Nobody, especially the general public, has any illusions about the reason for the Congress ‘Black Friday’ protest, no matter what party leaders may claim. Some, like Salman Khurshid, have admitted that the purpose was to ‘save the leaders, just as they save us’. Considering that the ‘leaders’ in the Congress are by and large members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, there should be no doubt about who he was talking about. The officially declared intent, of course, was to protest against inflation and unemployment. While, inside Parliament, the designated forum for discussions on these issues, the unrelenting approach of the combined opposition has been to create a ruckus, thereby not allowing its functioning, the effort outside has been to create enough of a nuisance so as to get investigative agencies like the ED off their backs.
All the same, even if the real reason is just to save their skins, the Congress and other parties are making some attempt to confront the BJP at the political level. This is particularly so in the context of recent setbacks such as the regime change in Maharashtra.
The challenge is to be convincing enough to impress the public. It is at this that they fail, particularly in the crucial Hindi heartland. The overwhelming dependence on the faded family charisma shifts the focus from what would be the real issues to the ‘suffering’ of the former ‘ruling family’. Nobody cares about that except those who cannot let go of the past and adjust to the present reality. Also, pretentious claims of ‘protecting democracy’ are not convincing coming from a party that has failed to select a non-family member as its President after 1998.
And, strangely, at a time when the BJP has come up with another one of its emotive issues with its campaign to fly the Tricolour from every home this Independence Day, the opposition, particularly the Congress, has found fault with it. Does it lack the dignity to come together on even such a matter? The people must not be taken for granted, or treated as unintelligent. A long term policy is required to tide over the present hard days of BJP domination and it will not emerge from short-term goals like evading the Enforcement Directorate. That is better left to the courts.