iconimg Sunday, July 05, 2015

Vikas Pathak, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, September 21, 2010
At a time when the Opposition has been accusing the government of lack of cohesion, media advisor to the PM Harish Khare added to the chaos by dubbing the Congress as “status quoist, pragmatic” and having “no conviction.” The occasion was the release of a book Developmental State and the Dalit question in Madhya Pradesh: Congress response, written by political scientist Sudha Pai.

Senior leader Digvijaya Singh, who released the book, gently refuted the charges, listing the party’s pro-social change measures since Independence.

Pai’s book discusses the Congress’s moves to reach out to Dalits in Madhya Pradesh with measures like land reforms in 2003, and the subsequent defeat of the party in the state.

Khare argued that the very character of the Congress made social change difficult, as lobbies of powerful and resourceful interests would frustrate it. He also predicted that the Congress might not be returning to power in the state.

He, however, observed that if Singh was happy about the electoral loss and political sanyas, there should be more such political sanyasis.

“The Congress is by nature a status-quoist, pragmatic party,” Khare said. He added that workers had no convictions.

He also pointed out the difference between “good” and “bad” politics, suggesting that the then state government couldn’t expect citizens to make sacrifices — as land reforms and other measures would entail transfer of assets from other sections to Dalits — when its own politics was patronage-based.

Khare made explicit mention of Arjun Singh as the mentor of Digvijaya Singh.

Singh said he disagreed. “I do not agree that Congress is a status-quoist party,” he said. “The Congress brought Zamindari abolition, Land Tenancy Act, Land Ceiling and Mahatma Gandhi brought social change vis-à-vis untouchability.” He added that though he lost in 2003, he succeeded in stemming the tide of the BSP.

“Kanshi Ram used to say it is in Madhya Pradesh that the BSP would come to power. The BSP was our first challenge, not the BJP,” he said. “When I took over in 1993, the BSP had 13 MLAs in the state...to just two in 2003.”