The ongoing battle over the issue of
corruption, between the two main political parties of the country
- the Congress, which leads the ruling coalition at the centre,
and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party -
reminds one of this famous observation of Sun Tzu, the 6th century
Chinese military strategist, who said "strategy without tactics is
the slowest route to victory; tactics without strategy is the
noise before defeat".
The BJP is gunning for the top brass in the Congress over the
issue of corruption. At a rally in New Delhi its leaders launched
a scathing attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Earlier, along
with other political parties, it created a logjam in parliament's
winter session demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe
the 2G spectrum scam.
The strategy is clear: nail the Congress over corruption. But the
party has adopted poor tactics.
Notwithstanding the aggressive posturing by BJP leaders in its
first major rally over the issue in New Delhi, the empty stands
indicated its biggest problem - failure to mobilise masses. This a
larger problem and without resolving it the BJP cannot translate
its political aggression into mass support.
Another tactical mistake is that the BJP is making no attempt to
take forward the floor coordination among opposition parties
forged in parliament during the winter session to corner the
government over the spectrum scam. It needs to learn its lessons
from the impact of the joint opposition rallies over the Bofors
scam in the 1980s.
A major tactical error was committed by the BJP the way it handled
the Wikileaks expose which had embarrassed the Congress over "heir
apparent" Rahul Gandhi's remarks to the US ambassador regarding
Hindu elements being a greater threat to the country than Islamist
terrorism. The BJP targeted Rahul Gandhi on this issue.
As the BJP was found training its guns on him, the Congress, which
was forced to take a defensive posture on a series of corruption
deals, gathered its act to back Rahul Gandhi and hit back hard. By
the time the BJP realized its mistake and started focusing back on
corruption, the Congress had launched a blitzkrieg.
So, at its three-day plenary session at Burari in Delhi, the
Congress leadership, which was not so vocal over its rejection of
a JPC probe into the 2G scam, decided to hit the BJP where it
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, who is known to be
close to Rahul Gandhi, raked up the demand for investigating the
role of the BJP's ideological mentor - the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh - in at least three terror incidents.
Over the next two days, Congress president Sonia Gandhi backed
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was feeling the heat of
political controversy over the issue of 2G scam.
Sonia Gandhi also unveiled an agenda for "clean government",
promising strict action against the corrupt, to blunt the BJP
campaign. The Congress further sharpened its attack on the BJP,
raking up corruption charges in BJP-ruled Karnataka.
The tactics were excellent and they succeeded in rattling the BJP.
But the problem here is with the strategy.
The Congress strategy has remained confined to cornering the BJP
by launching a counter attack. But this could prove to be a
strategic blunder in the next few months.
Raking up corruption issues in Karnataka indicate a flawed
strategy. If the BJP government in Karnataka faces allegations of
corruption, that can be no reason for the Congress to justify the
corruption cases at the centre. In public perception, the less
corrupt is as guilty as the most corrupt.
The Congress is still not able to convince the common people why
it is not ready to accept a probe by the JPC if it has nothing to
hide, given the fact that the JPC would be headed by a Congress
MP. The excuses given so far would fail to cut much ice with
voters in five states that will have assembly polls over the next
The flawed Congress strategy could influence the results in the
five states. It would not be wrong to say that the Congress is yet
to formulate a strategy to redeem itself from the humiliating
defeat in Bihar.
The biggest strategic gamble taken up by the Congress is raking up
the issue of 'Hindu terrorism' and targeting the RSS over this.
The Congress leaders seem to be underestimating the strength of
this rightwing organisation, whose active membership runs into
millions with significant support from large sections of the
Many veterans in the Congress feel that this issue might not
appear to be politically explosive now but could prove to be the
double-edged sword in days to come. Then the Congress would have
no one but itself to blame if it gets hurt politically.
(Arun Anand can be contacted at email@example.com)