Congress seemed to have lost the will to survive as an effectual political party on May 16, 2014 when the Lok Sabha election results were announced and Narendra Modi’s BJP bagged 282 seats out of 543 while Congress was reduced to a rump with 44 seats, not enough even to claim the post of Leader of Opposition. Being the oldest political party and with a substantial number of people still feeling emotionally attached to it, the Congress has since been playing only a coincidental role in the nation’s politics in a dispirited way.
Modi took oath as Prime Minister on May 26. The same day he appointed Nripendra Misra as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. This was in flagrant violation of the prevailing law. After his retirement from Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Misra served as chairperson of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) from March 2006 to March 2009. Provisions of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 barred appointment of a former TRAI chairperson from holding any office in the Government of India or any State or Union Territory Government. It was only later on that Modi persuaded President Pranab Mukherjee to promulgate an Ordinance to amend the Act in order to legalise Misra’s appointment.
Was it proper? We shall never know because Modi’s action was never questioned. Congress, which was still the largest opposition party, was expected to challenge in the Supreme Court the propriety of the manner in which Misra’s appointment was legitimised. Irrespective of the Supreme Court decision, the Congress would have conveyed the message that the crushing defeat in the elections had not dampened its spirit and that it would not accept lying down each and every decision taken by the Modi government.
During the first session of Parliament, Modi went to Arunachal Pradesh and announced at a public rally a Rs 58,000 crore package for development of the North-East. Announcing a major decision outside when Parliament is in session clearly amounts to contempt of the House. Congress remained a moot spectator.
It was within the Prime Minister’s powers to wind up the Planning Commission and set up Niti Aayog. Congress could have at least asked what the Niti Aayog was supposed to do. The Planning Commission had a specific purpose — to execute the policies of the government by working out various parameters. Policy making – or Niti nirdharan — is the prerogative of the cabinet; it cannot be entrusted to any organisation. Niti Aayog is thus no more than an elite club of hand-picked intellectuals. Congress displayed little concern.
Within a year of his becoming the Prime Minister, Modi replaced the board of Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and appointed former Jansatta correspondent Ram Bahadur Rai as its chairman. Modi could do it. But picking up Rai for this post reflected his disastrous thinking. Rai had been scandalously talking down the Constitution and saying that the country’s problems could be solved only if the Constitution is thrown into the ocean or consigned to the flames. Not once did the Congress ask if Rai reflected Modi’s own thinking or if Modi planned to consign the Constitution to flames.
Thus went on defiance of rules and procedures by Modi and the Congress continued to helplessly watch. It was only after Modi was through a major part of his term that the Congress started waking up – languidly. By that time the impression had gone among the people (assiduously propagated by Modi camp) that Modi is invincible and that the Congress had only been interested in uplift of one family rather than working in the interest of the country. Till today the Congress has not given any indication that it is working towards its survival as a vibrant political organisation.