The brutal massacre of over 75 security personnel by the Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district is a pointer to two things: one, the men in uniform are ill-prepared for their challenges, and two, there is a strange inconsistency between official assessments of the growing Maoist threat and the political will backing those assertions.
Both the prime minister and the home minister have minced no words in calling a spade a spade. While Manmohan Singh has called the Maoists the biggest security threat to the country, P Chidambaram has promised tough action to deal with it. But here’s the point: months after launching Operation Green Hunt, it is not clear who’s hunting whom. The Maoists have been more successful in intimidating the state — aided by a cacophony of phony human rights advocates — than the other way around. It is the security forces who are being hunted and eliminated.
What explains this gap between thought and action? The answer lies in the complete lack of will at the top of the political pyramid. This means Sonia Gandhi, not Manmohan Singh or Chidambaram. Given the extremely secretive nature of the Manmohan Singh-Sonia-Rahul Gandhi interface, it is not possible to conclusively prove this, but it is reasonable to presume that Sonia is not actively backing the government in its anti-Maoist campaign.
We certainly haven’t heard a single Sonia statement on Maoism that backs the official stand of her government. At best we have had non-descript statements deploring violence — something similar to what the human-rightswallahs mumble when confronted with the latest Maoist atrocities. In her last statement before the Jharkhand polls, Sonia said “there is no place for violence in a democracy” — a motherhood statement at best. Her son Rahul blamed non-Congress governments for the Maoist violence, neatly deflecting the issue.
This reluctance to back their own government on a hard policy issue is in sharp contrast to the way the dynasty hogs all credit for the aam aadmi schemes implemented by the UPA government. From NREGA to farm loan waivers to extending coverage under the food security bill, Sonia and Rahul are seen to be driving the government’s actions. They vanish whenever there is talk of an oil price hike or action against Maoists.
There is some political method to this madness. A substantial chunk of the future vote bank of the Congress lies in the tribal belts where missionaries are active. This is also the area where the Maoists rule. But we do not hear of any clashes or even tensions between the soldiers of god and the mercenaries of Mao. On the other hand, we do have a case of a Maoist claiming “credit” for murdering a Hindu religious leader who was also doing missionary work in the tribal areas of Kandhamal — a traumatic event that triggered a terrible massacre of Christian tribals in retaliation. So what’s the nexus?
It is interesting to note that the jholawala sympathisers of the Maoists have attacked the Government of India and the states for their anti-Maoist operations. They have criticised local resistance groups like the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh, but not Sonia or Rahul. One thing is starkly clear. The Manmohan Singh government’s main job is not to do right by the country, but by the dynasty. As long as the decisions taken are politically acceptable to Sonia and Rahul, it’s fine. But when political capital has to be expended in the long-term interests of the country, the family will be far away. What else explains the reluctance of Rahul Gandhi to join the government when the PM was more than willing to give him a chance? The decision to decline power gives him obvious advantages: the media tom-toms this as a great sacrifice, something that proves that the Gandhis are not power-hungry. Actually, they are only wary of accountability.
It is not surprising that the government chose this moment to resurrect the National Advisory Council (NAC) under Sonia Gandhi — an unnecessary appendage and extra-constitutional authority that inhibits real accountability in government. The official reason given for reviving NAC is that the party needs to monitor the implementation of its pro-poor programmes. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to appoint Rahul as programme implementation minister? But then he would have become accountable to Parliament and even the PM. Horror or horrors. How can a member of the dynasty be accountable to a mere PM or the legislature?
The dynasty is internally playing the same role in UPA-2 that the Left was doing in UPA-1: demanding power without an iota of responsibility. Sonia and Rahul are involved only in the spending decisions that will presumably ensure re-elections. They are stonewalling or opposing the harder decisions that true governance calls for. You never hear a Sonia or a Rahul talking about fiscal prudence, targeting subsidies better, implementing reforms, or public sector autonomy. This does not serve their political purposes.
Let’s be clear. Manmohan Singh is the dynasty’s fall guy. He had better watch out.