Every time the Congress thinks it has a ‘revolutionary’ idea, it shoots its own foot

From Sam Pitroda talking about inheritance tax to Goan candidate saying the Indian Constitution was ‘forced’ on Goa, Congress has been having its own foot-in-the-mouth moments.

At a time when the Congress needs to come up with some strategic issues and a better narrative to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party’s high-pitched election propaganda, the party appears to be busy hitting self-goals. After leading a successful coalition for 10 years from 2004 onwards, its attempts to stitch another one to defeat the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance has withered away even before it could take shape.

In almost all major states with more Lok Sabha seats, the party is contesting against the local ruling parties or on fewer seats. So far, Congress has fielded 278 candidates in 27 states and Union territories. In 2009, it won 206 seats. In states like Uttar Pradesh (80) and Maharashtra (48), which were once a stronghold of the Congress, it is just contesting 17 seats each, leaving the rest to its allies. Given the strike rate in the last two general elections, it is doubtful if it will even retain its 2014 tally of 44 seats.

Contesting a lesser number of seats is not the only reason why the Congress would do poorly in elections. The top leadership of the party and some of its candidates seem to have mastered the art of hitting self-goals one after another.


‘Wealth redistribution’

Rahul Gandhi has come up with a promise to redistribute wealth to reduce poverty. In an attempt to reinvent his grandmother’s socialist plans and “Garibi Hatao” slogan, he announced that in the event of the Congress forming the government, it would conduct a financial and institutional survey to ascertain who is in possession of the country’s wealth and would then undertake an exercise to redistribute the same. He also promised representation of each community, including the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and the minorities in every sector. Clarifying his promise, he refuted the BJP allegation and said that the Congress party manifesto promised the return of a “small amount of money” to 90 per cent of Indians from the Rs 16 lakh crore that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave to select 22 people. The clarification is even more confusing and invites greater criticism.

Socialism is not just redistributing wealth but much more than providing a “small amount of money” to the poor. The socio-political-economic idea that all people are equal and that the state should intervene in private lives and seize wealth to be distributed equally to everyone has been consigned to the dustbin of history long ago. Such ideas are best left to the economists while politicians could, at best, limit such ‘revolutionary’ ideas to slogans like ‘Garibi Hatao’, which, too, is archaic now. Congress’ friend, philosopher, and guide Sam Pitroda added to the confusion when he praised the idea of an inheritance tax, as in some American states. This idea was also mooted by former Congress finance minister P Chidambaram during Manmohan Singh’s rule.

The inheritance tax in the US is levied in six states and the percentage and exemptions differ from one to another. Social and economic structures of the US and India differ vastly, and such a system of taxation can never be introduced here. It is difficult to understand why the Congress scion would rush in where fools fear to tread.

Also read: Congress attacks on Ambani-Adani won’t fly. Nature of wealth has changed since Indira days

Mastered the art

Viriato Fernandes, Congress candidate from Goa, has stirred yet another controversy by saying that the Indian Constitution was “forced” on Goa and that the citizens of the state should be allowed the facility of dual citizenship. The retired officer of the Indian Navy recalled his meeting with Rahul Gandhi and elaborated on his 12 demands, which included dual citizenship for Goans as “the Indian Constitution was implemented on January 26, 1950. (So), when Goa was liberated from Portuguese rule in 1961, you (Central government) forced the Constitution upon us. We were not included in it.”

The least the Congress could have done is to distance itself from the candidate’s views, disagree with them and retrieve the situation. Meanwhile, the BJP has quickly used the Congress candidate’s foot-in-the-mouth statement to highlight its stand on the abrogation of Article 370 with the PM saying it’s an insult of Dr BR Ambedkar.

On the issue of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, the Congress lost all its claim to derive any benefit the moment it decided against attending the function on 22 January 2024. It had also given conflicting statements in the Supreme Court in the Ram Sethu case. Now, Priyanka Gandhi has waded into a highly sensitive issue and said at a Bengaluru rally: “Why do we worship Lord Ram? Because he served the people and walked on the path of truth. Mahatma Gandhi ji also chose the same path. When he was shot, he said ‘Hey Ram’. But today the situation is that lies are prevalent.” If the Congress thinks that a mere mention of Ram would wash its sins of commissions and omissions, it is living in fool’s paradise.

In a short span of just 10 days, the Congress party has managed to reputedly shoot at its own foot every time it thinks it has come up with some revolutionary idea. With negligible presence inside and outside Parliament, the Congress will have enough time after 4 June to reinvent itself.

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