Bhubaneswar Kalita joins the saffron party at the party headquarters in New Delhi in the presence of Railway minister Piyush Goel. (file image)

The prevailing political culture in the State as well as in the entire country is one of absolute opportunism. In fact opportunistic politics has attained a status of hi-fi fashion and great acceptability across the political spectrum.

It may be pertinent to recall that this culture of politics of opportunism began during the Indira era with the blessings of the former Prime Minister. No one can forget the about turn made by the former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal with his entire cabinet and party MLAs from the Janata Party to the Congress soon after Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister after the fall of the Janata Party government at the Centre.

Again, the old timers cannot forget how despite enjoying around three-fourth majority in the Assembly, the Andhra Pradesh government led by NT Rama Rao was dismissed overnight by the Indira-led Centre and a Congress-led minority government was installed. Fortunately for democracy, the Centre led by Indira Gandhi failed in its attempt to keep Rama Rao out of power for more than about two weeks before the actor-turned- politician made a triumphant entry into the seat of power in Hyderabad.

These are just two of the many such major instances of derailment of democracy that took place during the Indira era while the list of minor instances of assault on democracy may run into volumes.

A close look into all such instances make it clear as daylight that the core force that that serve as magnet and catalyst in such instances is political opportunism marked by lust for power and wealth. This in turn opens up a vast vista for galloping corruption. Political factors like horse-trading or political sellout or kick backs that are in vogue today had their origin in India in the Indira era.

The difference being that, with political generation as well as over all degeneration among the people having become a roving and burgeoning force, the number of admirers of such incidents in today’s world is a lot more than what it was in 80’s and 90’s when this culture of political decadence surfaced openly in the political arena. One is only reminded of the development that a few decades ago corruption was a hush-hush affair, but today it is much boasted fashion in the society.

With culture of political opportunism that had its birth during the Indira era striding across the political theatre of Assam like a colossus, a massive erosion seems to be striking at the very base of Congress. While the roots of the hundred plus years old party was huge with its fibres spreading across the country, as of now a sizable section of the roots seems to have been lost already.

On delving into recent history, it becomes crystal clear that in the wake of the debacle of the party at the hands of the BJP in 2014, the Congress, which essentially has become synonymous with the Nehru-Gandhi family and hence a family fiefdom, witnessed a continuous flow of party members to the ruling BJP in tune with the politics of opportunism that the Congress itself gave birth to.

In Assam a large number of Congress MLAs, leaders and workers flocked to the Congress and even won the 2016 Assembly polls on BJP tickets. Many of them have also become ministers. When the pasture on the other side could be so green, it is normal and natural that opportunistic politics, which is a product of the Indira era, woule be in full swing in the State.

While in the fitness of things rebuilding of the party from the grass-root level was expected in the post-2014 years, the virtual absence of think tank in the Congress, both at the State and national level, only the paved the path for more disaster for the party. It came the 2019 polls and the party found itself being wiped out of the political landscape of India even more.

Whereas a general feeling seems to be gaining ground that in the years ahead the Congress may not be heard of any more, absolute pathos seems to be ruling the roost in the Assam unit of the Congress.

With the political pendulum shifting more and more towards the extreme end of the saffron zone, not just middleweights or lightweights, but heavyweights like Bhubaneswar Kalita and Gautam Roy among others have already embraced saffron for political survival.

The APCC can almost rest assured that there are many more in the wings, including MPs and MLAs, who might be in the saffron camp much sooner than later. Sadly for the likes of Ripun Bora and Tarun Gogoi, the Congress can apparently do nothing to stop the pro-BJP and anti-Congress tide. Addressing the media and branding the flow to the BJP as opportunistic does not carry any weight.

Did the Congress not play similar games of opportunistic politics when it was in power? Can Gogoi explain the combination and permutation behind the defeat of common opposition candidates in two Rajaya Sabha elections when he was the chief minister of the State?

Now that Assam Pradesh Congress is being hit by non-stop erosion on all ends, it must rope in people who can think and provide the necessary advice to the Bora and his team for necessary revival of the party.

On this count, Rahul Gandhi who fled from Amethi even before the battle began, definitely holds a negative point. While for his political survival he ran away to the extreme south and took refuge among green flags, it was like a general fleeing from the battle field even before the first exchange of swords took place.

Seemingly it is beyond the apprehension of Rahul and the party bereft of think-tank to gauge the damage that Rahul’s fled from Amethi caused to the party. The general feeling is that he should have faced even imminent defeat boldly befitting the leader of an all-India party. Unfortunately, that was not to be. It was beyond his understanding that he sent a hugely wrong signal to the electorate by fleeing in the run up to the polls. The general feeling that had he not fled the party as a whole might have fared reasonably better in the 2019 polls.

In Assam too as in many other States, the general populace has begun to look upon the Congress as a party led by a person known for running away from the battle field. The fact that his mother has stepped into his shoes once again does not make any difference.

The unpalatable truth that Congress means one family affair has only been re-established. As of now, the bitter truth that the present political landscape projects is that the BJP with its grip across virtually the whole of India reinforced with a massive think-tank is pitted against a family of three members (mother, son and daughter) that calls itself a party.

Again, another ground reality about Indian polity is that the people, by and large, wish to go with the party that commands political strength. With the Assam Pradesh Congress committee doing practically nothing to save itself from disappearance, on feels that the party is not likely to see any more growth in the near future. Rather there appears to be a lot more possibility of witnessing the Congress shrinking progressively in the State.

Now that bye-polls to a few Legislative Assembly seats in the State is in the cards, the ruling BJP has already launched its mission with the preliminary spade works with a view to making a clean sweep. In contrast the APCC is seemingly doing nothing. If compliancy had hit the saffron brigade in the State, it might have been to a certain degree understandably.

However, what is clearly visible is a totally opposite picture where compliancy has no room. Now that the Congress has virtually been crippled to a sleeping  and limping political unit – a unit that at times talks to the media – the question obviously arises if the Assam Pradesh Congress has resigned itself  and withdrawn from the political battle field totally.

Whatever be the stand and approach adopted by the Assam Pradesh Congress as of now, it certainly seems to be suicidal for the  party and of course ominous for democracy. Democracy, in the true spirit, demands a strong opposition to keep the ruling front on its toes. However, with its virtual absence on all fronts, the Assam Pradesh Congress has paved the way for one party rule in the State.

One party rule in third world countries have proved to be whims and fancies of the ruling lot come into play while welfare of the masses is dumped in the back burner. It is absence of opposition that to a large extent give birth to totalitarian tyrants. Considering matters front the standpoint of democracy, one fails to visualise a rosy future for the people of Assam. In such an eventuality, the blame must go more to the Congress than the ruling dispensation.

Talmizur Rahman

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at rahmantmz5@gmail.com

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