after seventy long years, the dynastic rule in independent India has come to an ignominious end and its founder’s statesmanship stands exposed to doubt and distrust.

Gravely inexperienced in statecraft and recklessly ill-advised by his cronies, Rahul conducted his election campaign during 2019 in an incredibly unsophisticated manner not behoving the President of the historical grand old party called Indian National Congress. Not even an uncouth school boy would stoop low to call the Prime Minister of India “chor”, “chowkidar”, “chai wala” etc. And while Rahul went on making himself the laughing stock by chanting this mantra, he did not even have the slightest inkling that all this was boomeranging on him.

A very decisive argument which BJP marshaled most effectively was to profile Congress as the party of the elite but adversarial to the poor, the Dalit and the backward masses of India. By stigmatizing Modi as “chaewala” he did the greatest harm to his party and to his person. This reflects the haughtiness of Congress and its adversaries made enormous gain by recounting to their audience the words of Nehru that “ I am the last British ruler of India.” It was Rahul who gave ammunition to his enemies and they used it befittingly.

Congress is going through a great churning never experienced in the past. It is breaking each day each hour. A party that could have performed a historic role while sitting in opposition and immensely strengthened Indian democracy is down and flat owing to its own intransigence. Indian voters did not forget or forgive Congress for disrupting, nay paralyzing previous Parliament’s business for several years by misusing its majority in the Rajya Sabha. People of India did not forget that the mahagathbandan was nothing but a vendetta springing from loss of political power. Against who was the grand alliance? It was against the government and the Prime Minister who had come to power through a majority vote. People of India were convinced that the Grand Alliance was against their wishes and against the democratic dispensation. They decided to uphold democracy against these divisive and disruptive powers.

The chances of revival of Congress are bleak if drastic and unprecedented changes leading to grand purge are not taken. Rahul has quit but he must also quit the hegemonic mentality which he has inherited historically. The so-called High Command has to be liquidated. Old guards must retire and leave the younger leadership alone. They should not pose as the patriarchs without whose guidance the party will commit Himalayan blunders. Above all, the party must change its mindset from considering the opposition as its enemies and Congress desiring to be the sole ruling entity in India. The test of a drastic change will be in identifying those who are patently corrupt in the party and the money they have stolen has to be brought back not through the government instrumentality but by them voluntarily as recompense to their treacherous role in looting the exchequer of the nation. India is a civilizational Leviathan and it has eighty per cent Hindu population. You have tasted the result of abusing and humiliating the majority community by claiming that you are from Dattatarya Kaul gotra. Please look inside. If these measures are not taken, the words of Modi viz. “Congress mukt Bharat” (India minus Congress), will become the gospel truth.

India – Iran relations under stress

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By K.N. Pandita (from July 2, 2019)

The US has withdrawn from the US-Iran nuclear deal arguing that the deal is imbalanced and inequitable. Iran says she has stuck to the terms of the deal but would resumption of enrichment of uranium for manufacturing nuclear device since the US has broken the deal. The US is determined to coerce Iran into abandoning enrichment of uranium. One coercive tactics used by the US is of imposing sanctions on Iranain oil supplies. She has warned major oil customers of Iran like China, India and Japan not to buy Iranian oil because it alleges Iran uses oil booty to fuel terrorism sponsored by Iranian terrorists in the Middle East.

India is on the horns of dilemma. Iran is her major supplier of oil and she is among the oil hungry developing countries. It is said that the US has promised to provide India with nuclear energy to supplement her energy requirements. It may be so, but the question is of relations with an ancient country with which India is bound by numerous ties.

With the rise of a theocratic regime in Teheran, and the type of radicalism it espoused, two countries namely the US and Saudi Kingdom came directly into the focus of its impact. Iran’s hatred for the US is rooted in how the US brazenly suppressed the populist Musaddegh-led leftist movement of 1950s. Iran felt that the US was obstructing her aspiration of nationalizing the oil industry, the backbone of her economy. The Shah played in the hands of his American handlers but only to lose his crown and the kingdom at the end of the day.

Iran’s race-based and ethno-sectarian rivalry with the Saudis is almost proverbial. She labeled the Saudi monarchs as the stooge of America that wants to impose its hegemony on the entire Gulf region. India did not find it necessary to question Khumeini’s political philosophy. However, when he pontificated that Islamists had their religious duty to replace all world religions with Islam, India looked at Islamic Iran with caution because a vast majority of Indian Muslims professes the Shia’ faith.

Theocratic Iran’s animus against Israel, a country with which she does not have a common border or a clash of commercial interests, is for two reasons. One is that Iran thinks the majority of Jewish members in the American Congress play a crucial role in consolidating American-Saudi camaraderie to the detriment of Iran. Many top American business magnates and oil barons have huge economic interests in the oil-rich Gulf. The second reason is that knowing the Arab nations are soft-paddling with the State of Israel; Iranian clergy want to tell the Muslim world that they are more Islamic than any other Islamic state despite descending from non-Semitic ethnicity.

Notwithstanding the nitty-gritty of Islamic Republic of Iran’s political and religious prognosis, India adopted the route of trade and commerce for perpetuating her ties with the important Gulf nation without getting mired into her religion-political entanglement.. Of course, India’s first priority was uninterrupted oil supplies from Iran. Iran’s trade with India exceeded US$13 billion in 2007, an 80 per cent increase in trade volume within a year. Trade conducted via third party countries such as the UAE this figure reaches $30 billion.

With crude oil imports from Iran increasing by 16.5 per cent, Iran emerged as India’s second largest oil supplier. About 40 per cent of the refined oil consumed by India is imported from Iran. In June 2009, Indian oil companies announced their plan to invest US$ 5 billion in developing an Iranian gas field in the Persian Gulf. Taking note of expanding oil trade between India and Iran, in 2010 the US officials warned New Delhi that Indian companies using the Asian Clearing Union (ACU) for financial transactions with Iran run the risk of violating a recent US law that bans international firms from doing business with Iranian banks and her oil and gas sector and that Indian companies dealing with Iran in this manner may be barred from the US. The United States criticized the ACU of insufficient transparency and suspected the assets being funneled to “blacklisted repressive organizations”.

This made the Reserve Bank of India issue instructions to the country’s lenders to stop processing current-account transactions with Iran using the ACU channel. Notwithstanding this hurdle, India objected to further American sanctions on Iran in 2010 and stated that she would continue to invest in Iranian oil and do business. An Indian foreign policy strategist dismissed the idea that a nuclear armed Iran was a threat to India. Despite increased pressure by the US and the EU and a significant reduction in oil imports from Iranian oil fields in 2012, leading political figures in India stated that they were not willing to stop trade relations altogether. To the contrary, they aimed at expanding the commodity trade with the Islamic republic.

Though the overall history of Indo-Iranian relationship is not dull and unsavory yet there have been intermittent periods of closeness as well as of distancing from each other temporarily. This is owing to the complexities arising out of shifting strategic, economic and political interests. Developing countries have gone through variegated experiences and have also learnt how to harmonize their national interests with the harshness of the realpolitik.