Congress mukt Bharat (Congress-free India)”. That is what the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been wanting, and working towards, ever since the campaign for Lok Sabha 2014 began.
The old Congress leader Devkant Barua who was president of the Congress during the Emergency in 1975 said “Indira is India and India is Indira”. The BJP's top leadership seems to believe that Congress is the Gandhis and the Gandhis are the Congress.
So what they wanted boils down to Gandhi mukt Congress. For they had no compunction when it came to taking Congress leaders who could have won, on the eve of elections, chopped off their Open Hand, which is the Congress symbol, fixed in its place a lotus and fielded them as BJP candidates. And some were adjusted in the Rajya Sabha. One of them, Rao Inderjit Singh, is a junior minister, and another, is Chaudhary Birender Singh, the Union Minister for Rural Development. The number of such MPs in the BJP now is 162. Not that this kind of trapezing, without caring to hold the flimsiest of ideological string, is rare. But then, BJP took pride in being a party with a difference, claiming a high moral grandstanding.
That the party is ok with Congress minus Gandhis became evident a day before Eid, when Prime Minister Modi visited Jammu, to participate in the centenary celebrations of late Congress leader Girdhari Lal Dogra, who was the finance minister of Jammu and Kashmir for about 27 years—could be a record. Long dead, Dogra could not have swung across to the BJP to contest elections. But the PM and the BJP had a grand celebration because Dogra's son-in-law is none other than Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, who helps the party open doors for Congressmen, and helps them win. Never mind that he lost to Congress leader Capt Amarender Singh in Amritsar during the Lok Sabha elections.
Modi praised Dogra. Not for the finance minister he had been. He did not even mention the financial package the state has been asking for. Nor did he talk about the regional disparity that people and leaders of Jammu division keep talking about. Modi praised Dogra for choosing a son-in-law like Jaitely! And then he connected to Robert Vadra, and attacked the son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Jammu was another parliamentary constituency—Amritsar was one—being mentioned in connection with Arun Jaitely before the elections. Perhaps they will field him from there on a future date: for Modi praised Jaitely for pursuing his own political ideology and never depending on his father-in-law for anything—unlike the Gandhi son-in-law.
That is the low to which the political discourse fell at a centenary celebration, and holding forth was the very communicative and eloquent Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Often enough, the party leaders show the map, and proudly point out the expanding saffron sphere, and diminishing Congress presence. They have won successive elections, barring Delhi, which they lost, not to Congress, but to the Aam Aadmi Party. We have delivered on our promise of Congress mukt Bharat, party president Amit Shah told the media some months ago. But, clearly, the grand old party has not become a ghost to be brushed aside. Nor the Gandhis to be written off by them, regardless of the uncharitable references to its Vice President Rahul Gandhi.