Thursday, August 7, 2014

Congress in disarray – the sniping begins

Just three months after its crushing defeat at the polls, India’s once mighty Congress Party is showing signs of stress, with a former senior Minister attacking the leadership.

Natwar Singh, who was forced to resign as Minister for External Affairs in 2005 after the Voicker inquiry into the Iraqi oil for food scandal accused him of corruption, used an interview in connection with his soon-to-be launched autobiography to lash out at Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Long claiming Gandhi did not do enough to support him at the time of the inquiry and that he had been made a scapegoat for other’s misdeeds, Singh said her behaviour “towards a person who had been loyal to her family for 45 years”, showed what a ruthless person she was.

Claiming that Gandhi had wanted to be Prime Minister only to be talked out of it by her son, Rahul Gandhi, Singh said she exercised “total control” over the Congress Party.

And in a direct reference to her Italian origins Singh said in reply to a question: “Some part of her is not Indian”.

However, he said she was still a better politician than her husband and assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv who “depended wholly on a team of ignoramuses with inflated egos”.

The fact Sonia Gandhi was born outside India has been the subject of sniping from her political foes from time to time, but never from within Congress, where Nehru-Gandhi family members are considered political gods.

However that has been called into question after the election debacle, which reduced Congress to a rump of less than 60 seats in the Lok Sabha (Parliament). Some commentators have blamed the loss on an inept performance from Rahul Gandhi, the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, who proved to be no match for his opponent, Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Singh has long been considered an embittered outsider and for the moment at least, senior Congress figures have closed ranks against him. Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Singh was simply trying to generate publicity for his forthcoming book.

“It is unfortunate that a person who rose to occupy a top post…misuses and distorts facts and publishes baseless things,” Singhvi said.   

Whether this loyalty survives five years – and quite possibly longer - in the political wilderness is an interesting, but as yet unanswered question in Indian politics.


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