Riding high on its victory in the Karnataka Assembly elections, and with its conscience eased after the exit of Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal from the Union Cabinet, the Congress on Wednesday appeared to have decided to adopt an aggressive posture in the run-up to the 2014 general election, which will be preceded, at the end of this year, by the Assembly polls in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
So, even as Manmohan Singh was filing his papers in Guwahati for another term in the Rajya Sabha, on the streets of the national capital, militant members of the Youth Congress were out in force, standing outside the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters, shouting slogans against the principal Opposition for its criticism of the Prime Minister.
The moment they chose coincided with a press conference going on inside. It was being addressed by party president Rajnath Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and Rajasthan leader Vasundhara Raje, in defence of Gulab Chand Kataria, against whom the CBI has registered a charge sheet in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh murder case.
Overnight, at traffic roundabouts in the vicinity in Lutyens’ Delhi, two sets of Youth Congress posters had sprung up. From the first one, the triumvirate — Dr. Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi — beamed at passers-by, the strap line reading: Congress ne yeh thana hain, khadya suraksha bill ko lana hain, 86 crore logon ko fayda pahuchana hain [The Congress is determined to bring the food security Bill that will benefit 86 crore people].
The other carried caricatures of top BJP leaders — at the top, a grinning NDA working chairman L.K. Advani on his rath, a red-nosed Rajnath Singh, and Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, either grimacing at each other or at lookers-on. And the catch line? Charcha se bhagti (Bhagori) Bhajpa/Ko aayna dikhane ka sankalp/Congress hain imandar/Himmat hain to charcha ki/Chunoti karon swikar [We want to show a mirror to the BJP which is running away from discussion/The Congress is a party with integrity/If you have the courage, accept our challenge for a discussion].
Evidently, the Congress has decided that the meek will not inherit the earth.
Simultaneously, as the government prepares for its ninth anniversary celebrations on May 22, it has released a series of TV spots and Bharat Nirman print advertisements on its achievements, both on the expansion of services — roads, educational institutions and infrastructure — and creation of a rights-based regime. If a PMO official had told this writer in 2005: “This government does not talk about India Shining, it talks about Bharat Nirman — a reminder of how much more there is to be done,” in 2013, when Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari was asked whether the campaign was not a sales pitch, not unlike India Shining, he said: “This is not an attempt to inflate, extrapolate or spin. It is a story of what happened over the past nine years.”
On May 22, government sources said, in addition to the annual Report to the People, a report on its nine years in power will be released, along with a digital version, designed to be easily read on a mobile phone screen to make it easily accessible to the youth. By focussing on nine years — rather than on just the year gone by — the government hopes to give its achievements some perspective and demonstrate, for instance, the impact of the various rights-based laws it has enacted. In the budget session of Parliament just gone by, the Prime Minister, in his speech on the President’s address, had done precisely this — focus on the achievements of his government over the past nine years.